Project Narrative

Grant Writing 101
Presented by:
Carla Borden, Research Development Specialist
Rebekah Craig, Research Development Specialist
Today’s Objectives
Basic Components
Standard Proposal Content
 Summary or Abstract
 Program Narrative or Project Description
Goals/Objectives; Hypothesis & Aims; Research Questions
Need; Background & Significance; Rationale; Theoretical Framework
Program Plans; Methods; Strategies; Research Plan
Management Plan; Personnel
Evaluation; Assessment
 Budget & Budget Justification
 Attachments
 CV
 Letters of support/commitment
 Other supporting documentation
Project Summary – 1 page
 Address merit review criteria (Intellectual merit & broader impacts)
Project Description – 15 pages
 Introduction
 Background and Significance
 Results from prior NSF Support
 Research Plan/Timeline
Biographical Sketch – 2 pages
 Budget Justification – 3 pages
Current & Pending Support
Facilities, Equipment & Other Resources
Data Management Plan
Proposal Title – 80 characters, including title
Project Summary – 30 lines of text
Project Narrative
 Specific Aims – 1 page
 Research Strategy - Generally 6 – 12 pages
 Significance, Innovation, Approach, Timeline
 Bibliography/References Cited
 Other Attachments: Vertebrate Animals, Consortium Agreements,
Letters of Support, Resource Sharing Plan
Biographical Sketch – 4 pages
Budget – R&R Budget Component OR PHS 398 Modular Budget
 Budget Justification
Other Project Information – Facilities & Other Resources, Equipment,
Public Health Relevance Statement
Organizational Background Statement
Project Narrative – 10 pages
 Research Questions
 Research Design
 Data Sources
 Data Analyses
 Personnel Capability
 Organizational Capacity
 Outline for Research Report
 Outcomes and Measurements
 Schedule
 Plans for Dissemination
Biographical Sketches
Project Budget Form
Statement of Significance and Impact
List of Participants
Project Title – 125 characters
Project Narrative – 25 double-spaced pages
 “Write with evaluation criteria in mind”
Project Budget
Brief Resume (and other Appendices)
Statement of History of Grants
What’s the Difference?
Academic Writing
Grant Writing
Scholarly Pursuit:
Individual Passion
Sponsor Goals:
Service Attitude
Theory and Thesis
Objectives and Activities
Impersonal Tone:
Objective, Dispassionate
Personal Tone:
Conveys Excitement
Few Length Constraints:
Verbosity Rewarded
Strict Length Constraints:
Brevity Rewarded
Scholarly Pursuit
• Individual passion
• Advance your career
Sponsor Goals
• Service attitude
• Adapt expertise
Know the sponsor
Mirror key phrases and terminology
Past Oriented
• Work that has been done
Future Oriented
• Work that should be done
Find a healthy balance
proposed work in
Extend boundaries
Okay to imagine
Expository Rhetoric
• Explaining
• Logical progression
Persuasive Rhetoric
• Selling
• Strong pitch
LEAD with your exciting ideas
Use strong, active language
Write with funders & reviewers in mind
Why are you uniquely deserving?
• Theory & thesis
• Realm of ideas
• Examine issue
• Final conclusions
• Objectives & activities
• World of action
• Accomplish goals
• Expected outcomes
Avoid proposing a “study” or “examination”
unless specific to RFP
Ever-present Questions:
How will I do this?
How will I measure the outcomes?
Encourage excitement for your project
Seek their endorsement
Use first-person voice
May seem like violation of editorial rules
Seek counsel on concept before writing
Contact program officer
Collaborate across colleges & institutions
Share the writing responsibility
ALWAYS have someone proofread
Follow ALL formatting directions
Grammar & sentence structure matter
Flag sentences more than 3 lines long
Be precise with word choice
Describe your project to your mother
Seek proofreaders outside your discipline
Read one sentence at a time from back to front
Institute for Research Development
 “A grant is an infomercial, not a term paper.
Get up and Stretch!!!
Thinking Like a Reviewer
 NIH Peer Review Revealed: (3:25 – 9:10)
 NIH Tips for Applicants:
NIH Review Criteria
NSF Review Criteria
 Intellectual Merit (potential to advance knowledge)
 Broader Impacts (potential to benefit society and contribute to the
achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes)
 For both above, evaluate:
 Creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts
 Well-reasoned, well-organized plan based on a sound rationale
with a mechanism to assess success
 Qualifications of individual, team, and institution
 Adequate resources available to the PI (institution or
NEH Review Criteria
Intellectual significance of the project
Pertinence of research questions and appropriateness of design
Qualifications, expertise, and commitment of PD & collaborators
Soundness of dissemination and access plans
Potential for success, including completion within time frame
NEA Review Criteria
Artistic Excellence
 Novelty of the research questions, datasets, and/or methodological approach.
 Overall rigor of the research plan (Clarity & appropriateness of design; Analytical
techniques; Quality/validity/reliability of data; Qualifications of project personnel)
Artistic Merit (NEA Understanding = the value and/or impact of the arts is expanded and
 Potential of the project to achieve NEA Understanding; includes increasing diversity of
fields of expertise that contribute to arts-related research, & heightening relevance of
arts-related research to policy and practice.
 Appropriateness of the proposed performance measurements and their ability to
demonstrate NEA Understanding; includes statement of how the applicant will
determine whether the project's goals have been achieved, and how those goals will
achieve NEA Understanding.
 Dissemination Plan
 Feasibility of success with requested budget and resources
What are YOUR review criteria?
“Objection Obliterator”
 Do you have the right experience as PI/PD?
 Is the hypothesis or question being proposed properly
 Do the Specific Aims / Project Summary answer the core
hypothesis or question being asked?
 Is the money being asked for going to make substantial
forward progress in the field?
 Is the community interested in the work you are proposing?
 Morgan Giddings at
Persistence pays…
 “. . . because there is considerable turnover annually of
individual reviewers and of review panels, it can pay to be
persistent; funding chances usually improve with
resubmissions.” Miner JT. Res Mgmt Rev. 2011; 18(2):85-108.
…but trial and error doesn’t!
 Always address reviewer comments
 Rejection = lack of confidence = procrastinating or writing without
confidence = rejection = reinforcement of downward spiral
 Acquiring grant-writing skills + persistence + practice = success
Becoming a Reviewer
 NSF:
 Dept of Education:
NIH (early career reviewer):
Developing the Narrative
 Follow the instructions (even the very picky details)
 Write for review
 MUST flow from well-crafted, peer-reviewed specific aims
Taking Aim
Irrational Reviewers
Who cares?
 Your reviewer’s enthusiasm is an emotional reaction, not a
rational one.
 There is no fixed notion of value; it is arbitrary.
 Reviewers will not automatically discern the value of your
proposed work.
 You must communicate the value to them – they may not
“guess” correctly on their own.
 Credit: Morgan Giddings. The Back Door to Funding Report
Feelings Count!
 Your proposal must feel:
Reviewer friendly
 Lead with emotions and justify with logic
 Credit: Morgan Giddings. The Back Door to Funding Report
Aiming for Value
 “I develop computer networks.”
 So what?
 “I develop computer networks to allow researchers to
transfer data back and forth rapidly.”
 Narrow appeal.
 “I develop computer networks to allow new kinds of
interaction and collaboration that will revolutionize how
people share data and work together remotely.”
 Better… but too vague.
Aiming for Value
 “Physicists are in an important race to find extraterrestrial
life, but their work is significantly impeded because the
massive data sets they collect must be transferred
physically on remote desert roads by Jeep. Our new
networking technology will connect the remote site with the
data processing center to allow data transfer and
collaboration in real-time, dramatically accelerating the
 Now you’re fundable (but know your audience; may need to
broaden statement).
 Credit: Morgan Giddings. The Back Door to Funding Report
You probably learned everything
you need to know before high school!
Begin with an outline (use solicitation)
Subject and verb
One main idea per paragraph
Avoid lengthy sentences
Use commas & semi-colons
Spelling & grammar matter
Narrative Text Progression
 For each paragraph and sentence ask:
How does this link to what I’ve just finished?
Whose story is this sentence?
What’s going on here
How will this thought develop?
What more do I have to know?
What is the most important piece of information here?
 Utilize figures, tables & flow charts to save text
 Provide engaging legends that can stand on their own (convey a
 Consider white space
Passive vs. Active Voice
Mistakes were made.
I made a mistake.
The student’s response was measured.
We measured the student’s response.
The electric identifier was used to solve the
I used the electric identifier to solve the problem.
The problem was solved with the electric
Get past the subject and to its verb quickly!
Some scientists, because they write in a style that is
impersonal and objective, do not communicate easily with
Some scientists do not communicate easily with laypeople
because they write in a style that is impersonal and objective.
 Refine specific aims
 Begin drafting narrative
 Communicate with your ORTT Specialist

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