Office of Research

Erika Zynda, Contracts & Grants Coordinator
Administration 248A
(574) 520-4181 | FAX: (574) 520-5549

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Grant Writing Workshop


  1. How Good And Appropriate Is The Idea?
    • Have you stated it clearly and concisely, in writing?
    • Does it fit your organization's mission and goals?
    • Do colleagues and administrators support it?
    • Is it significant? Timely? Innovative? Unique?
    • Have you fully reviewed the literature?
    • Have you determined who will benefit from the idea, and the extent of their need and/or interest?
    • Have you considered alternative approaches and justified why yours is best?
    • Have you projected the outcomes and determined how to evaluate them?
  2. Can You Carry It Out?
    • Do you have the necessary skills, or can you identify and get cooperation from specialists you will need?
    • Can it be done in/by your organization? If not, what do you need?
  3. Who Will Fund It?
    • Who has funded similar work?
    • Who has a special interest in your subject, location, methodology, target group, etc.?
    • Who do you contact at potential sponsors, and how?
    • Have you made a preliminary contact, with an abstract? How much encouragement did you get?
    • What quid pro quo might a potential sponsor want? Can you give it?
    • Who else might be interested?
    • What data on sponsors can you get?
  4. Plan The Proposal Process!
    • Do you have the sponsor's proposal guidelines, formats, forms, deadlines, etc.,?
    • Have you identified the components your sponsor wants in a proposal?
    • Have you re-read, carefully, the sponsor's statement of need or interest?
    • Have you scheduled enough time to write and process the proposal?
    • Have you collected all the data, references and other information you will need?
    • Have you arranged for typing, graphics, and other mechanical support?
    • Have you identified and organized any colleagues, participants, and administrators who will help prepare the proposal?
    • Do you know how to process the proposal through your system, and how long it takes?
    • Will one or more colleagues read the proposal critically, checking for content, mechanics, and clarity and effectiveness of communication?
  5. Consider The Overall Proposal!
    • Is it in the format and editorial style required or expected by the sponsor?
    • Is it easy to read rapidly? Does it flow logically?
    • Is the language intelligible to the non-specialist?
    • Do the major points stand out? Have you made appropriate use of titles, spacing, indexing, graphics, and other mechanics?
    • Does it meet the sponsor's limits on length? Typefaces? Type size?
    • Is it persuasive?
  6. What's Up Front? And At The Back?
    • Is the title descriptive, imaginative and suitable for indexing?
    • Is the title/cover page on the sponsor's forms, or in the sponsor's format? If none is specified, did you use your organization's format?
    • Is the abstract complete but concise? Will it entice the reviewer to read the whole proposal? Is it comprehensible to the lay reader?
    • Are all of the forms, assurances, and other required items included?
    • Is there a table of contents? Does it help the reviewer find something she wants to go back and check out?
    • Are all the attachments, appendices, vitae, etc included? Are they accurately referenced in the text?
    • Do you have enough originals of photos, brochures, and other nonduplicatable material for all copies of the proposal?
  7. Why Should This Project Be Done?
    • Do you show a precise understanding of the problem or need?
    • Do you clearly state your focus at the outset? Do you state clearly what you are not addressing?
    • What is the current state of knowledge or level of need? Do you document this with references and/or data?
    • Who needs what your project will produce? How badly?
    • Is your project output generalizable or transferable?
    • Does the project have a strong theoretical or conceptual base?
    • Is the problem feasible to solve?
    • Does this section of the proposal make the reviewer want to read on?
  8. What Are Your Objectives?
    • Have you clearly and concisely stated the objectives or hypotheses?
    • Do the objectives or hypotheses flow from the problem statement?
    • Do the objectives or hypotheses describe the intended project outcomes, and exclude unwanted outcomes?
    • Are the outcomes measurable? How, and with what precision? How can someone else evaluate them?
  9. How Will You Do The Project?
    • Have you included procedures to reach each and every objective or hypothesis?
    • Why are your procedures and methodology suitable to your problem and environment and resources?
    • If your procedures are new or unique, have you demonstrated persuasively and in detail their probability of success and their advantages over other procedures?
    • Have you pitched your methodological discussion and detail to the reviewers' level of sophistication?
    • Have you shown why your approach is technically sound?
    • Have you made the best use of tables, illustrations, and other techniques of information compression? Have you avoided cluttering these with too much information?
    • Have you adequately described time lines, project management, and the responsibilities of each individual or position on the project?
    • Have you clearly and precisely described the subjects, populations, materials, or other project subject material?
    • If you select some examples from a universe of subjects, have you stated how and why you will make the selection?
    • Have you clearly and precisely delineated information to be gathered, instruments to be used, and the precision of the resulting data?
    • Have you clearly and precisely delineated any analysis you intend to make? Is this theoretically justified?
    • Have you shown what the intended results will be, and their benefits and generalizability?
    • Have you shown that you have anticipated possible problems and addressed how to meet them?
    • Have you precisely described any role the sponsor will play in ongoing project activities or decisions?
  10. Will The Project Be Evaluated?
    • Is evaluation of the process or outcome a component of the project itself? If so, do the budget and methodology cover it?
    • Who will evaluate, how and why?
    • Does the methodology produce an output which can be evaluated against the stated problem?
    • Will external data be needed for the evaluation? Who will gather or provide it?
    • Who will report the evaluation? To whom? How?
    • Is the evaluation appropriately independent of the project director? Will external consultants be needed?
  11. How Will The Results Be Disseminated?
    • Will you publish in the literature?
    • Will you present the outcome at professional meetings?
    • Why and to whom will the results be disseminated?
    • Will dissemination require special facilities or functions?
    • Is the methodology and cost appropriately addressed?
    • Is dissemination appropriately the subject of a separate proposal? Have you said so?
  12. Who Will Do The Work?
    • Have you described the roles and responsibilities of each member of the project staff?
    • Have you identified each key person by name? Have you demonstrated their capabilities and preparation for this project? Has each agreed to participate?
    • Are all the necessary roles and functions provided for?
    • What will you do if a key person becomes unavailable?
    • How will you select any unidentified staff or consultants?
    • Have you identified the roles and sources of any advisory boards?
  13. What Facilities Do You Have Or Need?
    • Where will the project be conducted?
    • Are there unique features of the site or environment which facilitate the project?
    • Are special facilities or equipment required? Is the sponsor expected to provide or fund them?
  14. Make The Budget Right!
    • Does your project budget anticipate every cost and its source of funding?
    • Does the budget submitted to the sponsor show all costs to be charged to the sponsor? Does it show the source and value of other costs?
    • Does the budget meet sponsor requirements for detail, format, and description of non- sponsor costs (cost-sharing or matching)?
    • Does the budget demonstrate adequate attention to financial efficiency? Are lease-buy and other tradeoffs considered from a cost-benefit standpoint?
    • Does the budget reflect an awareness of sponsor and institutional regulations, limitations, and special circumstances?
    • Are direct and indirect (overhead) costs clearly separated, and have you adequately described what indirect covers?
    • Are enough funds requested to cover contingencies? But is all the fat squeezed out?
    • Is there adequate justification of unusual costs?
    • Does the budget clearly relate to the narrative? Do you have any cross references required?
    • Have you adequately accounted for cost increases and inflation, especially salary increases?
  15. Now Get The Proposal Submitted!
    • Do you know the submission deadline? Will you meet it?
    • Are all of its parts ready, proofread, and assembled in the required order with all the requisite forms, assurances, and other bureaucratic addenda?
    • Do you know your organization's internal routing and checkoffs?
    • Are there enough copies for the sponsor and your organization? For various other reviewers or approvers?
    • How will you get it to the sponsor?
    • Is it personally signed by the Project Director and all necessary organizational officials? Are more than one original signature pages required?
    • Do you have necessary outside expressions of endorsement, support or agreement to participate?
    • Is there an appropriate letter of transmittal?
  16. What Next?
    • Do you know the sponsor's review schedule?
    • How will you learn about the sponsor's decision? Do you know what is a binding and official acceptance?
    • Do you expect any negotiation? Do you know who in your organization can or must assist in negotiation?
    • Have you thought about how to cut the size of the project and budget if necessary? Are you willing to do so?
    • If you are funded, what must you do to get started?
    • If your proposal is declined, what useful information can you get from the sponsor to improve it? What other sponsor might be interested?

Copyright (c) 1981 by Herbert B. Chermside

Special thanks to the VCU Office of Sponsored Programs

Last Updated: 26 October 2000