The heart of any proposal is the research narrative and it can make or break your chances of getting funded. It should be as scientifically rigorous as a scholarly paper, but must be framed and written in a way that will convince the sponsor to fund you. Here are a few suggestions:
- Ask the experts: read successful narratives that have been submitted to your targeted sponsor, either by your colleagues at Curry or colleagues at other institutions. If you have seen an abstract of a successful proposal posted on the sponsor's website, contact the PI and ask if they will share. Although you should not consider somebody else's proposal as boilerplate for your own, pay attention to their writing, the scope of their project, and the level of detail used.
- Convince the sponsor that you and they are made for each other. Sponsors do not give you money because you need it, they give you money to carry out their mission. You have to show the sponsor how your work will help them reach their goals.
- Make sure your literature review clearly illustrates your command of the discipline. If the potential reviewers include scholars in the field or fields germane to your project, it does not hurt to cite them.
- This may sound obvious, but give the sponsor what they ask for - follow their guidelines. If they have page limits on sections, observe the limits. If they specify a minimum font size, do not use a smaller one. It doesn't matter how brilliant your science is - if you break little rules like this it will not just irritate the reviewers, it could cause the sponsor to simply reject your proposal out of hand. Pay attention to little things like grammar and punctuation, and do not rely on your word processor's spell check feature. Lack of attention to this kind of detail reflects poorly on you and your science.
- Allow enough time for one of your colleagues to review your work. It is easy to get so wrapped up in your proposal that you no longer 'see' the pieces that may need improvement or lack clarity. And again, don't wait until the last minute to prepare or submit a proposal: on-line submission systems can crash, copiers can jam, your research administrator can have a nervous breakdown, i.e., a whole host of things can go wrong.
last revised 2/22/2011; mbl