Writing a research proposal A workshop run by Research Design Service London 20th July 2010
Content • Reasons why proposals do not attract funding • What are reviewers looking for? • Strategy for putting together a strong funding application • Presentation and style • Key components of research proposals • Additional hints and tips
Common reasons why research proposals • do not attract funding • Poor rationale (or it’s poorly described) • Proposal lacking enough or appropriate preliminary data • Research not within scope of the funding stream • Investigator / study not eligible for funding • Lack of focus or failure to stay focused on the question • Proposed project appears to be a ‘fishing expedition’ • Method unsuited to the objective. • Proposal driven by technology, i.e. a method in search of a problem • Research team do not have the necessary breadth and depth of skills • Overambitious – trying to achieve too much within a set budget or time • Inappropriate level of detail Content matters, but presentation and style are crucial
2. What are reviewers looking for? • High quality science • Proposals that meet the funder’s priorities • A proposal that addresses an important and recognised healthcare need • An interesting idea, which catches their attention! • Studies which are novel • Relevant Patient and Public Involvement • Studies that can be delivered on time and represent value for money • A clear and well thought out approach • A highly capable team of investigators
3. Strategy for putting together a strong research proposal • Choose a relevant issue • Present a clear rationale • Involve the RDS • Formulate a clear question and hypothesis • Plan for Public and Patient Involvement • Read the guidelines from the targeted funding body • Read the guidelines again! • Gather together a great team • Seek feedback from the team and peers • Allow plenty of time to develop the proposal • Only submit your best effort • Keep fingers crossed
4. Presentation and style • Use headings, sections, bullet points to break up text • Write clearly and with authority, back up with evidence and references • Keep it interesting, easy to read and understand • Assume that you are not writing for an expert in your field • Show that you are planning your research carefully (think about pragmatic issues – ethics/ resources you may need/ potential hurdles). • Edit for clarity (don’t just proof read) • Get feedback from team, peers and the RDS on presentation and style • Eliminate all mispeelings and type-O’s
5. Key components of an good proposal Title – specific, captivating, short and clear “An alternative means to detect osteoporosis” versus “Osteoporosis : A rapid inexpensive screening test for early detection” Background – concise yet thorough, persuasive, well referenced Convince reviewers that you are up to date and familiar with your area of research. Should lead to the conclusion that your proposed question needs to be answered and the proposed study is the best next step.
Key components of an good proposal (continued) Aims and objectives – specific, realistic, consistent Describe what you intend to achieve overall (aims) and the steps involved (objectives). Link them to methods, a timetable and outcomes Research question and hypothesis – focused, linked to aims Methods – detailed, justified Outcomes, outputs – significant, beneficial, generalisable Describe contribution to knowledge, importance for future research, likely benefits to patients, broader relevance, exploitation.
6. Further hints and tips • If appropriate, start small and build up • Try and link with experienced and successful PI’s and research groups • Look at examples of previously successful applications • Get yourself known in the research community (maybe you’ll meet your future referee’s!) • Use simple language, be explicit • Use appropriate language “Looking at” (bad) vs “testing” (good) • Don’t exceed word counts • Contact funding stream programme managers
References and contact details NIHR RfPB, Programme Grants successful applications (summaries) http://www.nihr-ccf.org.uk/site/commissionedprojects/default.cfm College based courses / workshops on ‘writing proposals’ RDLearning http://www.rdlearning.org.uk/ Please see our newsletter www.rdslondon.co.uk RDS staff running this workshop Moira Kelly Annette Boaz Barbara Jefferis Peter Lovell Can be contacted at email@example.com