Skip to main content - Skip to contact information

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



Steps for Developing Your Proporal

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 Program: 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. Funding is available to both emerging (Insight Development Grant) and established (Insight Grant) 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 Program: 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.
  • Partnership Development Grants provide support to foster new research and/or related activities with new or existing partners; and to design and test new partnership approaches for research and/or related activities.
  • Partnership Grants provide support to new or existing formal partnerships for initiatives that advance research, research training and/or knowledge mobilization in the social sciences and humanities.

Writing Tips for SSHRC Applications

  • Applying for SSHRC Funding: Science, Art, Alchemy or Self-Abuse? (.pdf) Sept. 2006
  • SSHRC uses 6 point grids for both program and track record for proposal evaluation by grant selection committee members. If the committee assigns a rating of less than 2.6 in either grid, the proposal will not receive funding. In addition, if the committee considers 30% or more of your expenses unreasonable, the proposal will not be funded. Each program has specific evaluation criteria that should be addressed in the application.

Resources for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

NSERC research grants are very competitive. If you have never applied for or held a NSERC grant it is worthwhile to have a preliminary meeting with your Grant Facilitator to discuss your long term research goals and options available to optimize success.  For most NSERC grants it is important to have a track record of research funding and peer-reviewed publications.  If you do not have a track record a great way to build one is to apply for some of VIU’s Internal Funding Opportunities.  A few NSERC grants are described below as examples, but there are many other options on the NSERC website.

The Discovery Grant funds ongoing programs of discovery or inquiry based research to individual faculty through 5 year research grants. The Discovery Development Grant is a pilot program which provides small 2 year research grants to researchers from small universities whose Discovery Grant applications were deemed to be of appropriate quality to merit research support, but were not funded in the Discovery Grant Competition. The Research Tools and Instruments grant program funds equipment up to a value of $250,000.  Engage Grants provide up to $25,000 to foster the development of new research partnerships between universities and Canadian-based companies by supporting short-term research and development projects aimed at addressing a company-specific problem.  The PromoScience program offers financial support for organizations working with young Canadians to promote an understanding of science and engineering (including mathematics and technology).

NSERC Resources:

NSERC has developed a series of videos titled Tips for Applying for an NSERC Discovery Grant.  In addition, there is a video Demystifying the Review Process for NSERC Discovery Grants.  Some of the terminology is a bit outdated, as NSERC no longer uses the same forms, but the information is still useful.
These websites/guides are also helpful:


Resources from other institutions and agencies:

Resources for Canadian Institutes of Health Research Applications

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is Canada’s federal funding agency for health research. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 13,700 health researchers across Canada. CIHR supports a multitude of funding opportunities for professors and students.  As with SSHRC and NSERC, CIHR is very competitive.  Please see your Grant Facilitator if you are interested.

Resources for Health Research Grant Writing:

Important Steps for Developing Your Proposal (adapted from Tutis Vilis' Survival Skills)

  • Complete as many of your current research projects as possible; write up the papers and submit them for publication. What counts most in your track record is published papers in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Start thinking of interesting projects. Try to find a balance between something "sure" and something truly innovative and even risky.
  • Write a one page document that summarizes your project.
  • Apply for one of VIU’s  Internal Funding Opportunities to strengthen your CV and conduct a pilot study.
  • Review the external funding opportunity(ies) you would like to apply to.  Meet with your Grant Facilitator for assistance, if required. Pay careful attention to the details of the Call for Proposal.
  • Identify overall project tasks, research team and timeline. The development of a task, timeline and responsibility chart is a very important step that shows the funder that you have really thought through how your project will work. Depending on the size of your project you may want to budget for a project coordinator.
  • Create a check list of all items required for a complete application; for example CVs, support letters, budget, budget justification, supplier quotes, financial statements, documentation regarding in-kind contributions.
  • Get your CV completed in the format required by the funder and encourage other team members to do the same (as required).
  • Prepare a draft of the application, paying particular attention to the details requested.  Providing the information required, in the order and format requested, makes your application much easier to review because the reviewers do not have to search to see if you have answered the question or addressed the point. Avoid using overly technical language. Instead, write as if you are addressing an educated lay person.
  • Prepare the budget, paying particular attention to the guidelines for item eligibility, co-funding, and in-kind contributions. It is important that items are well justified so that the need for the item is clearly evident to the reviewers.
  • If letters of support from external agencies or organizations are required, these should be requested well in advance.  Letters of support can take a long time to come in and you don’t want to rush the person on the other end that is doing you a favor by writing the letter. Where appropriate, you may want to provide a draft letter of support that fits the format required by the funder.
  • Send your draft application to at least one colleague who is familiar with your area of research and ask for feedback. 
  • Send your full draft application to your Grant Facilitator along with the completed Institutional Signature Sheet and Indirect Cost Waiver (if required).
  • Review the feedback received from your colleague(s) and Grant Facilitator.  Revise your application.
  • Along with the Grant Facilitator submit your application and cross your fingers.



Updated: February 23, 2016