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Strategy for NIH Funding
Highlight Significance and Innovation · Write the Research Strategy
Pages of Part 3. Write Your Application
Learn the most efficient order to write in and how to keep everything in sync as you write. Get detailed advice on creating your Specific Aims and a title.
Before reading the information in this part, you may want to first read about planning the application in Part 2.
While this document is geared toward the basic research project grant, the R01, much of it is useful for other grants.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
Your application's Research Plan has two sections:
In your Specific Aims, you note the significance and innovation of your research; then list your two to three concrete objectives, your aims.
Your Research Strategy is the nuts and bolts of your application, where you describe your research rationale and the experiments you will conduct to accomplish each aim. Though how you organize it is largely up to you, NIH expects you to follow these guidelines.
To write the Research Plan, you don't need the application forms. Write the text in your word processor, and upload it into the application form when it's final.
Find details on the structure and content of the Research Strategy at Write the Research Strategy in Part 3.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts . For help at the planning stage, go to Part 2. Pick and Design a Project.)
As you read this page, look at our Sample Applications and Summary Statements to see some of the different strategies successful PIs use to create an outstanding Research Plan.
Writing in a logical sequence will save you time.
Information you put in the Research Plan affects just about every other application part. You'll need to keep everything in sync as your plans evolve during the writing phase.
It's best to consider your writing as an iterative process. As you develop and finalize your experiments, you will go back and check other parts of the application to make sure everything is in sync: the "who, what, when, where, and how (much money)" as well as look again at the scope of your plans.
Read more under Use an Iterative Process in Design a Project in Part 2.
In that vein, writing in a logical sequence is a good approach that will save you time. We suggest proceeding in the following order.
Even the smaller sections of your application need to be well-organized and readable so reviewers can readily grasp the information. If writing is not your forte, get help.
To view writing strategies for successful applications, see our Sample Applications and Summary Statements . There are many ways to create a great application, so explore your options.
Within the character limit, include as much information as you can about the research area, your project's goals, and the research problem.
Giving your project a title at the outset can help you stay focused and avoid a meandering Research Plan.
So you may want to launch your writing by creating a short well-defined title—NIH gives you only 81 characters.
Your title (together with your Abstract) will become public if NIH funds your application. So write it in simple language that anyone can understand—to the extent that this is possible.
Within the character limit, include as much information as you can about the research area, your project's goals, the problem your project addresses, and possibly your approach to studying it. Make your title specific: saying you are studying lymphocyte trafficking is not informative enough.
Here is an example of a strong title: "Structural controls of functional receptor and antibody binding to viral capsids" from Colin Parrish, who submitted one of our sample applications.
Checkpoint. After you write a preliminary title, check that:
Later you may want to change your initial title. That's fine—at this point, it's just an aid to keep your plans focused.
Since all your reviewers read your Specific Aims, you want to excite them about your project.
If testing your hypothesis is the destination for your research, your Research Plan is the map that takes you there.
You'll start by writing the smaller part, the Specific Aims. Think of the one-page Specific Aims as a capsule of your Research Plan. Since all your reviewers read your Specific Aims, you want to excite them about your project.
Write a narrative. Use at least half the page to provide the rationale and significance of your planned research. A good way to start is with a sentence that states your project's goals. For the rest of the narrative, you will:
Describe the significance of your research, and give your rationale for choosing the project. In some cases, you may want to explain why you did not take an alternative route.
Then, briefly describe your aims, and show how they build on your preliminary studies and your previous research.
If it is likely your application will be reviewed by a study section with broad expertise, summarize the status of research in your field and explain how your project fits in. Read more in these resources:
In the narrative part of the Specific Aims of outstanding applications we looked at, people also used their aims to:
Depending on your situation, decide which items are important for you. For example, a new investigator would likely want to highlight preliminary data and qualifications to do the work.
Many people use bold or italics to emphasize items they want to bring to the reviewers' attention, such as the hypothesis or rationale.
List your aims. After the narrative, enter your aims as bold bullets, or stand-alone or run-on headers (as in List your aims above).
How focused should your aims be? Look at the example below.
Spot the Sample
Read the Specific Aims of Colin Parrish's application "Structural controls of functional receptor and antibody binding to viral capsids."
Checkpoint. After finishing the draft Specific Aims, check that:
For each element listed above, analyze your text and revise it until your Specific Aims hit all the key points you'd like to make.
After the list of aims, some people add a closing paragraph, emphasizing the significance of the work, their collaborators, or whatever else they want to focus reviewers' attention on.
Strategy for NIH Funding
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Part 3. Write Your Application
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Last Updated December 01, 2011
Last Reviewed December 01, 2011