NYU Langone Medical Center

Grant Writing

How to Write a Research Grant Application
Tung-Tien Sun, NYU School of Medicine

To get grant support for our research is obviously an extremely important job requirement. This section provides several useful articles on how to do this, including some rather detailed instructions from the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. These articles are informative, well-written and contain many practical tips.

A.    NIH Research Grants

Overview: An excellent overview of the grant writing process, with links to many rich resources and articles can be found in NIH R01 Tool Kit and a series of short articles on, e.g., “How Not To Kill a Grant’, that were written by the editors of Science Career, a part of the journal Science, that offer career advice and job placement services to scientists.

How to Write a Grant Application: Although the format of NIH grant application has changed somewhat recently, advices offered by Proposal Writer’s Guide (by Don Thackrey of the University of Michigan) and a National Cancer Institute website are still perfectly useful regarding the planning and writing of various sections of a typical health science-related research grant application, including the Introduction, Summary, Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Preliminary Results/Progress Report, Budget and Justification, Assurances, Human Subjects, Vertebrate Animals, Resources and Environment, and Overall Consideration. The National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) offers an outstanding website dedicated to Grant Award and Management, that covers a broad range of useful topics including grant types, grant preparation, peer review process, competitive renewal, pay lines, international awards, small business awards, animal research and human subjects. Highly recommended. The same institute also offers a useful summary of Grant Tutorials for New Investigators and Experienced Investigators, as well as a very useful checklist for various stages of application preparation.

Clinical Research: see NIH’s advice to investigators submitting clinical research applications

Sample Grants: To put everything together, you can read a few samples of NIH RO1 grant applications and Summary Statements that are offered by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (NIAID).

Video: An excellent video presentation, Grant Writing for Success, by Anthony Coelho, Ph.D., former Review Policy Officer, NIH, offers very useful, practical tips for grant writing.

B.    Other Grants
For NIH Small Business Innovation Research or Small Business Technology Transfer (SMTT) grants, see (“Writing for SBIR Reviewers”).

For US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grants, see Purdue University's EPA Grantwriting Tutorial.

For grant applications to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National institute of Food and Agriculture, see USDA grants.

For Non-profit Guides, see a website on ‘grant writing tools for non-profit organizations’ that offer advice on how to prepare letters of inquiry and grant application.

For community or sociological ‘Outreach’ grants, see Outreach Grants.

C.    The Peer Review Process

Introduction: Click here to see “What Happens to Your Grant Application: A Primer for New Applicants by NIH's Center for Scientific Review”.

The NIH Peer Review System: NIH Center of Scientific Review (CSR) Resources for applicants. This is an excellent place to obtain basic information regarding NIH grant application including New NIH Grant Review Process Videos,
Funding Opportunities & Forms,
Quick Links: Answers for Applicants,
Insider's Guide to Peer Review for Applicants,
Advice to Investigators Submitting Clinical Research Applications*,
New Electronic Applications,
Submission and Assignment Process,
Appeals of Initial Scientific Peer Review, and
How CSR Evaluates Applications for Overlap or Exceeding Resubmission Limits

Another rich source of information regarding the official NIH Peer Review Policies and Practices can be found here, that covers the following:
Peer Review News,
Guidelines for Reviewers,
Peer Review Practices,
Continuous Submission,
Rosters of Scientific Review Groups,
Peer Review Advisory Committee (PRAC),
Peer Review Policy Documents, and
Peer Review Archive.

Guidelines for the Reviewers:
See the guidelines for the NIH’s reviewers, and those for the USDA’s reviewers.

Videos: The NIH Center of Scientific Review has produced a series of videos to give you an inside look at how scientists from across the country review NIH grant applications for scientific and technical merit. New and established applicants will find insights and understanding that can empower them to improve the applications and increase their chances for receiving a more positive review. Another excellent video on “Scientific Peer Review”, by Anthony Coelho, former Review Policy Officer of NIH, provides valuable insights into the psychology of the reviewers.

D.    Books

Guide to Effective Grant Writing: How to Write an Effective NIH Grant Application, by Otto O. Yang (2005)

Writing Successful Science Proposals
By Andrew J. Friedland, Carol L. Folt

List Price: $7.96
Amazon Price: $16.00
Paperback - 192 pages (March 2000)
Yale Univ Pr; ISBN: 0300081413 ;
Avg. Customer Rating:  5 (out of 5)

Editorial Reviews

From Book News, Inc.  
A guide to writing an effective and competitive scientific proposal that can be submitted to government agencies, private corporations, foundations, and academic committees. The authors (both in the sciences at Dartmouth College) explain a number of aspects of proposal writing including conceiving and designing a project, analyzing data, synthesizing results, and estimating a budget.

Book Description  
“This book will be of value both to scientists and to undergraduate and graduate students who want to write successful grant or research proposals. For scientists, today's environment of limited funding from Congress and private foundations means that grant proposals must be effective, competitive, and readable. The book is designed to provide a guide to writing proposals and improving their overall quality. For graduate students in the natural sciences, courses on proposal development and….” (Frieland and Folt a Success, April 5, 2000)

Reviewer: Graeme Berlyn said “Friedland and Folt are the Strunk and White of proposal writing. They have written a clear, concise guide to scientific proposal writing that captures the essence of the scientific enterprise.” (Essential reading for all beginning PhD students, March 9, 2000)

Reviewer: Andrew Richardson from New Haven, CT
Writing a PhD prospectus can be pretty intimidating. Where do you start? What do you include? What do you not include? This little book has the answers, and it has been an enormous help to me as I write my own proposal. Friedland and Folt's book is very clear and well-written, and full of practical information on how to write a clear, concise, and exciting proposal. Exercises along the way help to guide you step-by-step through the whole thought process. With this book in hand, writing a prospectus almost seems easy! This book should be sent to all first-year students, along with their registration materials.

E.    Grant Writing Workshops

•    USDA-NIFA Grantsmanship Workshops

•    Grantwriters’ Seminars and Workshops

•    Grant Application Writer's Workbook (by Stephen Russell and David Morrison; Grant Writers’ Seminar and Workshops LLC; $75)

•    The Grantseeker's Toolkit By Cheryl Carter New and James Aaron Quick 

•    Foundation Center offers free one-hour seminars, full-day courses and online Tutorials on Proposal Writing Basics, seminars on Proposal Writing, Proposal Budgeting, Cultivating Grantmaker Relationships (~$200 for a full-day course)

F.    Other Websites and Resources

•    Stanford University Office of Research Administration
•    University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicine Grant Writing Resources
•    "Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty," Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Howard Hughes Medical Institute. 2nd edition, 2006.
•    Corporation for Public Broadcasting writing tips for grant proposals
•    The Grantsmanship Center
•    Science Career: Search for ‘Grant review’ and sort the search results by date will give you up-to-date news articles on Research Funding, Student and institutional support programs, GrantsNet Express, and Deadline Watch.