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HOW TO WRITE A

RESEARCH PROPASAL
Prof. S.O. Mcligeyo
Deputy Director, BPS
Prof. P.M. Kimani
CAVS Representative, BPS

University of Nairobi ISO 9001:2008 1 Certified http://www.uonbi.ac.ke


Good news
The general standard of
research proposals is low
So it is not hard to shine
Although, sadly, that still does not guarantee a grant.

Good luck!

http://research.microsoft.com/~simonpj/papers/Proposal.html
Your application is here.
What is a research proposal?
A research proposal is your plan
It describes in detail your study
Decisions about your study are based on
the quality of the proposal
Research funding
Approvals to proceed by the Institutional
Review Board
Sections of the Proposal

Summary Need Budget

Plan
Method
Evaluate
Budget Your Time

Solid partnerships Communicate

Innovative Define your


project budget

80% planning the project 20% writing the proposal


Avoid Plagiarism
Plagiarism is presenting someone elses ideas
or words as though they were your own.

DANGEROUS!!!!
Research Proposal Elements
Background/ significance
Research Question/Aim/Purpose
Methods
Design
Sample/Sample Size
Setting
Protocol
Analysis plan
Timeline
Background/ Significance
Why is your study important?
Describe the significance of the
research question or problem
Answer the so what? question
Literature review
What is the state of the science/art
on this problem? Are there gaps in
the literature? How will your study fill
those gaps?
Synthesize recent literature (within the
past 5 years)
Purpose
Identify simply what you plan to do in your
study
The purpose can be framed as a research
question or an aim
Examples:
What is the impact of meditative music on
agitation in hospitalized elders?
The purpose of this study is to show the impact
of meditative music on agitated elders.
Methods
This section of your proposal has
multiple parts
Design
Sample/Sample size
Setting
Protocol
Analysis Plan
Detailed enough so that the reviewers
could conduct the study
Methods - Design
Describe your study design
Design examples
Prospective vs. Retrospective
Descriptive
Observation
Intervention clinical trial
Surveys, interviews, questionnaires
Focus groups, field studies
Others
Example
We plan a prospective randomized controlled
trial of meditative music vs. no music
Methods Sample/Sample Size
Who are the study participants?
Describe inclusion criteria
Example: Adult men and women
inpatients with stage IV heart disease
Who is excluded?
Example: Patients who do not speak
English
Methods Sample contd
How will participants be recruited?
Convenience sample
Flyers in research offices
Advertisements
Electronic Records search
How many participants are needed?
How will you justify the sample size?
Has there been a power analysis?
Do you have a comparison or control group?
Setting
Describe the sites where you plan to
conduct the study
Do you have support from the
administration of the site to conduct
the study?
Letters of support from site
Protocol
What are you going to do to study
participants?
Detailed, step by step explanation
Include how you will identify participants, obtain
consent, and collect data
If there is an intervention, describe it in detail
Will you use measurement tools? Describe the
tools, including reliability and validity and
include a copy of the tools with your proposal
Include the time frame for implementing the
study
Data Analysis
Describe your analysis plan
What statistical tests will you use?
Be sure your statistics are appropriate
for your study design
Timeline
Describe how long it will take to do
your study
Provide timeline benchmarks
Example:
Months 1 3 Prepare study tools
Months 4-10 Collect data
Months 11-12 Analyze data
Common pitfalls to avoid
Missing aims or purpose
Not enough detail about protocol
Write your proposal so anyone reading it can understand
your plan
Is your study significant?
Does it answer the larger So what question? Why should
researchers care about this work?
Underpowered sample size
Describe why you are using the sample size and justify it
Invalid or unreliable instrumentation
Has your instrument been tested with the population you
are studying? If not, will you test it within your study?
Improper statistics
Are you using the appropriate statistical analysis?
Evaluation of proposals
Proposals reviewed based on specific
criteria defined by the IRB
The research design must be sound enough to
yield the expected knowledge
The aims/objectives are likely to be achievable
in the given time period
The rationale for the proposed number of
participants is reasonable
The scientific design is described and adequately
justified
Factors to Consider

1
PRACTICAL
CONSIDERATIONS
2
HUMAN
CONSIDERATIONS
3
COMPREHENSION
4 5
QUALITY
COMPETITIVE EDGE
Grants are important
Research grants are the dominant
way for academic researchers to get
resources to focus on research
INVARIANT: there is never enough
money
The state of play
Even a strong proposal is in a lottery,
but a weak one is certainly dead
Many research proposals are weak
Most weak proposals could be
improved quite easily
The vague proposal
1. I want to work on better type
systems for functional programming
languages
2. Give me the money
You absolutely must
identify the problem you
are going to tackle
2. Blowing your own trumpet
Grants fund people
Most researchers are far too modest.
It has been shown that [4], when
[4] is you own work!
Use the first person: I did this, We
did that.
Do not rely only on the boring track
record section
2. Blowing your own trumpet
Express value judgements using strong,
but defensible, statements: pretend
that you are a well-informed but
unbiased expert
We were the first to
Out 1998 POPL paper has proved
very influential
We are recognised as world leaders
in functional programming
2. Blowing your own trumpet
Choose your area...
We are recognised as world leaders
in
functional programming
Haskell
Haskells type system
functional dependencies in Haskells type system
sub-variant X of variant Y of functional dependencies in Haskells type
system
Improving Your Odds
Read guidelines for grants if available
Monitor institutions research priorities
Contact grant officers in
target institution(s)
Discuss your ideas vs. their needs
Improving Your Odds
ALWAYS submit cover letter
(paper & electronic)
Suggest specific study group for review
Suggest one or more target institutions
Refer to grant officer with whom
you have been working
Identify yourself as a new investigator,
if so.
Improving Your Odds
New investigators are NOT penalized
New investigators allowed higher
payline priority score
More emphasis on research potential
than on track record
More emphasis on research plan than
on preliminary results
The arrogant proposal
1.I am an Important and Famous Researcher. I
have lots of PhD students. I have lots of papers.

2.Give me the money

Proposals like this do sometimes get


funded. But they shouldnt.
Your proposal should, all by itself,
justify your grant
Improving Your Odds
Seek feed forward before writing
Identify 2-4 specific aims
Discuss hypothesis & approach with
grant-funded colleagues &
biostatistician
Contact fiscal/grants administrator
Improving Your Odds
Use short, concise sentences
Make points clearly
Use diagrams to illustrate models
Use tables to summarize data
NEVER assume reviewers
know what you mean
Never create additional work for
the reviewer
Improving Your Odds
Organize application for logical flow of
ideas & actions
Everything fits together
Nothing is superfluous
Nothing is omitted
Time table is detailed & realistic
Improving Your Odds
Why you would not want funding:
Must think of innovative ideas
Must do the work
Must publish papers
Must submit grant progress reports
Must write yet more grants for
continued funding
Improving Your Odds
How to Avoid Funding
Recycle old ideas
Skip literature review
Avoid all contact with grant providers
Do not let anyone else read grant
Wait until due date to contact research
administration
Save time dont read instructions
Include jargon & sweeping generalities
Key Personnel Page
Key personnel are paid to participate in the
grant-funded work
Other significant contributors include unpaid
consultants & mentors with no committed
percent effort (include biosketch but no
other support)
Personnel Pages
Summarizes education, training, & professional
career highlights
Lists publications (except those in prep or
submitted) & presentations
Lists recent research support
Establishes qualifications to do proposed work &
appropriateness for role on proposed study
Only 2 pages for career info & publications this
restriction goes away with electronic submission
Resources Page
Summary of physical space, equipment,
personnel, & other resources essential to
study completion
Letters of support required for shared
resources critical to proposed work
Justify reliance on external resources
Budget Pages

Department fiscal/grant administrator can


help with estimating costs & calculating
salaries
THE FUTURE (is now)
Office of Research (sponsored programs) must
submit applications NOT PI
Authorized institutional official AND PI must
verify applications accepted
Do NOT verify garbled images if looks
garbled when you view it, will look garbled to
reviewer
Your application is here.
Good news
The general standard of
research proposals is low
So it is not hard to shine
Although, sadly, that still does not guarantee a grant.

Good luck!

http://research.microsoft.com/~simonpj/papers/Proposal.html