Saturday, September 30, 2006

Grant Writing Workshop, final thoughts

Here are the last of my thoughts about the Grant Writing Workshop...very random 'cause I was getting tired.

"The black hole of need" is a phrase that Dr. Morrison used to describe the person who has no idea about what they want to do and wants hand holding through the whole process (or, in the case of students, wants you to do the project or the searching or their homework for them) and why you should not give the appearance of neediness when contacting a program officer to discuss your project.


Chris and I were talking about how the process presented in the workshop today, the formula Dr. Morrison provided, would be useful for all sorts of projects that require organization and communication to non-experts in a field, for instance communicating a dissertation topic. That made me feel good because I think I'’ve gotten to the point where I've been feeling lately that I've reached that point. I can explain my potential dissertation topic in a couple of sentences in non-technical language.


Little known fact about grant application reviewers: reviewers are critically reviewed on their ability to review. This means that there is the expectation that a reviewer will find something wrong with the application. One of the places that reviewers find something wrong is in the section of the narrative of an application that addresses anticipated problems with the research project and how they will be addressed. Another place is in the details or the ability of the author of the application to follow the rules for the application e.g. margin size, font size, length, format, etc. Moral: read the directions! A third place that reviewers like to find fault is in the budget section where the applicant has not adequately justified the items in your budget. Dr. Morrison suggested that we include some budget lines that we donÂ’t mind being cut in order to allow for the reviewersÂ’ need to cut something.


This bit threw me off a bit: “try to cite contributions of possible reviewers”. He said it earlier but those exact words appear in one of Dr. Morrison's slides. The purpose was straightforward, to massage the egos of potential reviewers or to avoid putting them off your project if you donÂ’t cite their work. Being interested in scholarly communication including the ways it can be operationalized and measured, I immediately wondered about what impact of doing this would have on the citation counts of authors and what weight those citations are given by promotion and tenure committees. (How) are they taken into account by citation counters like ISI? My second thought was about the discussions we had in my Research Ethics class last spring about whether or not citing peopleÂ’s work in order to curry favor with them was ethically questionable. I read the American Counseling AssociationÂ’s Code of Ethics recently (my qualitative research class is in the Counseling & Educational Psychology Department) and they have a section that says "“Counselors must give appropriate credit to those who have contributed to research" ... does this practice constitute “appropriate credit?


Reviewers expect a grant application to include evidence of preliminary results or pilot studies even though they are not typically required to be included (according to application directions).


Tips on titles: write down five or eight different titles for your project and then ask colleagues to select one. According to Dr. Morrison, almost everyone will choose the same title.


This was an excellent workshop in terms of de-mystifying the grant application process and, I fear, in terms of communicating the practical real-world tips for writing successful grants (even though, as you can plainly see, that part of it offended my sensitive, naive belief in ethics).

Grant Writing Workhop, third post

It is important to remember that grant applications are submitted by the Institution on behalf of the researcher because the researcher isn’t a non-profit agency and the institution is. This, in my case, begs the question of whether I will be able to apply for a research grant since my institution does not recognize librarians as tenured faculty members and thus they are not eligible to received institutional research funds like institutional grant matching funds.

The first thing reviewers look for in an application are factors about the project such as the title of the project, the interest value of the project, and reader friendliness of the application and factors about the researcher and her institution. Secondarily, reviewers are looking for the significance of the project; the researcher’s approach to the process; the application itself, the environment and resources in which and with which the project will be conducted; the innovation, novelty, and uniqueness of the project and the project budget.

How to write for reviewers:
1. Write as though you were writing for a newspaper, e.g. with a specific audience in mind, using the right words (succinct), attractive, and making the information easy to find.
2. Use simple, declarative sentences.
3. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations.
4. Avoid weak words (e.g. ‘expect’ instead of ‘will try’; if, hope, and believe are words to avoid)
5. Use emphasis (bold, italics, underlines) to draw attention to text but don’t overuse it.
6. Avoid excessively long or short paragraphs.
7. Follow instructions to applicants on format, remember that minimally acceptable does not mean required.

Preparation of the application: On page one of the narrative, whether it’s called executive summary or introduction, or project description, is where the author makes their first impression on the reviewer and therefore the most important page of the application. It is where you make a first, very important impression on the reviewer. He went through the sections of the narrative portions of the application step by step.

More from the grant writing workshop

More common sense on the topic of the review grant review process that can impact your chances of being awarded a grant: no one will ever be as enthusiastic about your idea as you are so you must communicate that enthusiasm to the reviewer; the reviewer may not be well educated in the field of your research and it is incumbent upon the researcher to educate the reviewer; grant reviewers review grant applications because they have to, they will only read an application in detail if the application is written in simple, direct terms that will engender enthusiasm about the topic in the reviewer; although it is fair to assume that reviewers will be fair and impartial in reviewing your application but you can increase the chances that the review will be fair and impartial if you ask colleagues to critically review your application to help you improve it.

Different agencies have different processes for grant application review. For instance, sometimes program review officers are part of the decision making process and other times they are not. There’s a video available on the NIH website of a mock study section application review session at It is also helpful to identify your reviewers if it is possible. NIH publishes information about their review panels. Do this in order to find out which reviewers sit on which panels and then write your application with them in mind (including citing their work if possible). Never say no to an invitation to become a reviewer and volunteer to be a reviewer whenever possible. You can also suggest the need for specific scientific expertise to contribute to the review process but shouldn’t suggest specific individuals due to the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest.

He made the point several times that reviewers are reading grant applications under sub-optimal conditions because they have to and are going to be able to recommend roughly two of every ten applications they review. So it makes sense for the author of the grant application to read the application instructions (the correct and current instructions) very carefully in order to avoid being struck from the list of potentially fundable applications for reasons that don’t have anything to do with the content or research project like too small margin, wrong font, etc. He emphasized the need to make a grant application highly readable, that’s the first thing the reviewer looks for and can influence her reaction to an application before she even gets to the topic.

Grant Writing Workshop

Today I'm attending a grand writing workshop given by David C. Morrison of Grant Writers Seminars and Workshops, LLC. During the first part of the workshop, Dr. Morrison has discussed the need for not only a good research idea but the commonsense notions that the granting agency wants to fund research into ideas that support their mission statement. He emphasized the necessity of researching and knowing your competition AND the agency from which you're seeking funding in order to frame your proposal and communicate your idea in terms that appeal to the funding agency. He gave an example of a researcher whose idea was to transmit sunlight into a closed room using fiber optic cable. Dr. Morrison suggested that the researcher not only propose the idea for funding to the National Science Foundation but also to the National Institutes of Health. For the NIH, the idea was framed as research into the health benefits of transmitting sunlight into a retirement home in order to improve the health of the elderly.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

What I learned today.

Today I've been working on a proposal for a class project for my qualitative research design class. While struggling with the sections where I have to describe how I will analyze and interpret the data I collect, I discovered that there is software that you can use to analyze and interpret qualitative data just like there is software that you can use to analyze and interpret quantitative data. This may sound simple, especially to those of you who already new about it, but to me it is a revelation!

I guess the software that you can use to analyze and interpret quantitative data, statistical analysis software like SPSS and SAS and Stata are just more well known and, possibly, more well developed than the software that you can use to analyze and interpret qualitative data like NVivo and ATLASti. Most of them (all of them), have trial versions available to download so I hope to be able to test at least one of them on this class project so I'll keep you posted about my progress and what I learn.

P.S. When I was exploring on the NVivo site, I was reminded of some other software that I learned about last year that, at least if memory serves, may do sort of the same thing (provide a means for categorizing and analyzing data) for a different purpose. It's called something like My Brain. The sales pitch described it as a way to organize your life (thoughts, etc.) using memory mapping. But darned if I can find the link to it right now. If anyone out there feels like looking around for it and finds the link PLEASE let me know. Otherwise, when I come across it, I'll post it.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Open Access

I've stayed away from Open Access here so far because I tend to get carried away when I start talking about it but I just can't resist passing this along. It's from an article in the online journal Inside Higher Ed ( that reports on Yale University's announcement that they will soon begin making course lectures and selected course materials available for free on the Web. MIT has been doing this since 2001 by making syllabi and other course materials available through their OpenCourseWare project. And Rice University has a similar program called Connexions which I know less about. But what Yale is doing is really exciting Web 2.0 stuff. I can't wait to have a look at it!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

RSS feeds

Ok, this is the last post for tonight, I promise. Just did the Library 2.0section on RSS feeds and learned how to share my rss feeds. So, if anyone is interested enough to look (and I can't really imagine why you would be...oh, well, ok, the daily kitten is pretty cute), you can find them at

Things I want to learn to do...

  • create categories within one blog page

  • customize the appearance of my blogs (rather than using their templates)

  • make all of the items I've listed in my blogger profile appear

'd love to hear from anyone who can help me achieve these goals.

2006 NASIG Award Winners

2006 NASIG Award Winners, originally uploaded by Sarah610twu.

As a part of the discovery exercises for Library 2.0, I'm blogging this photo from Flickr. Some of you are probably aware of Flickr (including some of my family whom I forced to sign up for Flickr and look at my photos!). I've learned something new about Flickr since I made you all do that: you can set up a family site where more than one person can add photos...for a wedding for instance, or a family reunion (hint, hint).

Anyhow, I'm particularly proud of this photo because as a co-chair of the committee that selected and made it possible for these eight really wonderful, interesting people to attend the NASIG 2006 Conference as award recipients. I'm really proud of the winners and of myself for being part of the effort to make it possible for them to be winners.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Mozilla Firefox

Although it seems as if the rest of the world has been using the Mozilla Firefox browsers for AGES, I've been reluctant to switch from my trusty Internet Explorer...mainly because I just don't have time to learn how to use a new browser. At least that's what I kept telling myself until one day recently while I was working at the reference desk at the library where, you guessed it, they have installed Mozilla Firefox. They haven't actually taken IE away but it's not as accessible as Mozilla and apparently everybody but me is already using it.

For those who are unfamiliar with Mozilla, it is an alternative web browser to Internet Explorer or Netscape (at least those are the most-used browsers, I think AOL has its own browser and there are other, less commonly used browsers out there like Opera). Anyhow, the thing about Mozilla is that (according to those who appear to know more than I do), it is less susceptible to the transfer of viruses. That's what attracted me to it. Since switching, I've found a couple of other features that I really like (although I confess to just downloading it and sort of learning to use it as I go along).

One feature I really like is the tabs across the top of the screen. Unlike IE which opens a new window every time you go to a new website, Mozilla simply opens a tab in the same window. That means no more "alt-tabbing" from one IE window to another. You just click on the tab you want and go on. It also lets people like me who usually have a lot of web pages open at once, remember what they're got open and where.

Another feature that I really like a lot is the display of favorite bookmarks just under the menu bar at the top of the page. And I'm picky about what appears on my page. I usually had IE set on full screen so nothing but the icons showed and I could see a very large amount of screen. But in Mozilla I can have my favorite bookmarks at the top of the screen and close the big bookmarks list completely so it probably amounts to the same amount of screen for viewing. Anyway, I like it.

I'm sure there's lots more to learn about Mozilla so I'll keep you posted as I find new, cool things. One last note, Mozilla is available free for the downloading from but those of you with older computers may want to read the fine print about technical requirements before downloading it.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Never stop learning

I've started this blog as part of the exercises for Learning 2.0, which is a project begun by Helene Blowers, Public Services Technology Director of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenberg County to encourage staff "to experiment and learn about the new and emerging technologies that are reshaping the context of information on the Internet today."

My plan is to work through the Learning 2.0 exercises each week and then continue to add things that I learn beyond their "23 Things You Can Do On The Web" and (hopefully) make use of in my own library and my own learning. It fits in with my current interest in (and maybe dissertation topic on)the uses to which scholars and soon-to-be scholars are putting advances in communication technology to improve and broaden scholarly communication.

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I am... a wife a daughter a sister/sister-in-law an aunt a reader a librarian a doctor a quilter a niece a grandmother ;-) a cat owner 6 feet 1 inches tall a yoga enthusiast a cook