Any good research proposal starts with an idea. If the author of the proposal does not have a good idea, no matter how polished the finished product, the proposal is not likely to have great success either with reviewers or with the agency providing the funding. This is the area where the author’s experience, knowledge of the subject matter, creativity and imagination most come into play.
In this section we offer some brief tips on how to generate ideas and keep up-to-date with the research field.
- Don’t try to solve all the problems in your field in a single proposal. Be aware of the limitations of resources available in a particular competition. Make sure your research aim is specific and addresses a particular scientific question.
- Always express your research aim as a testable hypothesis as far as possible.
- Emphasize the importance of your project early in the proposal to catch the attention of reviewers. The importance can be because of its potential impact on the research field or the potential practical outcomes.
- Provide preliminary data, particularly if your field is biology or medicine. In other cases provide data if available. This is more important if your project is controversial and the basic concepts might be questioned by reviewers.
- Take the opportunity to visit the staff of the funding agency to see if they can give you additional insights into what the agency is looking for currently.
- Present a crisp, well-formulated research question early in your proposal.
- Make sure that you indicate, using up-to-date international literature, how your proposal builds on what is already known about the topic.
- Emphasize the significance of your project by pointing out how your research question will contribute to the knowledge base and/or to benefit of the country supporting the research.
- Make sure that you provide evidence of collaboration if this is needed to address a multidisciplinary research question.
- Don't simply state that you are going to ‘study’ or ‘investigate’ some phenomenon as your research goal.
- Don't assume that the reviewers will be familiar with the specific field of the proposal.
- Do not annoy the reviewers by having poor grammar or poor spelling especially in expressing your research idea.