Grant-Writing Tools

The following links may be useful to anyone who is preparing a health research funding application. Contact us to let us know if these links are helpful, or to suggest any other resources you have found to be beneficial. 

We strongly advise you to check funding deadlines and specific agency requirements, to consult with Memorial’s Office of Research, and to speak with agency program officers for specific grant questions.

Background Information and Guides for Collaborative Research

General Grant-Writing Tips

  • The Art of Grantsmanship by Jacob Kraicer of the University of Toronto. This is an excellent tip-sheet for new and experienced researchers.
  • Collaborative Research Proposals: A Guide prepared for the Collaborative Health Research Foundation of Nova Scotia.  This provides basic information and resources for collaborative research and research proposal writing.

Information from Granting Agencies

Guidebook for New Principal Investigators CIHR .  This guidebook from the CIHR Institute of Genetics provides valuable advice on applying for a grant, how to write your application, how to set up a research team and how to manage your time.

How to Write a Grant Application by the National Institutes of Health. This page offers tips from NIH in the U.S.A. and insights from peer reviewers that are applicable to other funding agencies.

NLCAHR tip summary

The following is a list of the most commonly cited suggestions for improving your research funding application and increasing your chances of success.

  1. Start early: begin your proposal process at least 6 months before the application deadline to allow time for team building, internal review, administrative processing, re-writes and delivery.
  2. Apply to the right agency/institute and make your project’s relevance explicit: understand the agency’s current objectives, and make sure that your application is in line with their focus areas.
  3. Carefully review the application forms: follow the current instruction guide. Information should be presented exactly as requested.
  4. Talk to the program officer: the program officer for a specific grant can be extremely helpful in guiding your application. They can tell you about the agency’s current priority areas, and answer any specific questions you have about form and content.
  5. Make sure your writing is clear, concise and correct: use a clear, unambiguous title without acronyms. Avoid jargon and awkward writing. Ask someone who is not an expert in your area to review for plain language. Spelling and grammatical errors look unprofessional—don’t rely on the spell-check alone. Word economy is valued, so avoid repetition and verbosity. Read and re-read before submission. Clear writing suggests clear thinking.
  6. Produce a reasonable budget: make sure your budget proposal lines up with your planned activities, that the costs are reasonable, and that the expenses you propose are legitimate according to agency guidelines.
  7. Make a strong case: be clear about your research question, and make clear how your hypotheses connect to existing research evidence and how your project will advance this knowledge. Demonstrate the competence of the investigators to do the work, and how the research design is appropriate to your work.
  8. Be realistic: is your timeframe and budget reasonable? Is it physically possible for your already over-extended co-investigators to do the work as outlined? Have you taken on too many questions? Describing possible pitfalls and how you intend to deal with them demonstrates that the project is well thought-out. Don’t pad your budget.
  9. Be precise: eliminate ambiguity and be specific about your objectives. Don’t make your reviewers guess what your intentions are. In many cases it is advisable to highlight your objectives in a text box or separate paragraph so that they are clear to the reviewers.
  10. Practice good layout: follow the guidelines given for margins, font sizes, number of copies and number of pages. Include an accurate table of contents. Use headings and page numbers. Failure to do so will likely result in frustration for your review committee members. You don’t want that.
  11. Plan for follow-through: talk about evaluation issues and knowledge transfer in your proposal. Show that these are integral to your application, not add-ons.
  12. Demonstrate support: for most applied health research funding, you need to demonstrate genuine partnerships and support from these partners. Generic support letters won’t cut it. Partnerships established well before the application is submitted demonstrate stable and on-going relationships between partners.
  13. Summarize: prepare a good, self-contained summary page or abstract, if required—some reviewers may only see this much of your proposal.
  14. Conduct an internal review: solicit feedback from experienced researchers from inside and outside of your field and heed their advice. Criticism is to be welcomed at this stage.
  15. It’s a small research world: you can’t get away with inaccuracies in your CV. And it is wise to be clear about how your research relates to other funded research that you are doing— demonstrate how these projects do not overlap in terms of funding.
  16. Sweat the details: ensure that the appropriate signatures are included, the forms have been completed in full, and all necessary documents are attached. Many funding agencies offer a checklist. And be sure that your budget figures actually add up.