Grant Writing: Step 1 - Ideas and Aims

Updated: Apr 12, 2019

Getting grants can sometimes feel like an impossible task. We all know how many researchers are vying for the same pool of money and the number of applications for grants continues to grow.

For a lot of people, a grant application is like climbing a mountain; when at the bottom staring straight up at the top, you wonder how you, or anyone else for that matter, could make it to the peak. It's only so daunting because you are considering the leap it would take and the enormity of the challenge. Like all significant challenges, the only way up is one step at a time.

Step 1 - What's the big idea?

The first step could one of the hardest or easiest depending on your situation. Is there a novel idea or gap in knowledge that is staring you in the face? If yes, then you have the starting of an application, as all grant applications need to start with a unique problem that you want to solve. This is very different from how you would start to write a paper, as addressed here, in that in a manuscript you start with your Results and extrapolate from there. In a grant, you start with an idea and you may end up finishing with some preliminary results.

Step 2 - What are your aims?

This is probably the MOST IMPORTANT section that you will write in your grant, and probably the most difficult.

You need to concisely convey your objectives/aims (specific and precise steps) that you will use to achieve your goal. You need to convey why the research needs to be funded and why you (and your collaborators) are the ones to get it done.

Beverley A. Browning in her Grant Writing for Dummies suggests using the SMART method when constructing your objectives/aims. That is, objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time conscious.

Often aims are best structured by:

1) Establishing an aim title

2) Stating the hypothesis within that aim

3) Identifying an experimental strategy

4) Identifying the expected outcome or impact

This will likely be 3–5 sentences per aim.

Key Notes:

1) Aims should follow a logical order.

2) Don't have one aim depend on the outcome of a previous aim ('house of cards' problem)

3) Make sure that your proposed research lines up with the mission statement of the funding agency.

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