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HORT603 - Grants and Grantsmanship

Ten Fatal Mistakes in Grant Writing


    W. A. Tacker Jr. in "Research Review" (May 1991, Vol 4. No. 5) has noted 10 "fatal" mistakes in grant writing which can be avoided by answering the questions (Q) accompanying each "fatal" mistake:

    1. Lack of new or original ideas.

    Q. Exactly what are the new and original ideas in my proposal? Where have I really pointed out clearly which ones are new?

    2. Diffuse, superficial, or unfocused research plan.

    Q. Where do I clearly point out the central aspects of my research plan and make them distinct from the secondary aspects?

    3. Lack of knowledge of published relevant work.

    Q. Have I done a complete literature search for this research area and included the important findings of scientists other than myself and co-workers?

    4. Lack of experience in the essential methodology.

    Q. Does the description of my feasibility studies demonstrate that I can carry out all of the proposed scope of work?

    5. Uncertainty concerning future directions.

    Q. Where do I describe what I will do in the later experiments if early experiments don't work? Do I describe what applications will stem from the results? Do I describe how other scientists can use my findings?

    6. Questionable reasoning in experimental approach.

    Q. Where have I explicitly stated the hypothesis to be tested? Is there any circular logic in the proposal? Is every step of reasoning actually written down in the text, and have I left out steps in the approach which I hope the reviewer can figure out?

    7. Absence of an acceptable rationale.

    Q. Where have I stated the fundamental reasons why this research will provide an answer to the hypothesis?

    8. Unrealistically large amount of work.

    Q. Can this work actually be carried out in the stated time and with the resources listed in the proposal? Have I made projections for: inflationary costs, sick leave and vacation time for personnel, time to present results at meetings and to write papers for publications?

    9. Lack of sufficient experimental detail.

    Q. Could another competent scientist successfully carry out this work by using the experimental detail I have given in the proposal?

    10. Uncritical approach.

    Q. Have I included a discussion of anticipated problems and my plans for dealing with them? Have I fairly presented ideas and studies of scientists in my field with whom I disagree?

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David Rhodes
Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
Horticulture Building
625 Agriculture Mall Drive
Purdue University
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2010
Last Update: 01/07/08