Have an idea – how do you start the application?

So you have an idea for a research proposal but now you are sitting in front of a blank computer screen waiting for the words to magically appear. This should be easy right? We all know it isn’t but we all know time is precious too, especially when developing a research proposal as well as continuing with day to day teaching and academic work. So where do you start?

Someone recently sent an interesting web-page to me which has a useful schematic on it that provides a quick pointer on what your research proposal needs to cover and it challenges you to produce a short summary, a couple of paragraphs long, that will form the basis of your proposal. I think that irrespective of whether you are stuck for inspiration or not this is a good place to start. The website itself is a resource targeting early career researchers and is US based but lots of the messages and ideas on it are useful wherever you might be based. You can see the website here.

The website author, Dr Karen Kelsky, has produced a grant proposal template and you can see that here. I would suggest that before you get too bogged down in funder guidance or drafting the application form I would write out the research, using the structure Dr Kelsky has provided. Once you have this, share it with someone, a colleague, a research officer, your family or a complete stranger! They will soon tell you whether it makes sense or not. Pay particular attention to the ‘Gap in knowledge’ section which is essentially the ‘Who cares?’ question. Be clear about why your research is important and should be funded.

After you have this summary you are in a good position to launch into the full application, making sure you start that budget early and make sure you give yourself plenty of time too! What do people think of the template? Is it a good place to start? Is it missing anything important?