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This advice comes from Sara Starr, Director of Funding & Research Development, The Ohio State University Office of Research.

  • The sponsor - Guidelines are not always clear and the sponsor's program officer can help clarify them. Remember that you are wasting not only your time but theirs' by turning in a proposal that is not fundable or is missing important data. Through this conversation you can:
  • Explain what you need funded so they can help you determine that you are applying for an appropriate opportunity. 
  • Get clarification on unclear parts of the guidelines. 
  • Get extra guidance on making this a winning proposal.
  • Award Databases - Many sponsors provide a list of awards they have given. Identify and contact people who have won an award from the sponsor you are developing a proposal for. If you contact them, they may give you advice on what they did to make their proposal a winning one.
  • Staff at your university whose specific job it is to help submit proposals to external sponsors. These may include departmental administrators from your own department and sponsored program officers from your university's grants and contracts office. These people are the experts on submitting proposals and can offer you help with such things as understanding the guidelines and putting budgets together.
  • Grant writing workshops - Many universities offer grant writing courses for graduate students. There are also for profit organizations that often bring their courses to university settings. 
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About the author: Sarah holds a B.S. in Library Science from Virginia Wesleyan University, and currently acts as Director of Funding & Research Development at The Ohio State University Office of Research.