Recent ORS workshop gives top tips for writing successful grant applications

Robert Porter

Robert Porter

Robert Porter of Grant-Winners Seminars and former Director of Research Development at the University of Tennessee was at Brock University last month to share his expertise in the competitive field of successful grant writing.

During his full-day workshop, he provided researchers, faculty members and staff from Brock tips for success. “To be successful you have to adopt a tough mental attitude, and you have to stick with it,” Porter told the gathering.

Here are 10 tips from Porter’s presentation for writing successful research grants:

• Before you begin writing, make sure your proposal matches the program. As much as sixty per cent of applications are rejected because the researcher’s goals do not match those of the granting agency; be certain that you are applying for the right grants.

• Contacting a program officer before starting your proposal can help to ensure that your proposed research is a suitable fit for the program. It also gives you an opportunity to make connections and ask about alternative funding sources.

• Make time for grant writing as part of your job. Conduct your own funding alert searches regularly and become well acquainted with the process. It also helps to read a few successful grant applications.

• Follow the application instructions exactly. Missing a signature or having the wrong sized font could mean your application will be rejected.

• Consider what reviewers are looking for. To start, make sure your topic is significant, creative and explained clearly.

• Ensure that your writing style is appropriate. Academic writing and grant writing are very different so be prepared to adopt a different style for your proposal. In general you want a future oriented, succinct, persuasive writing style that conveys excitement, novelty and importance.

• Assume an uninformed but intelligent reviewer! Don’t forget to use clear accessible language and an active voice. For example, instead of “It has been demonstrated that” try “research shows that”.

• Give yourself triple the time as you think you’ll need to write, review and submit your grant. as late applications are almost always grounds for immediate rejection.

• Ask colleagues for comments and suggestions before you submit your application. Ideally ask peers who have been successful in their own grant writing endeavours.

• Treat the whole process like a game. If your application gets rejected keep trying and don’t give up. Be prepared to submit, revise and resubmit as many times as you need too!

For more information, tips and assistance applying for research funding, contact the Office of Research Services at

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