Developing and Writing Hypothesis for Grant Application

Every day we find brilliant research being presented for grant approval. These researches possess the potential to bring a biomedical breakthrough by answering complex questions. But because tremendous investigation is being undertaken throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, the research topics overlap resulting in undeniable similarity in the primary research concept. This reduces the diversity of research ideas as well as the odds of success. Each year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is inundated by thousands of grant proposals, only a few of which make it through the peer-review, i.e., the reason behind rejection is an overwhelming similarity between new and old research. The uniqueness and newness of biomedical exploration are lost somewhere.

An important question that often perturbs young and experienced investigators is how they can make their research unique enough to stand out and the steps they can take to make their application distinguished from the pile of thousands of proposals.

There is a simple solution to it – the secret lies in “Hypothesis.”

A hypothesis is a thought or idea that is central to your research project. It is a hypothesis that makes your proposal distinguishable from others.

Hypothesis is a very critical section of a grant proposal. Most of the peer reviewers just read this section to either accept or decline the proposal. It is important to understand what a hypothesis is and how you can ace it to increase your chances of grant success.


Types of Hypothetical Statements that Evolve from your Research Question

There are two types of hypotheses that can be inferred from your research. Your research question can lead to either or both of them before the planned research is conducted. These are mentioned below:

Null Hypothesis

In this, you proclaim that the variables in your research question are independent of each other. You prove this hypothesis via your research experiments. After your statistical research investigations, you deduce that there is no link between your variables of question or you can say they are not interrelated at all.

Alternative hypothesis

When your null hypothesis gets declined by research experiments, the alternative hypothesis is formed. It is a proclamation that you are predicting a relation between the two variables of your research question. Again, it is decided only after your research data statistics are favoring it.


Research Question: Are the rate of fluoride leak from a compomer and glass-ionomer cement (GIC) the same?

Hypothesis: If the null hypothesis is true, you will write in your derived hypothesis that both the variables, i.e., compomer and GIC, have the same rate of fluoride leak. If false, you will write that both the variables have a different fluoride leaking rate (Azzam & Salah, 2016).


Contribution of Databases in Deriving Hypothesis and Research Question

As you know that you are proposing your research beforehand, the hypothesis mentioned in the grant application should be derived from your question and not your data. Databases are usually used to formulate a research question and hypothesis. You can confirm your hypothesis once you conduct your research after being accepted for a grant award. Steps for deriving your research question and hypothesis from databases are:

  • Choose the field of the topic you are interested in
  • Search that topic in the databases such as PubMed or Medline
  • You will find many analogies of that topic and factors affecting it
  • Find gaps in the analytical analogies of your topic and derive a question from them
  • Question with two factors affecting each other should be formed
  • The hypothesis is inferred while keeping in mind the information provided in the databases
  • Note the methodologies and data used in deriving the hypothesis
  • Try to derive at least 3 to 4 aims and hypotheses from your research question
  • Make sure they are completely novel and unique in their own way

Your research design is directly influenced by the type of hypothesis you proclaim and indirectly dependant on the research question you come up with. Therefore, following the above steps will lead you to the evolution of an excellent hypothesis, and you can then fluently advance toward your research goals.


Esthetical Considerations
Page Limit

Every grant application has its rules set by its respective Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA). According to most of them, the set limit of space for providing and interpreting the aims and hypotheses of research is up to one page. Never exceed the said page limit as it will have a negative impact on your scoring.


The key to better esthetics is multiple paragraphing. But here, you have to write four aims with their four respective hypotheses. Each hypothesis should be mentioned separately under its related aim in a single 4 to 5-lined paragraph. This helps in the rapid extraction of information by the reviewers.

Bullet Points

Mark a bullet point before each objective you write. This will enhance the aesthetics of your specific aims section leading to a derived hypothesis paragraph afterward. Your reviewers can easily get to the aims of your research when conducting the final scoring for your application.


The more organized are your application sections, the better are the chances for your application to catch the reviewer’s eye. Each aim should guide the reviewers to its own hypothesis. Furthermore, each hypothesis should lead to the next hypothesis until the last one is reached. This will create a flow to easily comprehend the correlation of your aims with your proclaimed hypothetical interpretations.


Steps to Follow in the Hypothesis & Aims Section

It is the key section of your application. It is where your research objectives are clearly transferred to your reviewers. It is where most of the reviewers do the voting for your entire application’s worth. There are various points that you have to follow while scripting this section. These are:

Direct Speculations & Interpretations

Your thought process should be excellent enough to compose precise aims leading to a specific hypothesis. Your wording must be relevant and simple. There must be directness in your interpretation of the research hypotheses.

Logic behind Everything

You should provide logical explanations about your hypothetical observations in your planned research. Make sure that your logical hypotheses must be strong and fully testable. Peer reviewers need convincing for every sentence you quote and claim in your research proposal. Since legitimate explanations are only provided in scientific literature, you cannot claim a hypothesis without any scientific knowledge.

Linking Aims with Hypothesis

Always remember that every objective you claim should correlate with its own specific hypotheses. If there are four aims, then there will be four hypotheses. Highlight each aim in bold heading or bullet point and then derive its respective hypothesis. This description should be self-sufficient and should precisely be explained in five lines at the most. Furthermore, every hypothesis should correlate with the next proposed hypothesis.

Beneficial for Science and Healthcare System

Conclude each hypothesis paragraph with a sentence stipulating the significance of your research hypothesis and aims. This statement will specify what benefit it will bring into the science and your healthcare system if it is proven. Convince them by telling the voids that can be filled via your research conduction.

Wording Preferences

Since this section is the cornerstone of your grant application, your wording should be especially accurate and to the point. For this 1-page section, you focus on words that can interlink the hypothesis with significance in the end. You can use the words like ‘to calibrate,’ ‘to assess,’ ‘to compare,’ ‘to enhance’ ‘to determine’ or ‘to analyze’ (Kevin & Melissa, 2008).

Address Alternative Hypothesis

A powerful hypothesis section will also mention an alternative hypothesis, as well. This will aid in justifying your research proposal (Jason, Karim & Robert, 2013). It is only possible if your null hypothesis gets rejected by your research or there is evidence of rejection in the past databases. The knowledge of the evolving hypothesis is rather complicated and should be wisely dealt with, especially if you are a New Investigator.

Define Timeline

Precisely mention the aims and hypotheses and the time needed to achieve these objectives. Stipulate the methods to be utilized for accomplishing each objective. You can draw a timeline if you want a clear comprehension of your tasks to be fulfilled under a specific time limit (Georgia, Elena, Tiago & Neil, 2016).  It will also prove that your research is possible in the provided time, environment, and funds.


Observed Errors.

Fishing is the term used in research writing for finding relevant information from a bunch of irrelevant data. This is the most commonly observed problem with many of the submitted applications. As the page space is already limited, one cannot risk inserting insignificant information in this important section. Thus, do not impose your reviewers to fish for relevant information.

Too many Aims

Another frequent problem within this section is claiming too many aims. Normally three to four objectives of your research are adequate to proclaim. Claiming too many aims within a limited time period will make your research look artificial. It is evident to your reviewers that you cannot achieve them in time. Hence, avoid committing this mistake.


Specific Aims & Hypothesis section and the NIH review Criteria

One of the heaviest criteria to evaluate your application is seeking the significance of your proposed research. So, in the concluding paragraph of this section, it is advised to notify the following points:

  • Provide an overview of all your objectives and hypothesis in a flow.
  • Point out to your reviewers the problems and defects in our scientific society that your research focuses on.
  • Explain how your research will be able to solve these highlighted problems.
  • Specify what will be the effect of this research on the scientific literature, methods, services, and preventions.
  • Elaborate on the methods that will be carried out in your research to solve these problems.
  • Also, mention the tools to be used to carry out your research.
  • Lastly, provide details about your research team and environment and how are they suitable for this research conduction.
  • All of this must be precisely written in a 6 to 7-lined paragraph without exceeding the one-page limit that is set for this section. This limit may be changed by your specific FOA.



Through this article, you have analyzed every aspect of the research hypothesis. It can either create or dismantle your grant application. Your whole proposal is guided by this section. You have to go through the scientific literature to define your question leading to your specific aims and hypothesis. Make sure that your hypothesis can really be tested under your provided environment and equipment. Convince your peer reviewers that your research is doable and is significant for the scientific knowledge and hence, for the public health. Your hypothesis should be firm, simple to comprehend but novel for the scientific literature. It should be so much fascinating as to force your reviewers to urge for more. It certainly requires scientific proficiency and ultimate skills to fully adopt the steps mentioned above.


  1. Al-Jundi, A. & Sakka, S. (2016, November). Protocol Writing in Clinical Research. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 10(11), ZE10–ZE13.
  2. Chung, K.C. & Shauver, M.J. (2008, April). Fundamental Principles of Writing a Successful Grant Proposal. The Journal of Hand Surgery, 33(4), 566–572.
  3. Wiseman, J.T., Alavi, K. & Milner, R.J. (2013, December). Grant Writing 101. Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery26(4), 228–231.
  4. Hardavella, G., Karampini, E., Jacinto, T. & Saad, N.J. (2016, March). Doing Science: How to Submit a Successful Funding Application. Breathe, 12(1), 73–77.
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