How to Create a Research Proposal Worth Funding

As a clinical researcher, you may have a great idea that you think is worth investigating. But do others, specifically, those who have the ability to fund it, think the same way?

Finding money for research project used to be pretty simple. But with declining research budgets and increased competition, it’s becoming more and more difficult to win grants to fund R&D projects.

Creating a grant proposal may seem like an overwhelming task, but it is a necessary cornerstone for moving forward with your research.  To make it easier, we’re breaking down the process into simple steps that will allow you to create a proposal that actually receives funding.

Step 1: Creating the Right Research Proposal Outline

Before you begin writing your grant proposal, it’s a good idea to start with a basic outline. This way, you will have a roadmap to follow and create a proposal that is complete and definitive. Here are some tips that can help you get started:

Get to the Point

One honest tip when writing your proposal? Keep it short and simple. Avoid technical jargon and use simple terms to define what your main objective and goals are. This way, reviewers know exactly what you are proposing as soon as they start reading, rather than having to wade through unnecessary filler. On that note, you should also ensure that your title clearly explains the work you are proposing.

Edit Your Proposal

Likewise, you should double and triple check your spelling and grammar before submitting. While it’s always a great idea to have someone review your proposal, there are also many editing softwares such as Grammarly that can help you proof-read your proposal when you’re writing it. Although it may seem irrelevant, research proposals have been known to be rejected on the basis of poor or incoherent writing.

Adjust Your Language

Make sure that you know who will be reading and evaluating your research proposal. Are they industry professionals? Peers? In these cases, you can probably include more industry-specific terms and jargon, although it’s always best to err on the side of keeping your language choices as simple as possible. If the reviewers are not specific to your industry, take extra care to adjust your word choices accordingly.

Read the Instructions Carefully

This may seem like a basic tip, but you’d be surprised at the many different requirements that may be required when submitting a grant proposal to a funding body. If you are submitting a proposal to a specific call, you may need to pay special attention and carefully follow instructions provided to have your proposal accepted for review. Be sure to read all instructions carefully and include everything asked for, as proposals will usually not be accepted or even considered if they do not match the exact requirements.

Ask for Help

Research proposals are highly competitive, so give yourself plenty of time to edit your proposal more than just once. Ask your peers, coworkers, and mentors to review your work and offer constructive feedback. You may also find it helpful to have someone who is not related to your field or research to take a look at the research proposal, so they can come back to you with an honest review.

Step 2: Important Elements to Consider Focusing On

A successful research proposal should include three main sections: what, why, and how. What is it specifically that you are proposing? Why do you wish to complete this research, and what impact will it have on your field of study? How will you go about testing your hypothesis? You will need to break these sections down and dive into the specifics of each one in great detail.

In addition, the requirements of your research proposal will depend on the industry you work in. However, here are the basic sections that every successful research proposal will include.

Title

Your ability to capture the funders’ interest starts with the title of your research project. We understand that you may need to follow professional guidelines, but why not take a boring and monotone title, and turn it into something thought-provoking or engaging?

For example, instead of writing:

“An Investigative Study of Young Children’s Drawing Behaviours and Their Proposed Meanings: A Quantitative Approach Examining Elementary-Aged Children”

Why not write:

“How Do Children Communicate Through Art? an Investigative Study to Learn From Their Drawing Behaviors and Perception.”

The title of your research proposal is integral to its potential success in receiving funding. Prioritize succinct, descriptive words to make your intentions immediately clear to the reader.

Needs Statement

The main objective of a research proposal is to present and justify the need to study a particular problem— one that you are highly invested in. Why not start by showing the readers what impact your research can have, and how it can contribute to science? Help the funder clearly understand what problem you are trying to resolve, so why not do it with a powerful needs statement?

Background

The background area of your research proposal should get into specific studies that have already been done that relate to your intended research. This will show that you have put in the effort to understand what work has already been done on related topics, and how you will use completed studies to inform your own work. It will also indicate how your research will benefit an area of study already being explored.

Method

This section may be the most important of all. Your method must go into great detail in describing exactly how you intend to investigate your area of interest, more particularly how you can collect, store and analyze your data.

When explaining methodology technique and structure for your research, it’s also integral to include an estimated budget for this segment (i.e. What software can be used to collect and store clinical data? How much will it cost? etc). Be as thorough as possible while explaining the method because this is the most time-consuming and expensive part of the research project.

Results

Since this is only the proposal stage, you will not have results to include. However, the results section is where you will describe the type of data you will be collecting, and the methods you will use to analyze and contextualize that data.

Discussion

The discussion section is another integral part of any successful research proposal. This is where you will demonstrate the impact your research will have on progress in your industry. While you don’t want to overstate the importance of your work, you should be showing your enthusiasm for your research proposal. The more eager and confident you are, the more likely readers are to be engaged by your proposal.

Step 3: Make an Impactful Impression

Funding committees go through hundreds, if not thousands, of grant requests. When designing your proposal, make sure that it’s clearly formatted, aesthetically appealing, and stands out from the rest. Therefore, when working on your research proposal, make sure you consider the design element as well as the content.

Your research proposal should be easy to follow, so keep it simple. You may have a truly amazing idea for your project, but if the research proposal isn’t well executed, it is unlikely you will receive funding. A good idea is a great start, but you also need to show your ability to create a work plan and follow it.

Not sure where to start? Why not try a template:

Your research proposal should always be formatted in exact accordance with the submission specifications. However, if you don’t know where to start with formatting your proposal, a research proposal template can be a great place to start. For example, you can choose a ready-made template from Template Lab, one that works best for the type of research you plan to do.

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