General Grant Writing

This section shares general tips for proposal writing. Strong research ideas need well-written and carefully considered proposals that connect with reviewers and demonstrate a team's ability to deliver the planned work. A strong proposal is like an iceberg - what you write is the visible component and there should be much more that sits under the surface, so make sure you consider the full structure when developing your proposal.  

Funder Remits and Schemes

One funder is not the same as another.

  • Identify the funder with a remit and scheme that fits with your idea and approach
  • Check eligibility for PIs, Co-Is and costings
  • Tailor to the scheme and call
  • Know the rules around multiple applications and resubmissions
  • Know the deadlines – internal and for submission
  • Look for opportunities to gather more information – webinars, FAQ, etc

Check out the Horizon Scanning section for useful mailing lists and social media handles.

General Grant Writing Considerations

  • An application is a pitch, not a publication - a different level of detail, a different tone and a different writing style are needed.
  • Consider the audience and ensure your word choice is appropriate - strong applications are not generic, but tailored to the funder, call and likely review panel.
    • Non-academic specialists?
    • Interdisciplinary?
  • Get someone (else) to proof-read - someone else will see errors ranging from typos to a need for more clarity that you can miss when you are "too close" to it.
  • Vision and Approach - this section is often the main component of the application and needs to be very strong.
    • Demonstrate you understand the broader field of inquiry
    • Identify a gap and its significance - explain why (further) research is necessary
    • Show how your research will directly address the gap
    • Describe your methods and why they are appropriate
  • Internal Coherence - applications are often written by teams, sometimes working on different sections before bringing an application together for final polishing. Make sure the overall application doesn't show the "joins".
    • Different sections should complement/reinforce each other
    • Interdisciplinary proposals should involve multiple authors but should read cohesively – avoid Franken-proposals that are clearly put together from disparate ideas or writing styles
    • Aims should be clear from very early on – avoid surprises
    • Avoid interdependencies – if the first aim goes wrong, does the entire plan fall apart?
  • Develop a team Style Guide and make sure all team members working on different sections use it - this will help for teams taking a section-based writing approach and also for broader internal coherence and "polish".
    • What kinds of text will you present in bold?
    • What terms will be capitalized?
    • What formatting will you use?
    • What are your conventions for acronym use across sections?
    • Agree on how you will make it easy to read – white space, headings, structure and use this approach consistently

Common Mistakes and Tips for Success

Common Mistakes

  • Treating any element as a “tick box”
  • Failure to address identified criteria
  • The expertise of the team does not match the nature of the challenge/the research questions asked
  • Over-ambitious for time-scales/budget
  • Not explaining selection of case studies/ regions
  • Work packages that do not map onto objectives/ Research Questions
  • Using different language to describe the same thing – don’t be scared of repetition, especially for project objectives

Tips for Success

  • Join mailing lists to find out about funding opportunities
  • Engage early and develop ideas - consider the timelines for institutional approvals and submissions!
  • Stay open, not defensive about feedback
  • Don’t submit if the team is not ready
  • Look at reviewer guidance – what are they being asked to look out for?
  • Engage with people who have successfully applied to the same funder/scheme
  • Look for experience to review grants yourself

General Grant Writing Resources

This is a list of resources that we are aware of that you may find useful. If you are aware of any resources that could be added to this list, please let us know.

Open Grants - A repository of both successful and unsuccessful grant applications across a variety of funders. Currently quite focussed on American funders, but becoming more diverse.
Research Fundermentals - An X account that offers insights and information related to applying for research grants
The Art of Grantmanship - A guide written by Jacob Kraicer providing guidelines on preparing grant applications from the moment of conception to the submitting the final proposal. The Art of Grantmanship Link
The experimental research funder’s handbook - The handbook aims to provide a practical resource for research funders looking to move further or faster down an experimental path. The experimental research funder’s handbook Link
How to apply for research and innovation funding - UKRI's resource bank for applying for research funding.