First Impressions: Titles, keywords, summaries, and opening paragraphs
A positive first impression is an asset within the highly competitive SSHRC research funding environment. A reviewer’s first impression comes from a number of parts of your application, namely your title, summary, and opening paragraph.
Your title is your first point of contact with your reviewer and is probably the most read piece of your application. Effective titles help the reviewer understand specifically what is to come.
A good title should:
- Summarize the main idea simply,
- Grab your reader’s/reviewer’s attention early,
- Be fully explanatory when standing alone,
- Be easily shortened to a running head, and
- Contain no more that 10 to 15 words.
Additionally, in your title, avoid:
- Words/phrases that have no purpose (e.g., “a study of” or “an experimental investigation of”),
- Obscure quotations,
- Jargon, and
- Abbreviations or acronyms that are not well known.
While your title might be the most read part of your application, your summary is arguably the most important part of your application for the following reasons:
- It is your sales pitch, your first opportunity to create buy-in and support for your research.
- Only two reviewers on the adjudication committee will be required to read your application in its entirety; the other members will rely on your summary to give them a clear accurate picture of your project.
- Even though the two reviewers will read your entire application, they will have read many applications and may use your summary to refresh their memories of your proposed research project.
A good summary is as succinct overview of your proposed research project written in clear, plain language, using non-technical terms and containing the following elements:
- The context,
- The problem and its significance,
- Your proposed solution,
- Your main objectives, and
- The expected contributions to knowledge and societal benefit.
NOTE: Your summary must be written in clear, plain language, using non-technical terms.
A positive first impression of your detailed description is important. Reviewers will often make a decision within the first couple of paragraphs whether your research in significant or not. Convince reviewers early of the importance and necessity of your research and have them on your side from the very beginning. The rest of your application is further information for, and evidence of why, the research is so important and why you are the one to undertake it.
Your opening paragraph must grab and engage the reviewer. It must:
- Contain a succinct problem statement that sets the stage,
- Convey a sense of urgency by laying out the problem at hand and answering the question “so what”,
- Present a clearly articulated research purpose,
- Present well-defined and formulated research objectives (or questions) and
- Provide a strong argument for why you are the best researcher to undertake the project.
SOURCES AND SUGGESTED RESOURCES
American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6thedition). Washington, DC: Author.
Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2008). The craft of research (3rd edition). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Walters, M. W. (2009). Write an effective funding application: A guide for researchers & scholars. Baltimore, ML: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Grant applications typically include a Budget Table where you will list in short form the item and dollar amount requested, as well as a Budget Justification section where you will describe in detail for each item, how the dollar amount was arrived at. Below are some resources that may be helpful when planning your budget.
If you wish to include in your budget funds to hire a student, research assistant, research technician, etc., you will need to know first, how to classify the position, and second, what the appropriate rate of pay is.
• U of S Classification Guidelines.
• Rates of Pay for Students. • Rates of Pay for ASPA, CUPE, etc. • You must also include Mandatory Benefits Rates in your calculations:
Canada Pension Plan (CPP) 4.95 %
Workers’ Compensation (WC) 0.49 %
Employment Insurance (EI) 2.63 %
Vacation Pay - 3/52 (VP) 5.769 %
Casual employees (submits hours monthly) will be paid salary/hour + 13.84%.
This includes all of the above benefits and vacation pay for which they will be paid out for.
Contract employees (automatically paid monthly) will be paid salary/hour + 8.07%.
This includes the above benefits excluding vacation pay as they will take holiday time.
For more information, please refer to our Research Personnel page.
Equipment and Supplies
It is best to provide quotes for equipment costs and some lab supplies.
When writing up your budget justification, include details such as company name, product number, etc.
For example, CRP ELISA kit (Cedarlane, 10011236-96) = $442.96/96-well plate (45 samples/plate + controls) = $9.84/sample x 4 sample time points x 315 subjects = $12,398/3yr = $4,132.80/yr.
• EMAP Equipment Rentals such as laptops, projectors, sound systems, etc.
• Facilities Management Rentals such as tables, chairs, podiums, etc.
• XL Print and Design for poster printing
Overhead and Indirect Costs
These costs come from the U of S and benefit and support research. They include such items as faculty time, space and its maintenance and servicing (utilities), equipment use and maintenance, insurance and legal services, and services provided by the University's support staff.
The University of Saskatchewan seeks to recover these costs through grant and contract agreements, according to the Institutional Costs of Research Policy
Effective May 1st, 2014 a 25% flat rate is in place for all research agreements, with the exception of clinical trial agreements, which has a rate of 30%.
TaxesAppropriate provincial and federal taxes must be included in budget calculations.
For further assistance please contact your local Research Facilitator or Coordinator
Letters of Support for grant applications will often be required from collaborators and those providing monetary and/or in-kind support, including industry partners and the applicant’s department/college/institution.
These letters should include the following:
• Background of the Collaborator/Supporting Organization
• Role the Collaborator/Supporting Organization will have in the project
• Relevance of the Research Project
• Potential Impact of the Research Project
• Support Details (monetary amount, in-kind details such as personnel contribution, etc)
For further details of what these letters should include, see CIHR Guidelines for Writing Letters of Support.
It is best if the researcher can provide a draft letter of support to the “supportee”, outlining what should be included.For further assistance and help/advice on preparing draft letters of support, please contact your local Research Facilitator or Coordinator.