Friday, April 07, 2006

Quick Questions- short research statements

Two of the 'grants' I'm applying for are actually things where it's very clear that my PI's status (by that I mean, reputation and political standing in the department) matters more than anything I could possibly do. At least, that's my impression (anyone have much experience with this? Internal funding sources?)

Nevertheless, for each of these, I have to write a very short (couple of pages) statement on my proposed research.

My question is, for something this short (more like an essay than a grant, really), is it better to have little subheadings with short paragraphs or even bullet points under them? or is it better to have something more narrative? Keep in mind all of these also want me to bullshit something about my career accomplishments and plans, and all of this has to fit into the page limit.

(Accomplishments= nothing you've heard of
Plans= nothing I'm sure about)

I'm still having major problems describing my project in one sentence. I think I'm stuck because I know no one has heard of My Favorite Protein so they're going to need some explanation before I can explain what I'm planning to do.

Since I'm such a literary personality, my inclination is always to start slow and broad and gradually build or funnel to the specific question. This is sometimes doable for longer grants, but with something 2 pages long, I've heard it's best to get to the point in the first paragraph, preferably the first or second sentence if possible.

Suggestions, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Does anybody even read these things? Is it enough to have it written in English rather than Klingon?

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4 Comments:

At 2:56 PM, Blogger Jill said...

Ooh, I don't know about the gradual funnelling - my advisor always told me off when I did that. "It's not a detective story!!!! You're not SUPPOSED to keep us guessing!!!!"

I guess finally I started agreeing with him.

Sorry I have no other real advice - I don't know what they'd be expecting. I always wonder what they're expecting in these situations... Wish there was a set of examples...

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

your advisor is right. my thesis advisor told me the same thing about detective stories when i was in grad school. but i've also heard the 'funneling' thing at grant-writing seminars before.

from this i'm concluding that i think you're actually supposed to do a little bit of both, in the sense that you say up front what the point is, but then in the background section you have to start broad if the audience is broad.

right??

 
At 11:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you on preferring narrative writing, and my research is straddling two fields, so I know the difficulty of filling people in on the background in the research statement. But you have to remember that people never read research statements to learn about what you are doing. Either you're applying for a little thing, in which case it's probably already decided, as you said; or it's a genuine competition, and then there is a stack of 300 of these things the readers must skim through. They want to, at a glance, classify where you fit, and guess at whether you are competent.

On that second point, a warning: when writing a narrative for a talk, it is often a good idea to gloss over things or make simplifications, in order to focus attention on the main point. NEVER do this on a research statement. The readers are looking for any reason to reduce their stack of applications by one. On a research statement - painful as it is for someone who likes to explain stuff - it is better to be precise than to be comprehensible.

 
At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A day late and a dollar short on this post ...

I've been learning about grant writing the last few months (reading, not writing). The form I like best so far has the first paragraph be more like an executive summary, which is to say that it is written as you would talk to an eight-year old. You have the whole document to tell the reader about your protein.

 

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