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How to write a grant?


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Oh brother.

I wrote my first grant this past semester and I found absolutely NOTHING that was useful.

I think that is because every funding organization is so specific about what they want that a good "grants for dummies" books just doesn't cover it. FYI: such a book EXISTS. The poverty of usefulness in no way prevents people from trying to sell them. I'm saying I found them totally inadequate.

At the end of the day you have to begin and end with the granting agency. My experiences were with IES and NSF and both had a veritable book on their websites about how to write for their purposes. It'll cost a small fortune but I highly recommend printing it out and reading the entire thing. First, you'll probably be the only person to read the whole thing. Second, there's all kind of minutiae that can trip up a newbie: fonts, page numbers, mini deadlines before the big deadline, what direction they are heading in, etc.

Next, if you working as part of a team or in connection with a Uni find THE admin. This person can appear deceptively unassuming. It's not the star grant getter in the dept. It is his or her admin that you need. I found Jackie. Bless Jackie. She knew about the online submission peculiarities, how far in advance to prepare to overcome the inevitable Uni and granting agency snafus, etc.

If you're not working with a Uni call the grant coordinator listed in the CFP. They are, theoretically, supposed to answer all of your questions including what kind of proposal they are most apt to consider this year. And that changes. One year it's STEM programs, for instance, the next year its Head Start. That won't be published but they should tell you. Or, rather, once you tell them your pitch they should tell you if it stands a chance. Now, I had a hard time getting these folks to respond to me until I *cringe* dropped my mentor's name. Just an FYI. If you have a name to use you may have to.

Also on the website should be .pdfs of former grants that won. Use those as templates.

But, as for where to start. Like all things start at the beginning: what is your research question, your population, and most importantly how does it fit with the goal(s) of the granting agency. That last one is a biggie. You could have a leg up on making a wonder woman bracelet that actuallyd deflects bullets and the lasso of truth but they won't care if you don't tell them why spending their money on it will make them look good. Write that out in any format to begin with. Once you have a handle on that formatting and expounding and clarifying is manageable. Without that you have no guiding principle.

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This is one where experience counts. I apply mainly to NIH grants and have applied twice already; didn't get the first one. There are seminars that may help, but also asking others who have been successful works. The NIH, at least, needs to have a very focused idea and it depends on the type of grant you are applying for. Its like you have to connect all the dots because reviewers are likely not exactly from the same field. BUT once you get one you will have a good idea of how to work it. I am still waiting for the results of one more submission and gearing up for another couple of submissions in the spring.

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If you are attending a university right now, there should be an office that handles grants and provides guidance on grant writing. If your not in school, maybe your previous institution could help.

I wrote a successful grant a few years ago and made use of my school's office of graduate assistantships and fellowships -- they reviewed my application several times and gave me good suggestions. Also very helpful was the large binder full of previous winning grant applications from various grants. If there is a Fulbright office in your area -- they might allow you to browse previous winning application essays. I also looked at grants that a few of my friends had written -- they were different from the grant I applied for, but still helpful in terms of layout and wording..

One more resource -- I used the book "Graduate Admissions Essays: Write your way into the school of your choice" -- this book has a chapter on fellowship applications and a few examples of fellowship application essays.

Another option would be to pay for the services of a professional grant writer.

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It really depends on what kind of grant you're writing. Is it for summer research funding? For dissertation funding? For a post-doc? Of course it also depends on what agency you're applying to...

I second the above recommendations to contact past recipients to see if you can read their grants (and these might be online already, depending on the funder), talking to past winners, reading everything you can find on the internet, and working closely with your adivsor since s/he should know more about this than you do.

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Bless you, coyabean, for taking the time with that response. And, thanks to everyone for chipping in ideas.

I work for a university as a staff member, though in a non-academic unit. I'm being encouraged by the admin to write a grant in order to obtain a few pieces of equipment desperately needed by my staff (and which can't be covered by our budget). I figured the practice would be useful, too, if I get accepted somewhere (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease).

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First off what are you writing for (institutional fellowship, training grant, NRSA)? I've got a good powerpoint on grantsmanship that walks you through the NIH process and you can use as a springboard to get your own proposal off the ground (I used it to write my F31 that I have). Email me if you want it genrepair@gmail.com

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