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Tips & Guidelines for Writing Grant Applications

Below you will find tips and guidelines that we have selected to help you with the process of putting together your grant application. If you encounter other tips that might be useful to others please let us know by e-mailing a science or social sciences and humanities grants facilitator.

Online Grant Applications



Writing Timeline

Resources for Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Applications

SSHRC grants are highly competitive. Your chances for success will improve if you have a PhD, have published, have received research grants and have a CV that reflects your accomplishments. If your ultimate goal is a SSHRC grant, a great way to get started is to apply first to a VIU internal award. If you wish to apply for a SSHRC grant, check out the funding available at SSHRC to ensure that your project matches the intent and objectives of the program. The two key funding areas of SSHRC that you may be interested in are:

  • Insight Grants: The Insight program aims to support and foster excellence in social sciences and humanities research intended to deepen, widen and increase our collective understanding of individuals and societies, as well as to inform the search for solutions to societal challenges. Insight grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities. Funding is available to both emerging and established scholars for long-term research initiatives. Insight Grants research initiatives may be undertaken by an individual researcher or a team of researchers working in collaboration.
  • Connection Grants: The Connection program aims to support knowledge mobilization activities—such as networking, disseminating, exchanging and co-creating research-based knowledge—as an important element of publicly engaged scholarship, and as a means of strengthening research agendas. Connection grants support workshops, colloquiums, conferences, forums, summer institutes or other events or outreach activities geared toward short-term, targeted knowledge mobilization initiatives. These events and activities represent opportunities to exchange knowledge and to engage on research issues of value to those participating.

Writing Tips for SSHRC Applications

Resources for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Resource for Canadian Institutes of Health Research Applications

Writing Timeline (adapted from Tutis Vilis' Survival Skills)

One year to 6 months before the deadline:

Start thinking of interesting projects. Try to find a balance between something "sure" and something truly innovative and even risky:
  • These might be side issues of what you are currently working on.
  • Imagine what the possible outcomes might be.
  • Start reviewing the literature.
  • Discuss your ideas with others. Just going through the process of trying to explain things to others is a great way to clarify things for yourself. Don't be disappointed if they do not share your enthusiasm. But listen to their criticisms.
Complete as many of your current research projects as possible; write up the papers and submit them for publication:
  • It can easily take 6 months to have a submitted paper accepted, longer if there are several revisions.
  • A most important element of your application is your track record.
  • What counts most in your track record is published papers in peer-reviewed journals.

9 months before the deadline:

Obtain preliminary data:
  • These will greatly strengthen your proposal.
  • A reviewer can think of a hundred reasons why something that you propose will not work. These objections vanish if you can show that you have spent time thinking about or piloting the project.
You may need to submit a small application to your local institution to obtain funds to do the preliminary projects:
  • Getting this support will enhance your application.
Identify roles and skills required for the project:
  • Project leader and organizer
  • Lead writer and writers
  • Concept reviewer
  • Partners
  • Support staff - Application preparation, CV's, letters of support and contribution
  • Budget developer
  • Editor for both style and content
  • Faculty sharing research interest
  • Other proposal collaborators
Team meeting to clarify roles, review Request for Proposal:
  • Components of proposal and writers identified.
  • Timeline reviewed - meeting schedule to deadline confirmed.
  • List support letters and CV's required, review application requirements.
  • Travel plans to meet with partners confirmed.
  • Draft list of experts in grant writing to be drawn upon.
  • Concept developed and reviewed.
  • Develop general templates for research budget as a guideline.

6 months before the deadline:

  • Develop checklist for application requirements.
  • Budget developed - brainstorm with other researchers for ideas.
  • Develop list of possible in-kind contributions for partners to consider.
  • Take concept to partners.
  • Compile Curriculum Vitae - enter into agency data base if required.
  • Set up file sharing.
  • Monitor progress on all tasks - troubleshoot as required.
  • Write an initial draft of the main proposal section.
    • Prepare checklist of components of proposal according to application guidelines.
    • This first draft can take a month of very intensive work. Block this time off in advance.
    • This section may best be done in one continuous block of time; 3 to 6 hours per day each day of the week.
    • You will not make the same advances working a few hours a week.

5 months before the deadline:

  • Proposal draft to style editor.
  • Proposal draft to content editor.
  • Obtain comments from your colleagues.
    • These are people who are willing to spend hours reading and rereading your grant, not someone who returns it with the word "fantastic" on the front cover.
    • Sit down and talk to them about their comments.
    • Pay attention to what they failed to understand. Revise.
    • Get more comments. Revise, etc.
    • Committee to review recommended changes.

4 months before the deadline (even earlier for some institutions):

  • Submit your proposal for approval to local committees where appropriate: animal care, human ethics, safety, etc.

2 months before the deadline:

  • Reread the guidelines and your application.
  • Take the instructions seriously. Do what they ask.
  • Work on the other parts.
  • Get quotations for equipment.
  • Identify and Solicit letters of support from community partners.
  • Ensure that all collaborators have completed CV's for the particular granting agency.
  • Finalize the budget.

1 month before the deadline:

  • Put together what looks like the final version: on the official forms, with figures and references.
    • Give this to your colleagues for additional review.
    • There is nothing like seeing the whole package. Obvious flaws suddenly become apparent at this stage.
  • Collect letters of support from community partners.
  • Collect CV's from collaborators.
  • Collect signatures from collaborating institutions where necessary.

2 weeks before the deadline:

  • Type the final version.
    • Proof read it.
    • Have it proof read by someone who has not seen it before.
    • Do not trust the spell checker.
  • Final check for all application components - refer to your checklist.
  • Work with Grants Facilitator to obtain all necessary signatures for internal and external documents.

1 week before the deadline:

  • Submit full application to Research Grants Facilitator with all accompanying documents and letters.

2 days before the deadline:

  • In consultation with Grants Facilitator send the application out by express mail /courier or submit electronically.
  • Get some sleep.

Week following application submission:

  • Debrief process and report back to committee.



Last Updated: May 21, 2015