|oliver at ssc dot wisc dot edu
1180 Observatory Dr. Madison, Wisconsin
Submitting a grant proposal
page and Research &
Sponsored Programs have a lot of information needed. Take time to
explore these sites to be aware of what information is there.
It is important to know that you can get going on administrative details
for grant proposals before you have finished the narrative. While you
are still planning your project, take the time to figure out what administrative
things you'll need to do and when to do them. In particular, when last
I heard, NSF was still using Fastlane, which requires getting an account
set up in advance. Instructions in the L&S
Research Services page tell you have.
These procedures keep changing so watch for updates. L&S
Research Services has the latest guidelines. Within Sociology, the
Social Science Research
Services administration can help with grants preparation.
Don't forget to determine EARLY whether your project needs Human Subjects
clearance. Details are on the L&S
Human Subjects Page.
General tips in proposal writing:
- It should be clear within the first few paragraphs what you are going
to DO in the research. Set the agenda before launching into the theory,
background, lit review.
- Write to a general audience of sociologists or social scientists,
not the people in your sub-specialty.You have to explain to an intelligent
non-specialist audience why your work is interesting and important.
The decision-makers at NSF are the panel, not the external reviewers,
although the external reviews from specialists are certainly given serious
- The proposal needs to be self-contained. Reviewers have a lot to read
and are not going to go to the library to look up your other work.
- The typical proposal has too much front end (lit review, theory &
background) and too little method. Concrete details about what you are
going to DO are really important. Even if this is an early phase, you
can make your best guesses about what you are going to do and write
it in clear declarative sentences.
- Write with an eye to sounding like you understand core principles
of research design. Non-specialists are not necessarily going to understand
why your research is interesting within your research tradition, but
they are going to feel perfectly competent to critique your research
methods. If you are a qualitative researcher, think about how to explain
the logic of your research to a quantitative researcher. And vice versa:
if you crunch secondary data, think about how to explain to a qualitative
researcher the logic of what you are doing. In addition, you need to
sound methodologically competent and informed to reviewers who ARE experts
in what you do.
- Some preliminary data, even VERY preliminary and very partial data,
makes a big difference in a proposal. It makes the whole thing seem
very real and concrete. One table, a page of narrative about preliminary
qualitative findings, whatever. A traditional method is to write the
proposal about the work you have already done as a way of getting funding
for your next project, but the narrative cannot just describe your past
work, you have to describe what you are asking for money to do in the
Questions or Comments? Email Oliver -at- ssc -dot- wisc -dot- edu.
September 24, 2007
© University of Wisconsin.