how to make sure your research funding bid is rejected

I’ve been reviewing funding bids. For days. And still more to go. I’ve seen some interesting ideas. But also, so many basic issues that could so easily be sorted out. AAARGH.

So, how does setting up your bid to fail actually work? Well here’s a list – do any one of these and you’re absolutely guaranteed to be in trouble.

(1) Don’t tell the reviewer why the research is needed and/or worth funding. It’s good enough to say that there isn’t much around, but it’s much more effective just to say what your research is about and let the reviewer guess who would be interested, who needs to know and why. OR just say nothing exists like this anywhere. After all, reviewers aren’t likely to know or check are they? OR of course you could just claim it’s going to solve every problem known in your field, or something not too far removed from that.

(2) Write in really dense language – use a lot of technical terms, quotations and jargon because that’s scholarly rhetoric, yes? Minimise the number of straightforward sentences.

(3) Spend most of the case for support section reviewing the literature. After all, at least some of the reviewers don’t know the field and those that do, want to know that you know. It’s like the lit review in a thesis, isn’t it?

(4) Have one really huge research question which you may or may not be able to answer with this project. OR offer several different sets of research questions and let the reviewer guess which ones you really mean. OR have a huge number of questions but don’t explain why you need that many or how they are related to each other or how they allow you to provide a coherent answer to your question.

(5) Don’t spend much time on the methods. After all, an interview is an interview is an interview, a survey is a survey is a survey… you don’t need to spell out how many, how often, where, how long, what are known issues with this approach and how this relates to the research questions…

(6) Don’t connect your data set to the question(s) and don’t consider what it might allow you to see and say and what its limitations might be.

(7) Don’t bother saying anything about analysis. That’s just technical stuff. OR if you use software to analyse data spend a long time describing it, even if it’s something well known like NVivo.

(8) Don’t bother with a timetable for the research. The reviewer can guess what happens when.

(9) Don’t bother to specify who the potential academic beneficiaries of the research actually are. It’s OK to say everyone in the field is just gagging to know your findings. Don’t say how you are going to reach them. Mentioning journal publications, conferences and book writing is quite enough.

(10) Don’t bother to say much about potential research users. Waffle a bit about media appearances, blog and a seminar or two. You don’t need to get specific and say what you are going to do, when, with whom, why, and how you will know if it’s made a blind bit of difference.

(11) Ignore ethics. It’s enough to say that you follow the guidelines and that there’s a committee somewhere that’ll make sure you fill in the right forms.

(12) Don’t spend a lot of time justifying the resources. After all you’re not going to make it up are you? You really do need three new computers, a dozen video cameras and a full time secretary and reviewers ought to understand that if they’ve read the proposal.

(13) Don’t bother with spell checking and formatting the document. What’s a few typos between friends? It’s not going to suggest you’re sloppy, it’s just that you’re writing this at the last minute and you really haven’t had time to do everything.

(14) Don’t bother to get anyone else to read your bid before you put it in. After all what would they know? They’ll probably just suggest you make a few changes and you know best – right?????

And of course this is all an exaggeration, but maybe not as much as you might think.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in bid writing, rejection, research funding and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to how to make sure your research funding bid is rejected

  1. Katie says:

    Not much of an exaggeration at all! And if some academics stopped assuming they were the best writers in the world and humbly followed the advice of people who live and breathe grant application writing, they might find more success 🙂


    • pat thomson says:

      I think that some academics would also kill to have this kind of support. It’s not universally available which means the value of this expertise is also not recognised by some higher ed admins.


  2. Pingback: Top tips for writing research funding bids | Teaching and Learning Institute

  3. Pingback: Top tips for writing research funding bids | Teaching and Learning … | Writing Research

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  5. Pingback: Reflections on applying for a Small Grant | queerlinglang

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