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Writing Winning Proposals
Presenter:Deborah HernandezOctober27, 2010dhernndz@memphis.edux2648
Tips for effective proposal writingCommon proposal terminologyStandard proposal formats and section content
Today’s Topics
Read the solicitationRead the solicitation AGAINReview funder-provided proposal guides and samplesMake an outline of required elements and attachmentsMake a list of review criteriaAllocate pages to each required section based on review criteria or funder’s motivationMake a checklist of special instructionsRead abstracts of previously funded projects and/or read successful proposals to the same funder/program
Before YouWrite Your First Word
General Writing Tips
Remember:
Avoid:
Writing Basics
Everythingyouneedtoknow, you probably learned before graduate school……
Makesure all your sentences have a subject and a verbPresentonemain idea per paragraphUsecommas or semi-colons to separatephrasesWatch for dangling participles, unnecessary clauses, and overuse of parenthetical statementsUse active language and consistent verb tenseSpell out acronyms with first usageProvide appropriate transitions betweensections
What Reviewers Say……
Useactive ratherthan passivevoice."We will develop a cell line," not "A cell line will be developed."Keep related ideas and information together, e.g., put clauses and phrases as close as possible to the words they modify.Simplify and breakup long, involved sentences and paragraphs.Shortsimplesentencesare much easier on the reader.Edit out redundant words and phrases. Proofread thoroughly.Sloppy work will definitely suffer in review.
From the NIH, NINDS website:
What Reviewers Say…..Part II
"There are no tricks…Just write it so it's readable.”“Give me what, why, and how: If you put everything in the proper section, your logic should be immediately clear.""Be organized…Make sure that the headings you use for the specific aims match the headings you use in the experimental section.”“Neatness counts. Misspellings, grammar errors, and incorrect references all reflect badly on your judgment.“
Proofreading your proposal
Use spell checkUnderline topic sentences in each paragraph and then read ONLY underlined sentences to check logic and flow.Highlight key words and check for consistency in usage (e.g. goal, objective, aim)Look for too much repetition in word usage(e.g.therefore, thus, etc.)Check numbered points carefullyFlag sentences more than 3 lines longRead one sentence at a time from the back of your proposal to the front
Excerpts from theWorking Best (CA1/11/09): Economy of words gets to point
…..Here’s what good writers do to cut extra words:Hunt which’s; killbe’s“Which” clauses often pack a sentence with too many ideas. Solution? Replace awhichwith a period, and make two or more sentences.“Be” verbs are weak, and often cause you to add words you don’t need. They also often encourage wordy and weak passive voice….Try to replace any form of the verb “to be”—be, is, are was, were, been, being, am—with a stronger, more lively verb.
Excerpts from theWorking Best (CA1/11/09) continued….
Cut the FluffInstead of: In view of the fact that, a large number of, in the event that, for the purpose of, in order to, in view of…..Use: Because, many, if, to, since…Combine IdeasInstead of: The manager’s report was carefully illustrated, and it covered five pages.Use:The manager’s carefully illustrated, five page report…..
Excerpts from theWorking Best (CA1/11/09) continued….
Positive, not negativeInstead of: If the error does not involve data correction, the special function key should not be used.Use: Use the special function key to correct data.
Testing your skills from theWorking Best (CA1/11/09)
Improve these sentences by cutting unneeded words.The degree of importance in the level of accuracy depends upon the particular situation.B. The fact that the recruit had not succeeded was brought to my attention recently.C. The reason why we failed to reply is that we were not apprised of the fact until yesterday that somehow the report had been unavoidably delayed by engineering.
More practice from actual proposals
The primary goal of this project is to implement an innovative strategy to address the substantial biomedical problem posed by the inability of current scientific approaches to rapidly provide crystallographic structures of G protein-coupled receptors (or indeed any membrane protein) to fuel rational drug design efforts.
The primary goal of this project is to address current scientific inability to rapidly provide crystallographic structures of G protein-coupled receptors essential for rational drug design efforts.
More practice from actual proposals
For investigating the enzyme structure and mechanism, simpler model systems, as well as larger models that progressively incorporate atoms more distant from the active site will be utilized.
We will utilize simpler model systems to investigate the enzyme structure and mechanism. We will also employ larger models that progressively incorporate atoms more distant from the active site.Or…..We will investigate the enzyme structure and mechanism using both simpler model systems and larger models that progressively incorporate atoms more distant from the active site.
More practice from actual proposals
Technological knowledge, skills, and applications are important contributors to the professional success of all students, but for engineering students, these skills and strategies are critical components required for professional practice in the 21stcentury.
Technological knowledge, skills, and applications are important contributors to the professional success of all students. For engineering students, however, these skills and applications strategies are critical components required for professional practice in the 21st century.
More practice from actual proposals
Volunteer opportunitiesareavailable from XXXX to support a wide range of XXXX research and awareness activities, and to serve on state and local boards and committees that address activities including engineering, earth science research, public policy, infrastructure vulnerability, and public awareness
XXXX engages volunteers to support a wide range of earthquake research and awareness activities and to serve on state and local boards and committees that address issues such as engineering, earth science research, public policy, infrastructure vulnerability, and public awareness.
More practice from actual proposals
The outcomes of this study will result in a comprehensive resort development feasibility study. The study will address several primary areas to answer the questions that the Hospitality Programs Directorate has put forth in developing a new CONUS AFRC.
The primary outcome of this study will be a comprehensive resort development feasibility study that addresses the questions put forth by the Hospitality Programs Directorate.
Common Proposal Terminology

Standard Proposal Content
Summary or AbstractProgram Narrative or Project Description-Goals/Objectives; Hypothesis & Aims; Research Questions-Need; Background & Significance; Rationale; TheoreticalFramework-Program Plans; Methods; Strategies; Research Plan-Management Plan; Personnel-Evaluation; AssessmentBudget & Budget JustificationAttachmentsCVLetters of support/commitmentOther supporting documentation

Standard NSF Format
Project Summary – 1 pageAddress merit review criteriaProject Description – 15 pagesIntroductionBackground and SignificanceResults from prior NSF SupportResearch Plan/TimelineBudget and Budget Narrativehttp://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf09_29/gpg0929print.pdf

Standard NIH Format
Summary/AbstractResearch Strategy (6-12 pages)1page of specific aimsBackground & SignificancePreliminary StudiesResearch Design/MethodsBudget and Budget Narrativehttp://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html#fp1http://enhancing-peer-review.nih.gov/page_limits.html

General US Dept of Education Format
Summary/AbstractNeedProject Design, Proposed Activities or Proposed ServicesPersonnelManagement PlanResourcesEvaluation PlanLOTS of Attachments
Questions?
You may access this presentation and a recording of a prior offering of this session on the UM Drive at:https://umdrive.memphis.edu/g-researchworkshops/

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