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Developing a Competitive Research Design to Get Your Grant Funded


Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Publications and Marketing Specialist

February 2022

It is no secret that the world of grant writing has become increasingly competitive. Despite the numerous responsibilities a researcher might have, many feel that putting a grant submission together is one of their most challenging and anxiety-inducing tasks. Early career researchers and faculty members might also feel like the challenge is almost impossible to conquer.

So, how do you create a competitive research design to ensure a successful grant submission? The first step is to plan ahead; make sure your proposed research is both achievable and associated with the funding body’s mission and proposal call.

Each funding body is different, and therefore it is essential to read all the guidelines, even if you applied for a similar grant in the previous cycle. Small changes could result in a disqualification before a reviewer ever looks at your ideas. When sending the same project to several funding bodies, it is crucial that you make sure your submission aligns with the agency’s request and overall mission statement. Proposals that are vague will never get funded, as reviewers will not be able to tell if their agency’s objectives will be met. As such, specific and targeted grants are much more competitive.

After reviewing the guidelines, continue to conduct your research. When proposing a research design, you should be accomplishing one of the following: (1) advancing current research, (2) resolving a problem with current research, or (3) making available a new line or type of research that is not currently or widely available. If, for example, your chosen funding body funded several projects along the exact same line as your current proposal, you are less likely to receive funding than if you decide to build upon those ideas and / or fill in a gap based on the agency’s currently funded projects.

Once your idea has been defined, there are several additional steps to help ensure your proposal as a feasible research design, particularly one worth investing in:

• Align your problem with the funding body’s goals and current needs.

• Immediately define and describe the design’s importance and potential.

• Explain how scientific knowledge will be advanced or expanded by your proposed research.

• Include the most suitable people on your team—each person should have a unique offering, and you must explain what each individual will add and why they are crucial to the overall success of the project.
◦ This includes you! Do not forget to explain your own significance and unique ability to solve the problem you have described.

• Detail how the research will be carried out—this is often an excellent place to include a graphic or flow chart. Using an image instead of text is more palatable for readers, which can help ensure your proposal stands out from the crowd, especially if your proposal is in the middle of a reviewer’s proposal stack.

• Explain exactly how the data will be analyzed and how you will use the data collected. A proposal that explains exactly what data will be collected and how that data will be analyzed to address your hypotheses is more likely to be successful.

• Define what the potential limitations are and how they will be handled. Do not ignore this step, as reviewers can identify potential flaws. Choosing not to mention the limitations of your proposal may lead reviewers to believe you have not considered your project comprehensively.

• Respect the process. Format your grant proposal as requested, meet all deadlines, and make sure to include any requested information and / or supplemental documents.

Following these guidelines may alleviate some stress or anxiety as the next funding cycle starts. After planning, the next step is to discuss your ideas with colleagues or partners—a professional grant editing service, such as LetPub Grant Editing, may also help you discover flaws or additional research avenues. A fresh pair of eyes (or ears) is always helpful in the creativity process.

Lastly, make sure to give yourself plenty of time to craft and revise several proposal drafts. The design of your project is often the backbone of your proposal. Always ask for feedback, and if your first submission is not successful, use any comments you receive to make your next proposal submission stronger and more competitive.

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