Five Minute Feedback

With the popular British Academy/Leverhulme Small Grant deadline looming, I am asked to comment on several draft applications per day.

My comments are surprisingly consistent as I read each new draft and give feedback using ‘track changes’:

Comment (JA1) Your assessor may not know anything about your subject area so assume the person reading your abstract has no particular interest in your area and very little knowledge.  Provide some context about why your topic is important (e.g. headline statistic about the growth of online shopping), use lay terms or define your terminology (e.g. you can’t guarantee that your reader will know what ‘crowdsourcing’ is).

Comment (JA2) ‘Under-researched’ is not a good enough justification for your study.  You need to explain why more research is warranted.

Comment (JA3) This sentence is very important and explains exactly what you want to do and why.  However, it is buried away at the end of a long paragraph.  It would be perfect as the opening sentence of your project summary.  Perhaps consider moving it?

Comment (JA4) Your methodology section is very brief and should be longer than the introductory background section.

Comment (JA5) Include more detail about how you will collect and analyse your data.  For example, you mention semi-structured interviews.  Who will you interview?  What topics will you explore in the interviews? How will you obtain access to your interviewees?

In each case, the amendments only take a few minutes to action and make all the difference to the final draft.

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4 Responses to Five Minute Feedback

  1. Brian Lingley says:

    I’ve made every one of those comments in the last week – I’ve also tried heading off the problem by sending this to someone that just hinted they were thinking of writing an application…

    ” I have attached a copy of a previously successful proposal, hopefully this will help you to write your own proposal. I think that the key points to remember are that the abstract must be in very simple English, avoiding all jargon – imagine that you are explaining your research to your mother (who knows nothing about the subject!). In the “Proposed Programme” start with a brief explanation of the context and why your research is important – the bulk of this section should be for the research questions, and your proposed methodology.”

  2. Sarah says:

    Oh, how often I have written those comments!

    Also (SS1? 😉 ) ‘They don’t know who you are or what you are good at. You need to make it clear why YOU have the skills to undertake this project’

  3. JA5 is my most regularly used one.

    JA2 is great. I am seeing ‘under researched’ more often in applications and papers, as a catch all justification. Often I feel that it is code for “I’ve only read a few things in this area”, combined with “I can’t think of any reason that this research needs to be done now, but I still want the funding

  4. Pingback: Are you ready to start? | Research Funding Toolkit

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