Prof. S.O. Mcligeyo
Deputy Director, BPS
Prof. P.M. Kimani
CAVS Representative, BPS
University of Nairobi
ISO 9001:2008
Good news
The general standard of
research proposals is low
So it is not hard to shine
Although, sadly, that still does not guarantee a grant.
Good luck!
Your application is here.
What is a research proposal?
 A research proposal is your plan
 It describes in detail your study
 Decisions about your study are based on
the quality of the proposal
 Research funding
 Approvals to proceed by the Institutional
Review Board
Sections of the Proposal
Budget Your Time
Solid partnerships
80% planning the project
Define your
20% writing the proposal
Avoid Plagiarism
• Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s ideas
or words as though they were your own.
Research Proposal Elements
 Background/ significance
 Research Question/Aim/Purpose
 Methods
Sample/Sample Size
Analysis plan
 Timeline
Background/ Significance
 Why is your study important?
 Describe the significance of the
research question or problem
 Answer the “so what?” question
Literature review
 What is the state of the science/art
on this problem? Are there gaps in
the literature? How will your study fill
those gaps?
 Synthesize recent literature (within the
past 5 years)
 Identify simply what you plan to do in your
 The purpose can be framed as a research
question or an aim
 Examples:
 What is the impact of meditative music on
agitation in hospitalized elders?
 The purpose of this study is to show the impact
of meditative music on agitated elders.
 This section of your proposal has
multiple parts
Sample/Sample size
Analysis Plan
 Detailed enough so that the reviewers
could conduct the study
Methods - Design
 Describe your study design
 Design examples
Prospective vs. Retrospective
Intervention clinical trial
Surveys, interviews, questionnaires
Focus groups, field studies
 Example
 We plan a prospective randomized controlled
trial of meditative music vs. no music
Methods – Sample/Sample Size
 Who are the study participants?
 Describe inclusion criteria
 Example: Adult men and women
inpatients with stage IV heart disease
 Who is excluded?
 Example: Patients who do not speak
Methods – Sample cont’d
 How will participants be recruited?
Convenience sample
Flyers in research offices
Electronic Records search
 How many participants are needed?
 How will you justify the sample size?
 Has there been a power analysis?
 Do you have a comparison or control group?
 Describe the sites where you plan to
conduct the study
 Do you have support from the
administration of the site to conduct
the study?
 Letters of support from site
 What are you going to do to study
 Detailed, step by step explanation
 Include how you will identify participants, obtain
consent, and collect data
 If there is an intervention, describe it in detail
 Will you use measurement tools? Describe the
tools, including reliability and validity and
include a copy of the tools with your proposal
 Include the time frame for implementing the
Data Analysis
 Describe your analysis plan
 What statistical tests will you use?
 Be sure your statistics are appropriate
for your study design
 Describe how long it will take to do
your study
 Provide timeline benchmarks
 Example:
 Months 1 – 3
 Months 4-10
 Months 11-12
Prepare study tools
Collect data
Analyze data
Common pitfalls to avoid
Missing aims or purpose
Not enough detail about protocol
 Write your proposal so anyone reading it can understand
your plan
Is your study significant?
 Does it answer the larger “So what” question? Why should
researchers care about this work?
Underpowered sample size
 Describe why you are using the sample size and justify it
Invalid or unreliable instrumentation
 Has your instrument been tested with the population you
are studying? If not, will you test it within your study?
Improper statistics
 Are you using the appropriate statistical analysis?
Evaluation of proposals
Proposals reviewed based on specific
criteria defined by the IRB
 The research design must be sound enough to
yield the expected knowledge
 The aims/objectives are likely to be achievable
in the given time period
 The rationale for the proposed number of
participants is reasonable
 The scientific design is described and adequately
Factors to Consider
Grants are important
• Research grants are the dominant
way for academic researchers to get
resources to focus on research
• INVARIANT: there is never enough
The state of play
• Even a strong proposal is in a lottery,
but a weak one is certainly dead
• Many research proposals are weak
• Most weak proposals could be
improved quite easily
The vague proposal
1. I want to work on better type
systems for functional programming
2. Give me the money
You absolutely must
identify the problem you
are going to tackle
2. Blowing your own trumpet
• Grants fund people
• Most researchers are far too modest.
“It has been shown that …[4]”, when
[4] is you own work!
• Use the first person: “I did this”, “We
did that”.
• Do not rely only on the boring “track
record” section
2. Blowing your own trumpet
Express value judgements using strong,
but defensible, statements: pretend
that you are a well-informed but
unbiased expert
• “We were the first to …”
• “Out 1998 POPL paper has proved
very influential…”
• “We are recognised as world leaders
in functional programming”
2. Blowing your own trumpet
Choose your area...
• “We are recognised as world leaders
– functional programming
– Haskell
– Haskell’s type system
– functional dependencies in Haskell’s type system
– sub-variant X of variant Y of functional dependencies in Haskell’s type
Improving Your Odds
Read guidelines for grants if available
Monitor institutions research priorities
Contact grant officers in
target institution(s)
Discuss your ideas vs. their needs
Improving Your Odds
ALWAYS submit cover letter
(paper & electronic)
Suggest specific study group for review
Suggest one or more target institutions
Refer to grant officer with whom
you have been working
Identify yourself as a new investigator,
if so.
Improving Your Odds
New investigators are NOT penalized
New investigators allowed higher
payline priority score
More emphasis on research potential
than on track record
More emphasis on research plan than
on preliminary results
The arrogant proposal
1.I am an Important and Famous Researcher. I
have lots of PhD students. I have lots of papers.
2.Give me the money
• Proposals like this do sometimes get
funded. But they shouldn’t.
• Your proposal should, all by itself,
justify your grant
Improving Your Odds
Seek “feed forward” before writing
Identify 2-4 specific aims
Discuss hypothesis & approach with
grant-funded colleagues &
Contact fiscal/grants administrator
Improving Your Odds
Use short, concise sentences
Make points clearly
Use diagrams to illustrate models
Use tables to summarize data
NEVER assume reviewers
“know what you mean”
Never create additional work for
the reviewer
Improving Your Odds
Organize application for logical flow of
ideas & actions
Everything fits together
Nothing is superfluous
Nothing is omitted
Time table is detailed & realistic
Improving Your Odds
Why you would not want funding:
Must think of innovative ideas
Must do the work
Must publish papers
Must submit grant progress reports
Must write yet more grants for
continued funding
Improving Your Odds
How to Avoid Funding
Recycle old ideas
Skip literature review
Avoid all contact with grant providers
Do not let anyone else read grant
Wait until due date to contact research
Save time – don’t read instructions
Include jargon & sweeping generalities
Key Personnel Page
Key personnel are paid to participate in the
grant-funded work
Other significant contributors include unpaid
consultants & mentors with no committed
percent effort (include biosketch but no
other support)
Personnel Pages
Summarizes education, training, & professional
career highlights
Lists publications (except those in prep or
submitted) & presentations
Lists recent research support
Establishes qualifications to do proposed work &
appropriateness for role on proposed study
Only 2 pages for career info & publications – this
restriction goes away with electronic submission
Resources Page
Summary of physical space, equipment,
personnel, & other resources essential to
study completion
Letters of support required for shared
resources critical to proposed work
Justify reliance on external resources
Budget Pages
Department fiscal/grant administrator can
help with estimating costs & calculating
THE FUTURE (is now)
Office of Research (sponsored programs) must
submit applications – NOT PI
Authorized institutional official AND PI must
verify applications accepted
Do NOT verify garbled images – if looks
garbled when you view it, will look garbled to
Your application is here.
Good news
The general standard of
research proposals is low
So it is not hard to shine
Although, sadly, that still does not guarantee a grant.
Good luck!

How to Write a Research Proposal