Writing your grant application

Introduction Top

In this section you will learn how to prepare materials for a successful grant application including features of a good grant application and writing tips.

Features of a good grant application Top

There are some general characteristics of good grant applications to consider (QUT Office of Research, 2012; Gallagher, 2005):

  • carefully adhere to the guidelines, rules, format and strategic priorities of the fund scheme
  • be accurate and comply with the word/page count
  • include a good research question and explain why answering it will contribute to and advance the field of knowledge
  • highlight outcomes of interest to the fund
  • demonstrate that your research adopts innovative, cutting-edge approaches
  • articulate a clear description of any problems/issues and their significance in the field, then outline clear methods for dealing with these
  • provide a specific timetable and milestones
  • provide an appropriate and justified budget
  • indicate availability of appropriate research infrastructure (equipment and facilities)
  • showcase strong track records of your research team and demonstrate the team’s ability to deliver project outcomes.

Writing tips Top

The tone of your grant application should be positive, conveying excitement and enthusiasm for the research project. Ask at least one expert and one non-expert to review your application and expect to re-write it before final submission.


Write clearly and carefully to help the reader keep track of your ideas. Be concise, structure paragraphs and sections and use words such as determine, develop, design, establish rather than more passive words such as: attain, evaluate, obtain, or assess. Include an introduction, conclusion and linking phrases (Gallagher, 2005).


Include strategic summaries of key aspects of your research pertinent to the funding body and the specific award. Additionally you should demonstrate wider interest in your work, e.g. “my work has been cited in several fields, not just biochemistry, such as…”, and only include peer-reviewed, published material in your list of publications (e.g. do not list non-peer reviewed book chapters or book reviews). List submitted (but not yet accepted) papers in your project’s progress reports as “manuscript submitted” or “manuscript in preparation” (Gallagher, 2005).


Incorporate elements from both formal academic writing and persuasive journalism. Be objective and realistic about the possible impact of your research and include non-technical analogies to clarify difficult concepts to non-expert readers (see this example of explaining neuroscientific concepts to a wider audience). Use techniques from narrative writing to convey tension, drama and excitement about your project (Gallagher, 2005). Read the work of successful science journalists such as Carl Zimmer to adapt formal academic writing to a wider audience.

Summary Top

You writing should be clear, objective and persuasive. Summarise key aspects of your research and demonstrate wider interest in your work and your contribution to your field of research. Before submitting your application, seek input from colleagues and experienced researchers on whether your grant proposal is convincing and achievable.