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Hints on Writing a Successful Grant

This section is based, in part, on a presentation given by Dr James Ferrara of the University of Michigan Medical School, to the annual congress of the American Society of Hematology, Philadelphia, 2002.

Tips for success


Applicants should state 3-5 specific aims and state the hypothesis, where relevant, upfront. Reviewers will be asking themselves the following questions when they read each application:

Special Project/Early Career Investigator Award

  • Is the hypothesis clear?
  • Will the hypothesis be tested?
  • Will the experiments be performed and interpreted carefully?

Fellowship Project

  • Is the applicant clear about what the they will be doing over the next two years in terms of their research and clinical program?

Caregivers Education Award

  • Is the applicant clear about the educational need for what they are proposing and how it will improve the skills and abilities of the caregivers they are targeting?


Applicants should acknowledge competing hypotheses, funding opportunities and time constraints. What are the pitfalls of the approaches proposed?

Attention to detail

Applicants should carefully check the letter of intent and full application for errors, e.g. references not correlating with text, spelling mistakes, etc.

Timelines and resources

  • Start early! An applicant should notify his or her own institute’s administrators that he or she is making an application well before the application is due. Internal institutional approval is often multi-layered and can be very time consuming.
  • The application should be unread for at least a week so the applicant reviews it with fresh eyes just before submission.
  • The applicant should use all his or her Institute’s resources.

The budget

  • Ask for the minimum amount of money you need to do the work. If you overestimate the budget, the reviewers are likely to cut it by more than the overestimation.
  • If you are just beginning as an independent investigator, don’t ask for the maximum amount. Show the Grants Review and Awards Committee that you can complete a good small project in the first instance.
  • Make certain your application is internally consistent. Your budget must agree with the activities you propose.
  • Justify everything. Don’t assume that anything will be obvious to the reviewer.

Authorized Expenses: These include: salary and fringe benefits, equipment and supplies necessary to fulfil the project’s aims; travel expenses directly related to the implementation of the project; costs associated with the publication of the research

Unauthorized Expenses: salaries, travel and/or housing related to sabbaticals; purchase or rental of office equipment; fees for tuition; membership dues, congress/meeting registrations, subscriptions, books or journals

Personnel: Justify the amount of effort you propose to spend on the project; less than 20% raises concerns about your commitment. Indicate in detail how each salaried person (including yourself) will contribute to the project, including their experience and established expertise.

Consultant expenses: The request should be minimal and very well justified.

Equipment: Justify why you need each requested piece of equipment.

Supplies: Ensure your proposal will make efficient use of supplies and labor. Think carefully about all the activities you will need to do to accomplish your objectives, and plan your supply budget accordingly.

Additional Funding: It is permissible for a project to receive additional funding from another source. However, this information must be provided on the full application form.

Institutional Overhead Payments: Applicants may request institutional overhead payments. It is important to note that any institutional overhead payments will be paid out of the amount funded, not in addition to it.

Final comment

Ensure that you read all sections of this website thoroughly before completing a letter of intent or full application form. It is highly likely that if you have any questions concerning the Awards Program, the answer will be found within the site. If not, contact the administrator for further clarification.