Tips on Writing a Great NIH Grant Submission
Date: November 11, 2011
Writing a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Grant Application can be a confusing and stressful process. Here are some helpful hints to consider as you put together your proposal.
Before you begin…
Discuss your research ideas with colleagues and collaborators.
- Be prepared. Is your idea original? What is your hypothesis? Are you passionate and confident about the work you are proposing?
- If you do not already have a mentor, seek one out. A mentor is an invaluable asset, especially if they have experience with the NIH grant process.
- Research what peer reviewers will be looking for in your application and address those issues.
While putting together your grant application, remember to…
- Be realistic. Don't propose more work than can be reasonably done during the proposed project period. Make sure that the personnel have appropriate scientific expertise and training. Make sure that the budget is reasonable and well-justified.
- Be complete and include all pertinent information and be organized and logical. The parts of the application should fit together.
- Use a writing style that a non-expert may understand. Make your points as directly as possible by avoiding jargon, acronyms or excessive language. Be consistent with terms, references and writing style.
- Use the active, rather than passive, voice. For example, write "We will develop an experiment," not "An experiment will be developed."
- Make one point in each paragraph. This is key for readability. Keep sentences to 20 words or less so they are simple and clear, while also including enough background information to enable an intelligent reader to understand your proposed work.
- Capture the reviewers' attention by making the case for why NIH should fund your research. Tell reviewers why testing your hypothesis is worth NIH's money, why you are the person to do it, and how your institution can give you the support you'll need to get it done. Be persuasive.
- Think like a reviewer. Your application has a better chance at being successful if it is easy to read and follows the usual format, being a clear, well-written, properly organized application.
- Although not a requirement for assignment purposes, a cover letter can help the Division of Receipt and Referral in the Center for Scientific Review more easily identify which Integrated Review Group (IRG) or NIH Institute or Center (IC) to assign your application to for initial peer review.
For more information and tips about the NIH grant application process, visit the Office of Extramural Research website. View sample NIH grant applications.