This blog is intended to help you write better grant applications with less effort. The first thing you need to know is where to begin. In this post I argue that you begin by describing the research project.
The case for support in a grant application has three essential parts. The first part is a very brief statement of what is coming. You can’t possibly write this statement efficiently until you have written what is coming. Obviously you have to write it last.
The second part of the case for support is a detailed argument designed to make the grants’ committee see your research project as the perfect solution to an important problem. You can’t possibly design a problem for which the research project is the perfect solution until you have defined the research project. Obviously, you can’t write the second part of the case for support until you have described the project.
The third part of the case for support is a description of the research project, what resources it will use, what it will discover, and how the discoveries will be disseminated. This is obviously the part that you should write first. Once you have written it, you know exactly what the other two parts must achieve.
Starting at the end may seem a bit counter-intuitive but remember: the whole point of the grant application is to get funding for the project. The project is what you are ‘selling’ to the funding agency. Until you have a good description of the project you don’t know what you are selling, so how can you possibly write the text that will sell it effectively?
People waste a massive amount of time trying to write research grant applications. I am convinced that this is because they make the mistake of beginning at the beginning. One reason they do this is because it feels easy. Until you have written the research project you have no constraints: you can write anything you like.
Writing about the research project is more difficult. Everything you write commits you to do something. These commitments start to mount up. In my next post I shall discuss how you can start to do this step by step without fear of overcommitment.