Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Art of Writing Grant Proposals

Following up on a post earlier this month featuring some advice on writing a good book review, I thought I would share an essay that I have found very useful when putting together a grant proposal. The essay, "The Art of Writing Proposals: Some Candid Suggestions for Applicants to Social Science Research Council Competitions," by Adam Przeworski and Frank Salomon, is particularly (but not only) useful for people putting together proposals for outside funding from a foundation or government agency.

Most important is the reminder that your proposal will surely be read by people who are not specialists in your field, so any good proposal should explain the terms of debate in your area as well as what's significant about what you do.

Then there's an obvious -- but frequently overlooked -- point: you need to tell them what you are actually going to do. Are you going to collect quantitative data? Archival evidence? Ethnographic fieldwork? Are you writing a book, an article, or the script of a documentary? Many scholars get so excited about their subjects that they forget to explain their own work, and it's not unreasonable for funders to know what, exactly, they are paying for.