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Researcher's Guide

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Proposal Development
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Develop Proposal Content

Does the abstract:

  • State the overall objective of the research?
  • Succinctly state the specific aims?
  • Briefly describe the methods?
  • Indicate the long-term goal of the research?
  • Give a snapshot of the whole proposal?

Do the specific aims:

  • Address your research goals in specific terms (defined objectives that can be reached) rather than generalizations?
  • Avoid vague terms such as "describe the process of . ." , "characterize the phenomenon of . . ." , or "elucidate mechanisms for . . ."
  • State hypotheses where appropriate?
  • Begin with an introductory statement that provides a mini-background?
  • Seem clearly related to each other?
  • Avoid being a fishing expedition (collecting data with no clear indication of how it will be used)?
  • Present a doable body of work, rather than being too broad or ambitious?

Does the background:

  • Begin with a clear statement of the general problem you will address?
  • Compare, contrast and critique what others have done (not just catalog it)?
  • Show how existing work (literature and/or preliminary data) lays the groundwork for your proposal?
  • Cite original literature rather than reviews whenever possible?
  • Avoid citing so many papers that you come across as unselective?
  • Explain how your studies will fill a gap or solve a problem?
  • Raise questions the reviewers might pose, then answer them immediately?
  • End with a summary of your main points?
Does the preliminary data section:
  • Include only data pertinent to your proposal?
  • Demonstrate expertise with the techniques and methods you are going to use?
  • Use clear, readable graphs or charts instead of tables or text whenever feasible?
  • Avoid putting too many curves on one graph?
  • Assure that curves on graphs are distinguishable from each other after photocopying?
  • Provide graphs with legends and labels that make understandable separate from adjacent text?
  • Use appropriate statistics?
  • Summarize your findings at the end of each section and state their importance?
  • End with an overall summary?

Does the experimental design/methods section:

  • First give an overview of the experimental design , then give the details of the methods?
  • Relate the design and methods back to each specific aim?
  • Use diagrams or flow charts to explain complex protocols?
  • Give enough detail to demonstrate that you know what you are talking about, without crowding page limits? (This is an art form; get help if needed.)
  • Make good use of space by referring to standard methods papers or protocol books where appropriate ?
  • Make good use of space by referring to the preliminary data section when methods were described there?
  • Give examples of the results you expect and how you will interpret them?
  • Anticipate pitfalls you might face and explain how to deal with them?
  • Provide a time line that shows you have not designed an overly ambitious project?