Tips for Great Grant Writing (Part 3): Organize Your Research Plan


Help reviewers find exactly what they are looking for in your research plan by breaking your proposal down according to the primary review criteria: significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach, and environment. Begin each section with clear, descriptive headers that effectively frame your research plan.

A succinct introduction should address the significance of your project, weighing its impact on your field and related fields, as well its impact in the greater context of public health. Consider the following questions from the Enhanced Review Criteria chart:

  • Does the project address an important problem or critical barrier to progress in the field?
  • If the aims of the project are achieved, how will scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice be improved?
  • How will successful completion of the aims change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field?

Next, address how PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers are suited to the project. Outline appropriate experience and training, and highlight any accomplishments that have encouraged advancements in the field(s). If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, show that investigators have complementary and integrated experience.

Now reflect on the innovation that project offers. Keep in mind that even if a project not, by nature, innovative, it may nonetheless be essential to advancing a field. Discuss how your work will challenge or improve current research or clinical practice paradigms by utilizing novel theoretical concepts, approaches, or methodologies, instrumentation, or interventions or by refining the use of these concepts, approaches, methodologies, or instrumentation.

A thorough description of the approach you will take is critical. Show how well-reasoned and appropriate your overall strategy, methodology, and analyses are to accomplishing the specific aims of your project.

Following the details of your approach, include a profile of the environment in which the work will be done. Consider the adequacy of resources such as institutional support and equipment. Also take into account how the project will benefit form any unique features of the scientific environment, subject populations, or collaborative arrangements.

Finally, add a section that addresses items of ethical concern applicable to your project–for example the use of vertebrate animals or human subjects (including gender and minority representation or the inclusion of children).

For more resources you can use as you prepare your application, please visit