How to Write a Grant – Part 2 – Preparation of the Specific Aims and Narrative

How to Write a Grant Step 2  

Preparation of the Specific Aims and Narrative (Layperson Summary).

How to write specific aims for research grant

Following identification of, and perhaps initial inquiry to, the most promising entity for funding your concept, the next step in grant writing is organization of your ideas. Most grant-funding agencies require some type of organized statement of your research idea, as expressed as a discrete set of goals or objectives. For research funding applications to U.S. governmental agencies, including NIH grants, a one-page “specific aims” section is usually required (or very strongly encouraged) for inclusion with the other sections comprising the entire grant application. 

Depending on the duration of the funding period (e.g., six months to five years), you should be realistic about not only the number of aims, but also the scope of each aim. For this purpose, an experienced grant-writing service can greatly assist you in this process. In addition to having the appropriate amount of work proposed for each aim, the aims should interconnect, but not be entirely dependent on the successful completion of the others. For example, for grant preparation in cancer drug research, applicants might often set forth to test a drug on cultured cancer cells in Aim 1, and then test it on mouse tumors in Aim 2. However, the Aim 2 animal experiments should not be fully contingent on the drug’s success in killing the cultured cells in Aim 1, such that Aim 1’s unsuccess would entirely preclude the success of Aim 2. To avoid such issues in grant preparation, the development of alternative approaches and fallback options should be incorporated into the main body of the grant (please see the third part of my “How to Write a Grant Proposal” series). Here again, a reputable grant-writing service can be very helpful for addressing these conundrums.

In addition to the specific aims (or objectives) section, most grant providers require a layperson abstract (“narrative”). For NIH grants, this section is restricted to 2-3 sentences. For the U.S. Department of Defense and private charities (e.g., the American Cancer Society), a full, detailed paragraph may be required. For this section, be sure to remove and replace all scientific jargon (for example, change “mitochondria” to “cells’ energy powerhouses”). Preparation of this section should be routine for any grant-writing service.

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