Writing a proposal is part art and part science, regardless of the topic at hand. The science of proposal writing includes having a comprehensive understanding of the requirements of the funding opportunity and conveying the details of the planned project, including its importance, the methodological approach, and the plans for its completion and evaluation. To be successful, grant writers must familiarize themselves with the grant guidelines, both those found in the program announcement and the more general grant guidelines that cover all applications submitted to an agency. Additionally, it is critical to understand the mission of an organization so as to best position the proposal. This information is available on the organization’s website and should be carefully reviewed before proposal development begins.
The art of proposal writing refers to the need to tell the story of the project in a way that is convincing to the reader. Grant writing must be both factual and persuasive. Make your proposal easy to read: clarity, the ability to find information easily, and attention to details are key. Peer reviewers are generally busy people who face reviewing a stack of lengthy proposals in a short period of time. Additionally, it is important to convey the context of your project and how it fits with the organization’s mission. How does your project fit in the bigger picture, not only in your field but also in the university or the community? Being able to describe this in a convincing way can help your proposal rise to the top. Keep in mind that in the case of government funding, you are asking the agency to dedicate taxpayer money to your project; why is your project more deserving than others?
Oftentimes the ORSP and/or others on campus can be helpful in providing information about initiatives that may complement your own. All of this points to the need to start the proposal development process early, ideally at least six months in advance. Allowing the time for your idea to mature, to complete several drafts, to circulate it to trusted colleagues for review, to let it sit, and to approach it with fresh eyes can be critical to the development of a strong proposal.
ORSP staff provide support in proposal review and in the completion of the non-technical pieces of an application. The earlier that you reach out to the ORSP the more help that ORSP staff can provide. Here are some resources to help you get started:
Grant-writing expert Robert Porter, Ph.D. presented a two-day workshop at Loyola in January 2016. View his helpful presentations.
Writing Successful Grants (A Twelve Step Program)
Can We Talk? Contracting the Program Officer
Tips from Robert Porter, Ph.D. regarding how to begin an academic research project and set measurable goals and objectives.
Goals, Hypotheses, Research Questions, and Project Objectives
An exercise designed by Robert Porter, Ph.D. to help you begin your project. This is a great tool to use when you are in both the early stages of project formulation and before you begin writing your proposal.
Grant Writing Exercise