It’s a great feeling when you finish the first draft of a grant proposal. You lean back in your chair and regard your work with a certain sense of pride. But, in the back of your mind, you are probably aware that your new creation is about to be torn to shreds.
[Looking to revise a rejected proposal? See this slideshow from the University of Central Oklahoma]
The revising process is critical for a successful proposal, but the task can also be daunting. Where to begin?
[ Just starting the process? Click here for a step-by-step grant writing checklist]
Hopefully, you have a team of partners who will critique your work for you. But there are some critical questions you should ask of each proposal. If each of these is addressed, you will have a far more competitive proposal:
|– Look at the funder’s goal and the goal of your project. Do they really align? If they do, are we using the exact phraseology?
|– Is this meeting the basic guidelines for font type, margins, page length, etc.?
|– What do you want the funding to do? Is this clear? It is in the first paragraph?
|– Is this an innovative project? Does it contribute to historiography, make new things accessible, or promote education on a topic?
|– Are you using at least one good, meaty example of this project?
|– Do you clearly state where this project has been? Where is it now? Where it will go with funding? Is this in the first page?
|– Are you showcasing our expertise? How is our team strong? How is our organization strong? Are we well-qualified and showing it?
|– Are you denigrating a person or organization? If so, take that out immediately!
|– Are we as strong as the examples provided? If not, what do they have that we are missing?
|– Is our work plan realistic? Are we making it clear how we will accomplish our mission? How specifically will we go to the next level?
|– Does our budget meet the guidelines? Is our math correct? Is the budget realistic?
|– Are we addressing each of the evaluation criteria?
|– Is this “wordy” in any areas? Is there too much information in any of these sections?
|– Do we have an interesting “hook”? Is the reviewer encouraged to continue reading?
|– Is there a sense of urgency and importance to this proposal? Are we showing that funding can really make a difference?
|– Is there some sense of research here? Do we know how our work fits with that already being done? How will we use this work, specifically?
|– Conversely, are we bogged down with literature reviews? Could we trim it and use more space for the narrative?
|– Are there any instances of passive voice? Are we showing authority and competence in our prose?
|– Does this proposal follow a logical structure? Do we ever stray from our “thesis statement”?
|– Have we thoroughly and completely addressed each part of every question being asked?
|– When applicable, are we adequately showcasing grant and funding support we have already received?
|– Are any charts, tables, and citations presented according to grant guidelines?
|– Does this proposal make sense to someone not from our specific field? Are there unexplained terms or jargon?
|– Are our letter-writers and partners properly addressed and titled in the grant narrative?
|– Can you clearly say that the “what, where, how, when, and why” of your project is addressed in the narrative?
|– Is your evaluation plan sound? Are there metrics listed?
|– Are minority voices incorporated in this plan? Are we a diverse team? Are we partnering with diverse organizations?
|– Is our emphasis here correct? Are we too broad? Should we be focusing on a smaller part of the project?
|– Who can I have read this as a third-party who could provide meaningful insight? A different perspective?
Do you have any suggestions – anything to add to this list? Leave a comment below!
Grant funding is an intimidating concept. Even brilliant researchers and excellent academic writers don’t always receive their full requests. If you are a graduate student, or are just beginning your foray into academia, you may feel unsure about your chances.
[Grant Writing for Dummies – great tips for where to find grant funding!]
But don’t be discouraged! Grant writing is a completely different animal than composing a research paper or producing an academic article. Once you master it, you will be as competitive as many of your colleagues.
[“Debunking Some Myths About Grant Funding” from the Chronicle of Higher Education]
So, where to begin? What follows is a simple, step-by-step checklist to get you thinking about your application. But above all, my advice is to be patient. It may take you three or four proposals to get the hang of this.
- Define your project and then find a grant program that fits. Don’t make the rookie mistake of trying to shape your research or project to fit the needs of a certain program. Ask yourself: Does my project really align with this program? If not, find a different program.
- Get a team together. If you are just writing a small research grant for your own purposes, you may be able to skip this step. Otherwise, consider forming a group of students, faculty, and community members who can read, comment on, and contribute to your proposal. Make sure to keep one or two of these folks on the sidelines until the proposal is almost ready to go – that way, they will view it with fresh eyes.
- Carefully read through the call for proposals. Make sure you know every detail and piece of information found in the document. Don’t wait until the last moment to read through the “unallowable costs” and discover your project does not fit the funder’s guidelines.
- Think through your project before you begin the narrative. Avoid creating the project as you go along. Try making an outline, creating a logic model, or design a list of goals for your work.
- Take your outline to contractors, community partners, and collaborators and figure out how they will be involved. This can be the toughest part of the application process. Getting everyone on the same page can be like herding cats! But it’s wise to get all of your bids, letters of support, statements of commitment, and feedback before the project is finalized in the narrative and budget. Then, continually follow up with partners until you have everything you need.
- Write your first draft. Make sure to answer every question fully. Whenever possible, use the same language as the funding organization to describe your goals and process. Make the case that you are a good fit for the project. Be clear, concise, and introduce your project and request from the get-go.
- [Check out this great handout on how to write for grant proposals]
- Revise, revise, revise! As with any good written work, revision is key. Get feedback from anyone who will read your proposal. Get started on your budget early and make sure to update numbers whenever you revise the project.
- Collect your supporting materials. Depending on the funding program, this may include: Letters of support, statements of commitment, contractor budgets, photographs, digital examples of projects, and promotional materials.
- Submit your final narrative and budget to your institution’s internal research team. If you work at a university or major institution, odds are that there are resources available for you to submit to as a final check for your work. There may also be policies and budget components that can only be inserted by your organization. Make sure you keep yourself available until the actual deadline to handle last-minute questions.Of course, there is a lot more to writing a grant, but these basic steps should get you on your way! How about you? Have you ever written a grant? What suggestions would you have? Leave a comment, below!
- [Want more tips? Check out these tips!]
Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate student in the field of History, chances are, you will have to write. And write. And write! Incoming students to the discipline sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount they are expected to communicate through writing.
One of the first questions you may have is how can you handle the workload? And beyond that, how can you excel at writing as a history student? Each student develops their own systems and methods to achieve effective writing. To get you started, here are some fantastic writing tips from History faculty and students from the University of Central Florida.
- When you are writing, “you have different audiences. You have to address these audiences. Are you writing these things for the specialist in your field who knows you are using jargon? If you have a wider audience, you have to be as open as possible.” – Dr. Hakan Özoğlu
- “Do more writing. The best thing you can do if you’re struggling with something is to revise, revise, revise…Don’t be afraid of your writing issues. No one is a perfect writer.” – Dr. Daniel Murphree
- “My advice is to think of writing as a process. The only way to become a good writer is continue writing, revising, and re-writing…There are many self-help books but my favorite two books about writing are William Zinsser, On Writing Well and Joseph Williams, Style: Toward Clarity and Grace.” – Dr. Yovanna Pineda
- “Do what I can a ‘boiler plate.’ Almost the minute a student starts a paper, they should set up a draft of it, with the main things they have to have in a paper…You’re writing as you go along.” – Dr. Barbara Gannon
- “Graduate students should read…Elements of Style by Strunk and White, On Writing Well by William Zinsser…and Line by Line: How to Edit Your Own Writing. These three works are a good introduction to how to think about your writing objectively and how to edit your papers.” – Daniel Bradfield, Graduate Student.
- “Go to the writing center, they will give you great advice and help.” – Daniel Velasquez, graduate Student
- “Communicate with your professors. If your grades do not meet your expectations, ask your professors if there is something that is missing…Professor feedback will be the first step in understanding where to find the weaknesses.” – Drew Fedorka, Graduate Student.
- “Learn how to plan well. I use the program XMind (a mind-mapping program, which is free) and I organize every single paper on there…By organizing, it makes it much easier to actually write.” – Leanne Wiggins, Graduate Student
- “Cite as you go, never afterwards or “later.” Learn how to use Zotero early on.” – Kendra Haze, Graduate Student
- “Don’t reinvent the wheel. Utilize the skills built during undergraduate work and then build upon those practices to accommodate for the demands of graduate school.” – Meghan Vance, Graduate Student
If you are looking for more tips, check out this guide on reading, writing, and researching for history.
The University of Central Florida’s Writing Center also has some great resources for students new to university-level writing. Visit the writing center today!
How about you? What writing tips and suggestions would you have for other history students? Leave your comments below!