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The Road to Research: How to Edit a Grant Proposal


Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Associate Editor

October 2020

Wouldn’t it be easy if you never had to worry about how your next research idea would be funded? Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in; however, ironing out your grant submission process can take a lot of the stress and anxiety out of securing funding for your future successes. Once you have settled on your ideas and generated your first draft, it can be difficult to know what to do next, or how to edit your own project. It becomes even more difficult if you are a new graduate student, new faculty member, or you are stepping into a new field of research and have not received any previous feedback. How do you know what are the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal? How do you know what you should change, and what works?

Editing your grant is just as critical as writing it in the first place. So, what are the first steps?

Consider two options: meticulously editing your proposal yourself, which can be time-consuming and create “tunnel vision,” or seeking assistance from your mentor, peers, colleagues, or an external editing service such as LetPub’s Grant Editing Service. Remember, all proposals are rigorously evaluated by experts in your field and therefore your proposal must be compelling, competitive, impactful, and appropriately matched to the funding call. As such, it is strongly encouraged to have your proposal reviewed by others before submission, as this will improve your chances of funding success.

What is grant editing?

Grant editing is composed of revisions to an academic research proposal with the intention of improving the proposal’s clarity, logic, and applicability to the call for proposals. This type of editing is often done by an editorial professional with subject-area expertise and a successful background in grant writing or reviewal. Grant editing allows authors to clarify any confusing parts of proposals and tailor their research ideas to a specific funding body.

Grant editing is a vital part of proposal process. For example, with LetPub’s Grant Editing Service, once you have your initial ideas formulated, a LetPub editor can help you refine concepts and ideas, resolve potential unclarities in your proposed research, and avoid obstacles that could lead you to be met with proposal rejection. Can you edit your own proposal? Absolutely, but you might not get the same kind of feedback as you would from a second person, but you can still cover the basics.

What are the first steps in the grant editing process?

There are a few hard and fast things you simply cannot ignore. If you are editing your own proposal, you should have this information already. If you are working with a colleague, here’s a checklist of the information you will need to review a proposal properly.

• The funding agency’s name – if the funder is a large institution, such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Institutes of Health (NIH), make sure the specific grant call being answered is obvious.
• The organization’s style guide – most, if not all, organizations have a specific format they would like to see proposals submitted in. Failure to do adhere to these guidelines will result in immediate disqualification without the actual merits of the proposal being considered.
• The specific call for proposals – importantly, calls can vary from year to year. You want to make sure any information is relevant and all specific questions are being answered, especially if they address current events or needs in an industry or in society.
• The organization’s mission statement or priorities – beyond looking at the specific call for proposals, make sure the organization’s goals and the proposed research align with one another.

Next step? Reviewing the proposal

Once a basic background of understanding is established, it is time to read! It is always important to simply read a document first before getting into specifics. Did the topics flow well, or did you find it jarring and disorganized? Were you left satisfied, or did you leave with more questions than you started with? Once you make note of the “big picture” items, it is time to break down the grant into more basic components. For example:

• Are the grant call’s questions specifically and clearly answered?
• Was the evaluation criteria met? (This is where having the organization’s guidelines can be helpful)
• Are there basic grammar and/or spelling issues?
• Do the figures add to the overall proposal or simply take up space?
• Are all formatting guidelines met?
• Does the proposal use keywords or statements found elsewhere in the organization’s mission statement?

Once these questions have been answered, it is time to return the document to the owner. If you are editing your own paper, now is a good time to set it down and walk away for a day or two. Giving your brain some space can really help you identify solutions to problems you might run into. If you are working with someone, now is a good time to brainstorm about overcoming obstacles. How can you fix your language to improve your odds of grant success? What could you add to make your grant more appealing? Once you have worked on this, read your grant one last time (or send it back to your grant editor one last time), and, importantly, make sure you give yourself plenty of time before the submission deadline. Giving yourself “breathing room” allows for any sort of unforeseen complication such as internet problems, computer crashes, or inclement weather. (And remember – save this document in more than one place and save all your drafts! There is no need to lose all your hard work.)

Looking for additional proposal writing assistance? Learn more here.

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