Grant proposal

As part of this class you will be writing a grant proposal typical of what scientists write to request funding for a project from government agencies. Writing a grant proposal is a great opportunity to practice several important things, including: literature review and critical analysis of papers, experimental design, scientific and persuasive writing, and using your own creativity to come up with original ideas for solving scientific questions.

Your proposal must include the following parts:

  • Background and Significance – Here you write a review of the literature for your topic, but only the details that are relevant to your specific aims (hypotheses and experiments you propose). This is very similar to the Introduction/Background section of a research paper, and many peer-reviewed original research references are used in this section. The last paragraph should briefly summarize what is known (the details of which are earlier) and then lead into what is unknown, setting up the stage for your hypotheses and your proposed experiments to test them. You want to make sure you convince your reviewer that this is an important problem and why they should fund you.
  • Preliminary Data – Summarize the data that was collected in your target paper. You will choose a paper that studies a topic of interest and explain what they are doing to examine that issue.  Identify gaps in knowledge or new questions from the preliminary data that you will address with your proposed studies so that you can justify your research plan.
  • Research Plan – This section is usually organized by the specific aims. It should include a hypothesis for each specific aim, and descriptions of the proposed experiments, including the controls that will be used and how they will be carried out. You must also include expected results and demonstrate that you have thought about what could go wrong and how you will adapt your plan if necessary (anticipated problems and alternative approaches). Finally, talk about how the expected results will contribute to scientific knowledge.

Remember, the purpose of the grant proposal is to convince readers that what you are proposing is important, and the experiments you are proposing to do are the best way to approach the problem. There are places where you can do this in each section of the proposal. You want the reviewers to believe that your project is worth funding and that you are capable of doing it!

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