Top tips for grant applications

Over the years, our panels have reviewed and commented on hundreds of grant applications.  We’ve found the same pitfalls and issues come up time and time again, and so we’ve put together our top ten tips to help you write the best proposal possible.

Articulate the specific role you will play

Make sure it is absolutely clear exactly what you will be doing on the project and distinguish this from what others (your supervisor, other team members), who may be involved in the wider context of your project, will contribute. [For more advice on this topic, check our our tips for gaining recognition on team science projects.]

State a clear, testable hypothesis (if applicable) and key questions

Do make clear at the beginning what you are setting out to do, and what key questions you hope to answer with this project.

Include sufficient experimental detail

Include detail of what you are proposing to do and justify your selection of analytical approaches, so that it is clear to the reviewers why you are using particular methods. Being limited by word count is no excuse for lack of clarity around your experimental approach!

Justify and support your choices.

Make it clear why you have chosen to focus on a particular sample set, group of patients or model system etc and why others may be unsuitable.  Do include numbers of samples/patients/etc and make sure that these numbers are supported by power calculations (which you will show, of course).

Outline contingency plans

We know that sometimes research doesn’t go according to plan. Always show that you have thought about the possibility of having to change tack and what you might do instead, especially for high risk endeavours.

Be innovative

We are looking to support new and exciting research, so stress what makes your application unique.

Have appropriate ambition

While making your proposal innovative and exciting, do ensure that it is achievable in the timeframe and with the resources available.

Be collaborative

Do include an outline of any collaborations that will give you access to complementary expertise that will strengthen your proposal, and demonstrate that you will benefit from training during the award. You can’t be an expert in everything, and it is wise to identify your limitations and collaborate to fill those gaps.

Limit your use of abbreviations and acronyms

We understand that you will probably need to use some abbreviations and acronyms, but please do think about how the proposal will flow for a non-expert reader who may not be familiar with these terms.

Make the job of the peer reviewers as effortless as possible.

Think about your proposal from the point of view of the reviewer - what will they look for first? Have you answered all the questions?

Finally, allow plenty of time to complete your application and always contact the Grants office as early as possible if you have any questions. Good luck!

Interested in reaching further?  Read more top tips on our Learning Hub

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