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the research proposal - best resources and tools you use?

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What are some of your most useful proposal writing resources you live by? I am compiling my doctoral dissertation prospectus (in social sciences) and modeling after NSF DDRI/DDIG grant. In a rut. 

Websites? Articles? Books? Advisor advice? 

What say you? 

Thanks all.

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The best thing that I did was to get ahold of a successful proposal that was unrelated to my project. For example, I looked at a immunology related proposal, but I wrote about metabolism. This way, while I got some tips about organization and building aims, I still had to exercise my brain and really come up with everything. It made me feel like I actually did the thing at the end. In reality, I didn't use the sample proposal that much, but it kept me from forgetting some important parts and gave me something to refer to.

I also spent a lot of time having what we call intellectual combat with my boss before and during writing. I would come up with aims, and then he would do his best to shoot them down. Once I was happy with that, I wrote my aims page, and we talked again. Then I wrote my proposal, and we debated once more. Then at the end of all of that, I put together my significance and innovation sections. Only after I wrote and debated the whole thing did I have some friends look at it. Doing it this way was perhaps a little stressful, but I was really happy with my proposal when I finished. I highly recommend setting "due dates" with friends that are also writing and trade your proposals back and forth. You get to learn from theirs, and everyone gets some editing done. I also had my committee review my fellowship proposal before I submitted it. 

I wish that this was the method I had followed for my dissertation proposal, but alas, I didn't learn to do this until I was submitting national fellowship applications. I highly recommend it. Something about talking it out really solidifies the good ideas and washes the bad ones out.

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Also, if you need citation software, I still love Mendeley. You can annotate your sources as you read them, and it also acts as a citation manager like Endnote, only it is free!

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