Office of Research, Health Sciences

Writing and Grantsmanship Resources

“The art of "grantsmanship" will not turn mediocre science into a fundable grant proposal. But poor "grantsmanship" will, and often does, turn very good science into an unfundable grant proposal. Good writing will not save bad ideas, but bad writing can kill good ones.” — Jacob Kraicer, MD, PhD

Tips for New NIH Grant Applicants
Lists 25 concise tips for proposal development gathered from NIGMS staff members. Sections include “First Steps,” “Start Work,” “Start Writing,” and “After Review.”

Annotated, Example R01 from NIAID
One of the most difficult tools to find -- and one of NIAID's most requested -- is an example of a well-written NIH grant application. This outstanding resource was originally written by Dr. Mark Smeltzer as a new investigator in 1998, to help the next generation of investigators write their applications. Dr. Smeltzer's application appears as he submitted it to NIH except for changes made to some forms to reflect PHS 398 version 09/2004 . For example, we changed the budget request to a modular budget . Further, NIAID added annotations in yellow boxes to explain how this application reflects much of the advice they give in "All About Grants" Web tutorials. All the advice is the opinion of NIAID staff scientists and should be taken as their advice only. Differing opinions may exist, including those of NIH peer reviewers. Please note that the application is copyrighted. It may be used for non-profit educational purposes provided the document remains unchanged and both Dr. Smeltzer and NIAID are credited.

NHLBI model K08 application
This Mentored Clinical Scientist Development Award (K08) application is provided as a model for applicants developing K08 applications for submission to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The Institute receives frequent requests for "model" applications and this application has been identified by the Initial Review Group (IRG) and by the NHLBI staff as an exemplary application for use as a model. Review of this document, however, should in no way preclude the inexperienced applicant from seeking further advice from experienced colleagues or from appropriate program personnel at NHLBI.

How to Write an Application Involving Animal Research
This guide from NIAID explains procedures for writing an application and then applying for, and maintaining, an NIH grant application for research that uses animals.

The Art of Grantsmanship
By Jacob Kraicer, MD, PhD Recognized as one of the best resources for grantsmanship on the Internet, this guide takes the reader through the entire process of grant application development. Each section provides bulleted suggestions for everything from “Before You Start to Write,” to details on specific parts of the application, to “Common Errors Made” by both new and established applicants.

Writing from the Winners Circle: A Guide to Preparing Competitive Grant Proposals
By David Stanley, PhD; This resource provides valuable information about the entire process of grant application development, including chapters on “Writing Proposals for the Way they are Read,” “Rewriting and Resubmitting Our Proposals,” and “Routing Your Proposal.”

University of Michigan Proposal Writer's Guide
By Don Thackery This guide is intended for individuals with little or no experience in writing proposals for sponsored activities. It describes appropriate content for various sections of applications (e.g., institutional resources, budget, personnel). Included are unique sections covering “Inquiries to Private Foundations,” “Dealing with Short Deadlines,” and a detailed description of “Why Proposals are Rejected.”

Hints for Writing Successful NIH Grant Applications
By Dr. Ellen Barrett A practical resource that outlines important information to be considered for different sections of an application (abstract and specific aims, background and significance, budget and justification, etc.), and gives good, general advice for new and established investigators.

Beginners Guide to the Research Proposal: Elements of the Research Proposal
This is a detailed and well organized resource on proposal development. In this first installment of the guide, the author reviews parts of the protocol. Of particular interest is the section on statistical analysis and sample size, which provides useful examples.

National Science Foundation: A Guide for Proposal Writing
This comprehensive resource provides useful suggestions collected from a variety of sources, including NSF Program Directors, panel reviewers, and successful grantees. The content is largely NSF application specific, but includes general advice that is applicable to all funding applications.

The Elements of Style
By William Strunk, Jr. The classic guide online.

An Evidence-Based Guide to Writing Grant Proposals for Clinical Research
This article, originally published in the February 2005 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 142, number 4, page 274), provides a systematic approach to grant writing, based on observations from an NIH study section. Although clinical investigators are the target audience, the advice and information provided are useful to anyone who undertakes the task of writing a research grant. The authors, Sharon K Inouye, MD, MPH, and David A Fiellin, MD, include several figures including examples of application development timelines, a grant-writing checklist, and common review issues.

The Buck Starts Here: An experienced grant-proposal writer offers tips on how to improve your odds
In this article, originally published in the February 25 issue of The Chronicle for Higher Education (Volume 51, Issue 25, page C1), Karen M. Markin offers advice and tips for maximizing your chances to obtain research funding.

The Foundation Center: Proposal Writing Shortcourse
Although geared toward nonprofit organizations, this short guide will be helpful to anyone working on developing a winning proposal.

Words Worth Their Weight in Cash

“Developing and Writing Grant Proposals” from The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance

Grantspersonship: An Instruction Manual by Beth A. Fischer and Michael J. Zigmond

Office of Research: Selected Proposal Writing Guides

New Investigator’s Proposal-Writing Journal This fictional journal recounts the steps taken and partnerships formed by an assistant professor in pediatrics who is preparing a proposal for community-based research on the incidence and consequences of obesity in children.

Insider’s Guide to Peer Review For Applicants

Please contact Selena Crawford (sac32@pitt.edu) or Melissa Penkrot (mam266@pitt.edu), Office of Research, Health Sciences with any updates, or additions.