Writing Successful Grant Proposals

If you are working toward getting your first substantial grant funded, expect to spend at least a couple of months learning what a good grant is. Then expect to work on your proposal for another two or three months.

The key to writing good grants is reading well-written grants, really studying them until you understand what makes them persuasive. If you read until you can recognize a well-written grant, then write a serious draft yourself and seek out hard criticism from experienced grant writers, you can accelerate your development as a writer and a thinker.

Given the importance of grants to the research enterprise, surprisingly few papers have been written on how institutions teach it. Virginia Commonwealth University’s psychology department has documented its approach -- a special-topics course in which small groups of students learn the craft by writing applications for F31s, NIH's code for individual predoctoral fellowships. Emory University’s graduate division of biochemistry, cell and developmental biology has recently written about its course, which also uses preparation of an F31 application as a teaching tool.

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