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Writing Good Grants Office of Research Development December 2012.

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Presentation on theme: "Writing Good Grants Office of Research Development December 2012."— Presentation transcript:

1 Writing Good Grants Office of Research Development December 2012

2 As found online. Note it should be called: How To Write Well

3 What we are going to talk about How grant writing is different than other kinds of writing Getting on a writing schedule – What is actually “writing” on that schedule Why you must have time to edit Rules of grammar – some popular “no longer the case” rules and what to do with them Writing clearly Writing coherently The Abstract/Project Summary – you have to get it right Pointers for the rest of your grant

4 Grant Proposals v. Other Forms of Academic Writing What the writer and reader want is different – In a journal article Readers wants to understand something new, further their work with your information or validate their theory Writers want to further their work, build their reputation and build their CV – In a grant Readers want to get through the pile of grants before the meeting Writers want money but also to persuade the reader of the validity, reliability and significance of work yet to be done

5 Grant Writing: Meet your audience In a hurry Not being paid much (if anything) for their services Have regular jobs (and lives) which require their attention Do a lot of reading

6 Make your audience happy and embrace the differences Most communications fail because the writer does not accommodate the audience. In the case of grants, you must: – Follow the guidelines – Use transitions Go beyond however, consequently, furthermore, thus Readers like old ideas at the beginning of a sentence and new ideas at the end – you can repeat a word or phrase from the previous sentence – Emphasize the main idea and let other ideas act as subordinates – Some reviewers go from the abstract to the budget. Some go from the abstract to the project description. Both must be strong. – Focus on the ‘so what?’ The specifics of it

7 Surviving the writing process: Get on a schedule Neither “awaiting the muse” nor “binge writing” works Studies have shown the best way to write to maximize productivity (number of pages) and efficiency (number of ideas per page) is to schedule a regular block of time and treat it like a class or writing commitment (Krashen, 2002)

8 What is writing? Reviewing the guidelines Outlining Reviewing the data Developing a timeline Editing Budget development Making images

9 Why you must have time to edit Very few people get it right the first time – There is a great tradition in the history of the English language of writing unclearly – Poor English writing in serious discourse began in the middle of the 16th century – Dense academic writing was being criticized back in the 1660s Usual causes of unclear writing: – Writers think complicated sentences must mean deep thinking – Writers are so terrified of drafting something that is “wrong” that they muddle themselves up – Writers know what they are talking about and don’t realize the readers aren’t following them You can’t follow the rules I am about to present while you are writing The first draft should be bad. You need to get the thoughts out there and then clean them up

10 Grammar rules: three kinds Real rules: such as articles must precede nouns (it is the book and not book the) – These rules are not optional Social rules: Standard English rather than nonstandard – He doesn’t have any money versus He don’t have no money – In grant writing, these rules are not optional Invented rules – Folklore and Elegant Options – These rules are optional or even discouraged

11 Folklore Grammar Rules - Feel Free to Ignore Them Don’t begin a sentence with and, because, or but Use the relative pronoun that – not which – for restrictive clauses – A nonrestrictive clause modifies a noun naming a referent that you can identify without the information in that clause ABCO Inc. ended its first bankruptcy, which it filed in 1997 ABCO Inc sold a project that made millions (assuming ABCO made many projects and the clause that made millions restricts which one you are discussing – Windows will redline this in your work Use fewer with nouns you can count and less with nouns you cannot Use since and while to refer only to time, not to mean because or although

12 Elegant Option Grammar – May Result in Sounding Self-Consciously Formal Don’t split infinitives – Splitting: They wanted to slightly conceal the fact…. – Not splitting: They wanted to conceal slightly the fact….. Use whom as the object of a verb or preposition – Who am I writing for? – To whom am I writing? – The actual rule: use who when it is the subject of a verb in its own clause; use whom only when it is an object in its own clause Beth trick: replace the word with he/him. If him sounds right, you want whom – The committee decided {} they should choose Don’t end a sentence with a preposition – Exception: please, don’t end a sentence with at if possible Use the singular with none and any NOTE: Know your audience on these – if you know folks in your field are old school purists, then be a purist too.

13 Ten principles for writing clearly Use the real grammatical rules and not the folklore Use subjects to name the characters in your writing Open your sentences with familiar units of information Get to the main verb quickly – Avoid long introductory phrases and clauses – Avoid long abstract subjects – Avoid interrupting the subject-verb connection Push new, complex units of information to the end of the sentence Keep the same subject throughout Be concise – Cut meaningless and repeated words and obvious implications – Put the meaning of phrases into one or two words Prefer affirmative sentences to negative ones Control sprawl Write to others as you would have others write to you

14 Ten principles for writing coherently In your introduction, motivate readers to read carefully by starting a problem they ought to care about State your point, the solution to the problem, at or near the end of the introduction In that point, introduce concepts you will develop in what follows Make everything that follows relevant to your point Make it clear where sections begin/end Order parts in a way that make clear and visible sense to your readers Open each section with its own short introductory sentence Put the point of each section at the end of that opening segment Begin sentences that form a unit with consistent topics/subjects Creative old-new ties between sentences

15 Common problems You turn your verbs into nouns – Verbs as nouns: Once upon a time, as a walk through the woods was taking place on the part of Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf’s jump out from behind a tree occurred, causing her fright – Verbs as verbs: Once upon a time, Little Red Riding Hood was walking through the woods, when the Wolf jumped out from behind a tree and frightened her Your subjects/characters aren’t clear – Studies and genes and software can all be subjects/characters. – Take some time to determine what your subjects are You are heavy on the jargon – Don’t make your reader feel stupid Overuse of passive voice and metadiscourse – Passive: “The subjects were observed” – Metadiscourse: “I will show”/“I will explain” Keep this in the introduction

16 The Abstract/Project Summary: You have to get it right Keep in mind – the abstract must stand on its own and be understood by Congressional members, members of the public and members of the media It may be the only thing reviewers read The abstract must hold the attention of the expert reader and be clear to the lay reader Opening line must be a hook of some sort – the why or who cares? – More than 17 million Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death, with premenopausal obese and diabetic women at particular risk. – We posit that estrogens improve over-nutrition and/or angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced INS resistance in skeletal muscle and cardiovascular tissues via decreased S6K1-mediated Ser (P) of IRSs.

17 Abstract/Project Summary Answers these questions: – Who will do the work? – What will be done? – Where will the work be done? – When will the activities be accomplished? – How will your results be evaluated and disseminated – Keep track of your word count/page limit Goal of the abstract – To generate interest and excitement in your project

18 Writing Your Abstract

19 Proposal Logic: The Research Goal Assess Feasibility & Timeliness Aims/Objectives for this Project What are the methods, activities, tasks? What are the outcomes? So what? Reality Check

20 The Rest of it Each solicitation is different – Follow the directions – Know the goals of the organization before you write Prove you are an expert by: – Including details of the problems and references that show you understand the problem – Giving a brief background of the science Be specific – Specific materials, structures, devices you will use/build – Specific methods you will use – Specific metrics you will use to determine success – Specific milestones you will achieve and when Avoid boilerplate information – each section is a chance for you to discuss the project you are proposing. Use it to your advantage Describe what each person on the project will contribute and how much time each will spend on the project How outsiders can get input/guidance and how you will get that information out – A website is not enough Get a colleague to read it for the science and an editor to read it for the grammar whenever possible

21 The Proposal Narrative Begin with a large societal issue and narrow to the aspect of the issue you are addressing – Provide up-to-date background information and the current state of the problem – Why is your work necessary and whom will it serve? Remember: wide audience Review of how others have addressed aspects of this program/need and any problems with or gaps in these efforts – Do not just let the facts hang there – explain how your project will move beyond these efforts to solve a specific problem – Explain why your work needs to be done now and why it is innovative Goals – A goal is abstract and conceptual (think thesis statement) – If you cannot define your goal in one or two simple statements, consider refining your project – One or two goals per proposal is usually enough Objectives – What you are going to do to reach your goals – Can define projects or processes/benchmarks to be researched – Limit yourself to three or four realistic objectives that are concrete, narrow in focus and achievable – Think about writing your reports – these objectives will be what you are reporting on – Be specific with your timeline and activities – Flesh these out in your work plan or methods section

22 The Proposal Narrative Pilot data – if you have it, use it! – Use it to link your past work with your future work – Use to present proof of the value of your current work – Another way to show you are the right PI for the project Work Plan – In detail: who will do what, how, and when – Even in you are not asked for a timeline, create one – if for no other reason than for determining your budget Highlight the experience of your team in both the key personnel section and budget narrative – Make the case that you are the ideal leader and you have a great team – What does your team have that no one else does? – What stuff (facilities and equipment) do they have access to? – A management/leadership plan is important – you have these great people- how will they collaborate?

23 The Proposal Narrative Sustainability – How will the project continue after the grant is over? – Examples of institutional support (often the best proof of sustainability) Offering you specialized training Buying specific equipment Providing lab space Waiving tuition for your graduate students Cultivating campus-wise programs Adding faculty in your area Releasing you from other duties to pursue this project Evaluation of Outcomes and Impact – This is tied directly to your objectives – Spend 5 to 10 percent of your budget on project evaluation – Numerous methods are available Survey, interviews, focus groups, test, document studies Consider adding a statistician to your team Data analysis is evaluation – consider pulling it out of methods and having an “Expected Results” section which can also mention the “Potential Problems”

24 The Proposal Narrative Dissemination Plan – A good plan Identifies groups that can benefit from your work and data Explains how/why you will share your work with these groups Identify what information you will share with each group What the impact of sharing this work with be (how will these groups benefit) Combines both active and passive dissemination – Active examples: conference presentations, writing articles for newsletters of relevant groups, hosting workshops – Passive examples: books, websites

25 The Proposal Narrative Diversity Plan – Should demonstrate you, your department, school and institution recognize and embrace inclusiveness in areas such as race, gender, religion or socioeconomic status – Use what UT Dallas has Office of Diversity & Community Engagement

26 Budget and Budget Justification Often the second thing a reviewer reads Tells the story of your project in parallel with your project narrative Always double-check your math and that the numbers match the project and vice versa Budget expenses should be related to the aims and methods of your project Be realistic and reasonable – Do not pad the budget or skimp on it

27 The Package Biosketches – Use the format the sponsor asks Resources, Facilities and Organization Description – On the websitewebsite – Mention what you will use and not just a laundry list of what is around – However, think broadly – if there is something about your environment that helps you with your project, mention it Letters of support and commitment – Be substantive – You can draft letters of commitment (I have samples you can use) but give the people enough time to add their own words – great things appear that way

28 Make it readable Try to keep your paragraphs under 10 lines Limit sentences to about 15 words Limit titles to 10 words Allow extra space between paragraphs Left-justified text Use graphics and lists Anticipate skimming, search reading and critical reading needs

29 Books you might find useful Grammar Focused Elements of Style, William Strunk and E.B. White ISBN: 978-0-205-31342-6 Woe is I, Patricia T. O’Conner ISBN: 978-1-59448-890-0 Editing Focused Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, Joseph M. Williams and Gregory G. Colomb ISBN: 978-0-205-74746-7 Writing Focused Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott ISBN: 978-0- 385-48001-7 How to Write a Lot, Paul Silvia ISBN: 978-1-59147-743-3 If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland ISBN 978-9-650-06028-2 On Writing, Stephen King ISBN 978-1-439-15681-0 Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block Period, Karen Peterson ISBN: 978-1- 593-37503-4 Other/Motivational The Craft of Research, Wayne C. Booth and Gregory G. Colomb ISBN: 978-0-226- 06566-3 The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown ISBN: 978-1-592-85849-1 The Procrastinator’s Handbook, Rita Emmett ISBN: 978-0-802-77598-6

30 Questions? Thanks for listening!

31 Contact Beth Keithly 972-883-4568 Information I have you may find useful: – Project timelines – Problem statement resources – Developing concept papers – Talking to Program Officers – Setting up Pivot profiles (finding funding)

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