Making a First Impression with Grant Proposal

The first impression sets a tone, giving a brief but a vivid idea of your attitude and dedication towards a cause. Needless to say, everyone in the professional and academic field strives their best to make their first impression the best one. When it comes to proposals, making the first impression is perhaps the most fundamental and important part of the application. It is nearly impossible to have the proposal accepted unless the proposal has strong and magnetic arguments for the reviewers to not just easily understand but accept.

Making the first impression with the grant proposal is actually easy if one can truly read between the lines. It is less about the technicality, academic background, or experience and more about how the applicant is complying with the instructions offered by the specific institute and whether or not their argument is strong enough to filter through the scrutiny of peer review.

Here are a few tips that can help you not just make the perfect first impression but will also help you write the grant proposal in a better way.

Know Your Grant

It cannot be stressed enough, but before one starts writing the proposal, it is important to know every bit of information that is present in the grant.

There are hundreds of grants available at the National Institute of Health (NIH), and every grant aims for a unique set of accomplishments in the medical and health field. The purpose of every grant can relate to any field of health and medical expertise, therefore, when writing the proposal for any grant, you must not only be competent but also be fully aware of the details that are mentioned in the grant. The descriptions, objectives, long-term goals, funding processes, and area of the target, are just some of the basics that you should be fully aware of. If any detail is left out while composing the proposal, it is very likely that the proposal will not be approved for funding.

To make sure that the grant is understood, it should be thoroughly discussed with the research team over and over again to ensure that every bit of information is understood. Should there be any ambiguities, they must be addressed and cleared as soon as possible so that more time and energy can be spent on writing the proposal. If the team cannot come up with answers to certain clauses or information in the grant, it is always useful to seek help from senior colleagues or those who have experience in this field

Writing the Proposal
  • Division: When writing the proposal, a few important (and basic) things should be kept in mind. Once the purpose of the grant and everything related to it is understood, it is important to divide the grant into feasible sections and be left with those who share the specialty in the respective field.

Although in all fairness, writing a proposal is often a subjective sort of affair, i.e., everyone holds a different approach and, therefore, requires a unique mindset to address the problem proposed in the grant, only a handful of approaches manage to obtain the grant and meet the grant expectations.

  • Never Forget Instructions: When writing the proposal, the instructions must be followed thoroughly. No single instruction is to be ignored or undermined. The emphasis is necessary here because, without it, instructions often are not only undermined but ignored, and this is one of the most common mistakes in grant proposals. Instructions include the format, details to be added, review criteria, etc., which enable the research team to scale their interests accordingly with respect to the requirements of the proposal. And, as always, it is important to discuss the instructions and application details, such as the content with those who have successfully applied for grant funding.
  • Abstract: Whether it’s a research paper or proposal, the abstract plays a vital role in describing every bit of detail that is to be addressed in the proposal. The abstract is not the summary of the intended proposal and research, but it highlights the intended issues of the grant and paves the way for the results in the proposal.

The abstract is a vital component of the proposal because, without the abstract, it is impossible for the reviewer to understand the approach of the research team. Thousands of applications are sent for every grant from around the world. Every application is unique and therefore, to make sure it is reviewed and treated fairly, it needs to be presentable and competitive to be shortlisted.

To achieve such a tremendous task, the abstract needs to be compelling and magnetic. It should give the reviewer the satisfaction that the proposal has been written by a team of researchers who fully understand the purpose of the grant and its intended goals. The proposal should also highlight the intended approach to be taken to solve the problem. It is fair to say that writing an abstract defines the entire approach taken toward the proposal.

The abstract is not a compulsory trait of the proposal, and many proposals are written without realizing their significance. This is where the researchers should devote their attention and energy by first working on a compact proposal that could highlight their understanding of the grant and the problem at hand.

To put it in a nutshell, the first impression that is laid upon the reviewer lies in the presentation of the abstract.

  • Writing the Proposal: When writing the proposal, a lot of things should be kept into consideration. It is not just about the professional researchers who are going to participate in the proposal and research later on but also the group of people such as patients and test subjects. Everyone has to be on board. This is to ensure that everything is being arranged and settled for the sake of the proposal. Needless to say, figures, analytical facts, and qualitative and quantitative research should be kept intact and must, therefore, be part of the researchers’ top priority in composing the grant proposal.

Those who speak languages other than English should have a proofreader and, if possible, a researcher who has a firm grip on the language. This is being started so that everything related to the proposal writing is in the perfect order.

It was previously discussed that the research team should be divided on the basis of their specialty so that everyone will have a role to play in proposal writing. There should be present several drafts of the proposal written by each researcher on behalf of their specialty so that the final proposal can be revised and studied as much as possible in order to eliminate any sort of error or misrepresentation.

The written proposal should be peer-reviewed multiple times. It can be done by senior or experienced researchers who already have experience in such a field or those who have had experience in undertaking proposals. Time must always be considered while writing the proposal.

While the proposal should be submitted as soon as possible, it must also be reviewed and revised as many times as possible before the final draft is delivered.

  • The Importance of Finance: While composing the proposal, the finance section should be reviewed and consulted multiple times by everyone in the research team since it is one of the most crucial subjects of the proposal. The funding allocated for the intended proposal needs to be justified in all manners. Whether it is stationary, fieldwork, equipment, salaries, staff expenditure, travel, publication cost, data storage, etc., everything should first be considered by the research team. The cost of every single item and service that will be a part of the proposal should be considered beforehand, i.e., it must be forethought and thoroughly discussed before being implemented in the proposal. It is nearly impossible to separate the finances from the proposal and have them dealt with in a different position. The review of the financial part of the proposal needs to include every possible cost that is going to be covered; otherwise, the reviewers will have doubts about the implementation of the proposed ideas.
  • Know Your Proposal: Proofread, review, and recheck everything that is included in the proposal. This is to guarantee that the proposal is not omitting any specific detail related to the intended grant. Proofread as many times as possible; review the facts and figures and make sure to add or omit details wherever possible; the financial cost of every single service and item must be prepared to keep in mind the current and future cost to ensure the efficiency of the proposal.

It is always a good idea to have the proposal reviewed by experienced researchers and senior officials who are willing to help. Most importantly, the submission of the proposal should not be delayed. It must be delivered as soon as possible once everything is composed and ready to be submitted.


Other Things One Should Be Familiar With:

The first impression is the last impression, so the saying goes, and it truly matters in this discussion. The things aforesaid mean and help clarify the importance of proposal writing but to actually make the first impression the last (and perfect) impression, it is also important to understand the funding opportunities and their scope.

Funding opportunities can be found on the internet, and the National Institutes of Health have a thorough description of every detail that is associated with the respective grant. That being said, it is important to be fully aware of the details that are mentioned in the grant. There is a possibility that the offered grant could possibly be demanding more resources and time or the scope of the grant may not be parallel with the researchers’ field of interest. This should be addressed and dealt with as soon as possible. There is plenty of research and opportunities offered by many institutes that fall under NIH. It’s all about choosing the right opportunity.

Writing a proposal is, without a doubt, a time-consuming and demanding task. Nonetheless, it does not have a broad margin for errors and technical disparities. There are possibly hundreds or thousands of applicants from every single country applying for grants, and to have the proposal approved is one of the biggest achievements in a medical profession. Therefore, writing the grant proposal should be considered not just within a short time frame but with efficiency and technicality; and represented in such a way that it satisfies all the criteria of the proposal reviewers.


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  3. Paul J., Thabane L, Thomas T, & Ye C. (2009, January) Posing the research question: not so simple. Can J Anaesth, 56(1), 71–9. 10.1007/s12630-008-9007-4.
  4. Aslam, S., Georgiev, H., Kumar, A., & Mehta, K. (2012, January) Matching research design to clinical research questions. Indian J Sex Transm Dis, 33(1), 49–53.
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