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Grant writing tips

Completing a grant application requires a great deal of time, knowledge and resources. Here are some helpful tips for creating a strong, competitive grant submission.

Keep these tips in mind to improve your odds for success:

1. Read the application form and take it seriously.
Do what the application form asks you to do, in the order it asks for. Use the headings provided and follow the required format. If committee members have to spend time sorting out an application searching for certain criteria, they will get annoyed. Make their job as easy as possible by clearly presenting all the items they need to evaluate your application in the expected order.

2. Read the guidelines thoroughly and pay attention to the specific granting objectives and criteria.
Agencies that fund Canadian historical research won't take a second look at your whale biorhythms project. Do not rely solely on what someone else tells you — grant guidelines can change yearly, so make sure you review up-to-date guidelines.

3. Write clearly and concisely.
Long sentences, complex phraseology and jargon do not convey scholarship. Indeed, applicants can be penalized for a lack of ability to communicate their project clearly. Make good use of the number of pages you are allowed — if you go over the limit, your application will suffer. Some organizations will not review it at all.

4. Don't trust your computer spell checker.
Check suggested spellings in a dictionary. Make sure your research on "lung cancer" doesn't read "lunch cancer." Have others read your application.

5. Be succinct.
More is not better; only include what is necessary. From October to February, adjudication committee members read about 100 pages of application material each day.

6. Avoid ambiguity.
Fuzzy objectives are easy to spot. If objectives are too vague or general, or are not clearly highlighted in your proposal, the reviewers will have no way of accurately assessing your progress.

7. Package the application material well.
It is vital to format the application to be easy to read. Choose a dark, clear typeface and use headings to show a logical progression. Include reasonable margins and break up the text into paragraphs. Don't be afraid of white space. Use diagrams to illustrate ideas.

8. Be honest.
It is in your best interest to explain any valid interruptions or delays in your research progress, be they medical, parental or other. It is also important to provide a truthful list of the funding you hold. Reviewers have wide-reaching networks and many sit on multiple review panels. If a funding organization discovers that you overlooked or withheld some information, this could terminate your application and likely lead to future negative impacts on your ability to receive funding.

9. Have your application critically reviewed by colleagues.
This recommendation is especially important for new researchers and first-time applicants. However, all applicants can benefit from colleagues’ reviews to ensure that you have thought through all aspects of your research.

10. Spend time on the application.
Reviewers can tell when an application has been pulled together at the last minute. Poorly prepared applications are often turned down. Keep in mind that the Office of Research Services will not be able to provide adequate feedback on last-minute applications to ensure that they reach their full potential.

Resources:

Contact the Office of Research Services for additional materials such as a sample proposal outline, sample letter of support and a summary of application evaluation.
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