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Tips to improve grant application success

9 July 2015

Some of the most frequent feedback comments from reviewers to unsuccessful applicants ...

  1. Failure to meet basic eligibility criteria.
  2. Failure to demonstrate importance of the topic or new or original ideas.
  3. Research question is ill-identified, unfocused or unsupported by preliminary data.
  4. Theoretical or conceptual underpinning of the study is weak or poorly articulated.
  5. Lack of clarity over objectives or outcomes measures.
  6. Project is overly ambitious and not feasible within timeframe or available budget.
  7. Incomplete or poor literature review where critical references are omitted.
  8. Proposal expects too much from junior research personnel or research team has allocated too little time to deliver project.
  9. Applicant team is missing critical skills or expertise (most common omissions are statistician, clinical trialist, qualitative researcher, behavioural scientist, health economist).
  10. Insufficient methodological detail to convince the reviewers that the team knows what it is doing or inappropriate methods to answer the research question and yield meaningful results.
  11. Detectable effect size is not large enough to be clinically significant or result in a change of practice.
  12. Concerns over sample size, especially where the study is powered based on a previously under-powered pilot study.
  13. Not clear if trial is pilot or feasibility or a definitive trial and/or it is incorrectly framed as a definitive study when it should still be either a pilot or feasibility trial.
  14. Little or no discussion on control group or intervention.
  15. Lack of acceptability testing of an intervention.
  16. No discussion of possible problems/limitations and no contingency plan.
  17. Lack of a convincing dissemination plan.
  18. Data analysis and management plan vague or missing altogether.

Hope you find this useful in future applications. 

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