National EMSC Data Analysis Resource Center
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All EMSC partnership grantees are expected to focus their program activities on implementing and collecting data for the performance measures. Consequently, the state partnership grant guidance requires grantees to describe their approach to performance measure implementation in grant renewal proposals, and describe obstacles encountered and progress with measure implementation in grant continuation applications.
NEDARC and the EMSC National Resource Center jointly sponsored two workshops in summer 2008 and fall 2009 specifically aimed at helping grantees write proposals focused on performance measures implementation.
You've got a project, you've found a grant opportunity; now you just need to write it...
Everyone who writes grants frequently develops a method. We present here a simple recipe (six steps). We have used this approach many times, and it has worked for getting the project "off the ground." Your satisfaction with this method may vary. The main message is "Start!"
The first step is to sit down and write a concise paragraph, preferably under 100 words, that describes the area of research in which you are interested, and states your three-to-five-year overall hypothesis and goal of research. If you do not know how to express this to yourself, there is no way to express it to a reviewer.It is important that you be able to write this concisely, because if you do not know how to express this to yourself, there is no way to express it to a reviewer.
The second step, which all faculty should consider doing every six to 12 months (even when not writing grants) is to write down the two to three specific aims of their research proposal. Specific aims should require one or two sentences at a maximum. It is extremely helpful to also write down a one-to-three sentence specific hypothesis for each specific aim. Put a stake in the ground and make an (extremely) educated guess about what you think the results will be. If you can’t say what your hypothesis is, then rethink your specific aim.
The next step is to put the concise goal paragraph and the specific aims on the same page, now entitled “a. Specific Aims,” hand it off to a colleague and ask him or her to critique what you have written. If the reviewer understands your goals and hypotheses, then the reviewer will be motivated to understand your methodology. The criteria of judgment should be clarity, reasonableness, and logic. Some of the most technically difficult grants submitted are utterly clear with respect to the specific aims and hypotheses. If the reviewer understands your goals and hypotheses, then the reviewer will be motivated to understand your methodology. If the goals and specific aims are muddy, the reviewer will be unlikely to invest much effort in the remainder of the proposal.
While your colleagues are reviewing your specific aims, go to the library and spend a few days writing three to five pages (single spaced) to describe the background and significance of your project. It is not enough to say that “policy makers need more information about…”. This section should be well organized and should be referenced. If you have preliminary data, these should be included in a preliminary results section or incorporated into the background and significance section. (The exact breakdown is dependent on the specific funding agency format requirements.)
At this point, rethink your hypotheses, specific aims, and make certain that you have clarified this section sufficiently that anyone can understand what your goals are. Then proceed into the research design and methods section. It is very helpful to put subheadings in this part of the proposal, to help guide the reviewer through what may be very unfamiliar territory. It is useful to reiterate your specific aims and hypotheses and put the specific methodology right under the relevant aim. Your specific aims page set up the outline of your activities, so follow this outline as much as possible in your methods section. Be sure to address potential obstacles and how you will solve them!
If your friends doubt you can do something, the reviewers will not believe you can do it. Finally, as already mentioned, submit the proposal to some skeptical colleagues who do not do emergency medicine or EMSC for a living, and ask them to critique it. Ask for their concerns about methodology, and make certain that concerns about potential obstacles are addressed in the methods section. If your friends doubt you can do something, the reviewers will not believe you can do it.
Grant writing is not rocket science, but many people are terrified of this task. The key is to start. The reason for having a recipe or cook book approach to the mechanics of writing the grant is to help you start, not tell you the right way. In time, you will find an approach that works effectively for you.