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18 - Writing a Research Proposal

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2019

Joanna M. Setchell
Affiliation:
Durham University
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Summary

Once you have a research question, hypotheses and predictions, study design, detailed methods and data analysis plan, you have all you need to write a research proposal. Writing a proposal clarifies your thoughts and ensures that they are feasible. You can share a proposal with other people to get feedback on your plans and use it to underpin funding applications. Whatever you propose to study, you are likely to need funding for equipment, supplies, transport, and other expenses. You may also need to cover tuition fees and living expenses. When you apply for funding you enter a competition. Most applications are unsuccessful. Some of the factors affecting success are out of your hands, such as the success rate, and luck. Some, however, are not, and excellent proposals share characteristics. In this chapter, I explain how you can improve your chances of obtaining funding by applying to appropriate organisations, tailoring your proposal carefully, following guidelines, and seeking feedback while preparing your application. I provide general points on writing and details of each section of a proposal. Finally, I address how to deal with the outcome of the funding decision. I focus on relatively small grants appropriate for PhD students and post-doctoral scholars. Much of the advice also applies to PhD project proposals.

Type
Chapter
Information
Studying Primates
How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research
, pp. 223 - 240
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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References

Dutt, K, Pfaff, DL, Bernstein, AF, Dillard, JS, Block, CJ. 2016. Gender differences in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in geoscience. Nature Geoscience 9: 805808. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo2819. Analyses 1224 recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in the geosciences, submitted by recommenders from 54 countries, for 2007–2012. The findings suggest that women are significantly less likely to receive excellent recommendation letters than men at this critical career stage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ross, DA, Boatright, D, Nunez-Smith, M, Jordan, A, Chekroud, A, Moore, EZ. 2017. Differences in words used to describe racial and gender groups in Medical Student Performance Evaluations. PLOS ONE 12: e0181659. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181659. Investigates standardised evaluations made at the transition from medical school to residency. Reveals systematic differences in how candidates are described based on racial/ethnic and gender group membership.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Schmader, T, Whitehead, J, Wysocki, VH. 2007. A linguistic comparison of letters of recommendation for male and female chemistry and biochemistry job applicants. Sex Roles 57: 509514. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199–007-9291-4. Uses text analysis software to analyse letters of recommendation, finding that letters included significantly more standout adjectives to describe male candidates than female candidates. Inspired Thomas Forth to create the Gender Bias Calculator (www.tomforth.co.uk/genderbias/).CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Trix, F, Psenka, C. 2003. Exploring the color of glass: Letters of recommendation for female and male medical faculty. Discourse & Society 14: 191220. https://doi.org/10.1177/0957926503014002277. Analyses all the letters of recommendation for successful applicants for faculty positions over 3 years in the mid-1990s at a large US medical school. Shows systematic differences between letters for women and men, to women’s disadvantage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Aldridge, J, Derrington, AM. 2012. The Research Funding Toolkit: How to Plan and Write Successful Grant Applications. London: Sage Publications. A handbook for how to write grant proposals. UK-focussed but includes international examples. Very useful for those applying for larger grants and includes advice on large-scale collaborative projects. Accompanied by a website and blog at: www.researchfundingtoolkit.org.Google Scholar
Clutton-Brock, TH. 2000. Survival Strategies for Scientists. www.zoo.cam.ac.uk/research-groups/larg/tim-clutton-brock-survival-strategies-for-scientists/view. [Accessed 9 January 2019]. Tips from Tim Clutton-Brock, of the Large Animal Research Group at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK, on grant and fellowship applications.
Hailman, JP, Strier, KB. 2006. Planning, Proposing, and Presenting Science Effectively. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 2 covers how to write a research proposal.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Karban, R, Huntzonger, M, Pearse, IS. 2014. How to Do Ecology: A Concise Handbook. 2nd edn. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University. Chapter 8 includes advice on writing grant proposals.Google Scholar

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