Proposal Preparation and Scholarship Assessed

The publication from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Scholarship Assessed, includes a template of ‘standards' from which to determine the quality of scholarly work (PP. 22-36). In analyzing this template, it seems to me that this template could also serve as a checklist for the preparation of proposals seeking support for research.

From the Carnegie Report:

Clear Goals

  • Does the scholar state the basis purposes of his or her work clearly?
  • Does the scholar define objectives that are realistic and achievable?
  • Does the scholar identify important questions in the field?

Adequate Preparation

  • Does the scholar show an understanding of existing scholarship in the field?
  • Does the scholar bring the necessary skills to his or her work?
  • Does the scholar bring together the resources necessary to move the project forward?

Appropriate Methods

  • Does the scholar use methods appropriate to the goals?
  • Does the scholar apply effectively the methods selected?
  • Does the scholar modify procedures in response to changing circumstances?

Significant Results

  • Does the scholar achieve the goals?
  • Does the scholar's work add consequentially to the field?
  • Does the scholar's work open additional areas for further exploration?

Effective Presentation

  • Does the scholar use a suitable style and effective organization to present his or her work?
  • Does the scholar use appropriate forums for communicating work to its intended audiences?
  • Does the scholar present his or her message with clarity and integrity?

Reflective Critique

  • Does the scholar critically evaluate his or her own work?
  • Does the scholar bring an appropriate breadth of evidence to his or her critique?
  • Does the scholar use evaluation to improve the quality of future work?

Such questions may be useful in a variety of ways, for example as a check-list in reviewing drafts of your proposals to external funding agencies, and/or for grants from internal sources.

One helpful mechanism toward the end of writing competitive proposals is understanding the review process. Here are some comments from reviews from my personal archive:

  • the proposal conveys almost no evidence about capacity. I am not convinced that the proposed PI has adequate experience to undertake the project

  • the main problem with this proposal is that the solution proposed does not match the problem described

  • although I recognize the merits of the proposal, and the qualifications of the applicant, I cannot envisage an audience beyond a few specialists in the field

  • I see no evidence of tangible institutional commitment in the budget, during the grant period or in subsequent years

  • the proposal outlines activities that are simply much too ambitious to be completed during the grant period

  • I find the array of topics to be covered so broad so that superficiality is ensured

  • The proposal fails to be respectable as a research proposal. It is vague about research methods, a critical failure in that there is no evidence that the proposed PI has the appropriate training, background or experience. This is particularly evident from the review of the literature.

  • I am very concerned that this proposal lacks perspective and context. Why is this work important? How will this research advance our understanding of the field?

  • The proposal suffers from the proposed PI's lack of expertise in the research methodology, which is obvious from the list of instruments requested.