Grant Writing in Psychology as a Graduate Student – Tips

Last week, I wrote about graduate school funding sources. With that in mind, I wanted to mention some grant writing tips. Although a lot has been written on the subject, I haven’t found much advice directed towards psychology graduate students specifically, so I thought I would put in my two cents.

Finding a Topic

Perhaps the most important part of writing a grant is finding a worthwhile topic. This in itself requires a lot of work – you must know what has been done and hasn’t been done in the field. Once you get the backrgound research out of the way, you must establish the aims for your study. What do you expect to accomplish? Why is this important? What is your reasoning for studying this particular topic?

Finding the Right Grant to Apply For

You also must find a grant that is a good fit for your particular research study and training goals. A research study that is a good fit for an NSF grant might not necessarily be a good fit for an NIH F31 grant. Depending on your project, you might be better of applying for a small research award. On the other hand, you could be selling yourself short with this strategy.

Sell Yourself

At this stage, most grants invest in not only the idea, but also the researcher. You must sell yourself. Grant funding agencies (ei – NSF/NIH/etc) tend to look for people who are productive researchers and publish in quality journals. They also want to see consistency and a trajectory, so try to present at 1-2 conferences per year and publish at least one paper per year in the years leading up to the application. Also, grant funding agencies are much more likely to invest in people who have a consistent program of research (even if this is not the case, you can make it seem this way by threading the loop – in the same way that you did with graduate school applications).

Get the Small Grants First

People who get large grants tend to be the same people who have gotten smaller internal and external grants. You become a much more attractive candidate for the larger grants if you demonstrate that you can get smaller ones

For the F31 – Be Strategic with Who You List as Consultant

The most important trait for people who you choose to be as your consultants is that they can support your training goals. It is absolutely okay to pick people you haven’t worked with before.

Look at Past Winners

You need to know what these funding agencies are looking for. The best way of doing this is by looking at past winners. See examples of NSF Winner Statements in Psychology here and here.

Get on the Phone

Find people who have won the grant you are seeking to apply for and get on the phone with them. Ask them questions. Perhaps they will be nice enough to share their grant applications.



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