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Mendeley Brainstorm: Augmented Reality — Here and Now

IT expert touching a hexagon grid with the letters AR for augmented reality and surrounding fields of usage IT expert touching a hexagon grid with the letters AR for augmented reality and surrounding fields of usage

“Pokemon Go” has made Augmented Reality wildly popular; this month, we’re asking in our latest Brainstorm competition – what Augmented Reality innovation do you think will be the next “killer app”? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth $50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes September 6th.

It’s usual to see people constantly staring at their mobile phones; it used to be that they were just texting friends or awaiting the latest post on social media. However, there is now a burgeoning tribe of gamers who squint, peer, then shift their phone…

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Revising for your audience (Grant writing 4/7)

ScientificReview

Welcome back to my blog post series on grant writing. I am using the writing process to provide an easy, structured approach to grant writing.  As I’ve mentioned, grant writing isn’t hard: it’s damn hard! If you hold any kind of academic appointment you’re eventually going to have to figure out a good process for grant writing.

This the 4th post in a series of 7, I will be posting a serialized manual on the grant writing process.

Now, on to Step 4: Revising.

Tailoring your content

The third step of the writing process is revising. Now is the time we expand our draft into appropriate paragraphs that fit the grant application’s criteria.

If drafting your grant involves collecting and structuring information, revising your grant involves tailoring that structured information to persuade your audience. Ask yourself, who are my reviewers? How are reviewers engaging with my writing? How can I enhance my reviewer’s experience?

Who are your reviewers?

In Canada, our national health research funding body, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), recommend revising your work with the reviewer in mind. Often, grant reviewers are volunteers who are taking time from other work to assess your project. As mentioned, you can’t assume your reviewer is an expert in your area; although they may be experts in your area, you must write your grant in such a way that any reviewer can understand your project.

How are reviewers engaging with my writing?

One CIHR reviewer told me, “When I’m reviewing grants, it’s Sunday morning and I’ve got about 2 hours to read through hundreds of pages. My advice is to make it as easy as possible for me to understand your work.” Write concise sentences with precise language that avoids jargon and acronyms. Of course, specialty terms will be used in your grant, but ensure you are defining this terminology.

How can I enhance my reviewer’s experience?

The structure of a newspaper article can be a helpful metaphor for the ‘flow’ of a research grant. Like any good journalist, you must get to the point early, employ illustrations to clarify key points, and conclude with a summary to remind your reviewer about the key points.

Leave your thoughts

Q1 What tips work for you with regards to readability?

Q2 Have you been a reviewer before? Share an experience you’ve had.

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Drafting your grant to highlight its unique selling points (Grant writing 3/7)

Drafting

Welcome back to my blog post series on grant writing. I am using the writing process to provide an easy, structured approach to grant writing.  As I’ve mentioned, grant writing isn’t hard: it’s damn hard! If you hold any kind of academic appointment you’re eventually going to have to figure out a good process for grant writing.

This the 3rd post in a series of 7, I will be posting a serialized manual on the grant writing process.

Now, on to Step 2: Drafting.

Unique selling points

The second step of the writing process is drafting. We’ve made some type of map or outline and now we really begin to write.

Drafting your grant involves more than putting words on paper. Draft your grant according to the unique selling points (USPs) your work has to offer. Unique selling points come from the world of advertising and consist of three parts:

  1. A USP must make a proposition to its audience (“buy this product for this specific benefit”)
  2. A USP must make a proposition that the competition cannot offer (“buy this product because it is one-of-a-kind”)
  3. A USP must make a proposition that is attractive to a general audience (“buy this product because you can understand what it does”)

In research, USPs operate around a philosophy of being relevant to a general audience because you have no way to predict your reviewers’ disciplinary alignment. Even if you’re applying for specialty funding (e.g., The Kidney Foundation of Canada) you have no way to predict whether or not your reviewers are molecular biologists studying nephrons or health services researchers studying organ transplant allocation patterns.

Prevalence, population, significance, cost and innovation

A useful heuristic I am borrowing from my colleague Alex Clark involves writing your health research grants around 5 USPs:

  1. Prevalence (“the topic of this grant offers a past, present and future I understand”)
  2. Population (“the topic of this grant offers a clear benefit to a vulnerable or neglected population”)
  3. Significance (“the topic of this grant offers positive outcomes for individuals, our health system and society”)
  4. Cost (“the topic of this grant offers cost reduction to our health system”)
  5. Innovation (“the topic of this grant offers a transferable innovation that will proceed from the project”)

Drafting a grant should follow whatever framework for a proposal is set out by the opportunity’s guidelines. Often this framework takes the form of preamble, introduction, methods, plan of study, team roles, and budget. So important is this framework that it will be the focus of my next blog post.

Leave your thoughts

Q1 What are the unique selling points of your research?

Q2 What’s your approach to drafting a research grant? Does the above approach resonate?

Other Resources

Alex Clark is a brilliant researcher and well-established grant writer. Consider following him on Twitter.

A five-step approach including some useful heuristics for drafting writing.

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Pre-writing to establish a strong base for your grant (Grant writing 2/7)

Google_Brainstorming_by_Skulltrail - Copy

The first step of the writing process is pre-writing. You may remember this taking the form of brainstorming or free-writing. My mantra for this series is that grant writing isn’t hard: it’s damn hard! But if you hold any kind of academic appointment you’re eventually going to have to figure out a good process for grant writing.

Materials

First and foremost, before beginning to write your grant ensure you have a printed copy of the grant’s criteria. Granting agencies often provide invaluable style guides, as I mentioned in my last post. Read, re-read and if possible memorize these criteria.

Next, the fun part. Arm yourself with a pencil and paper, or open up a document in Microsoft Word and write your answers these key questions:

  • How have I ensured that this research is a good idea? How have I ensured I’m asking the right research questions?
  • How have I ensured the scope of my study is feasible, ethical and attractive to reviewers?
  • How have I ensured this is the right opportunity? Do I meet ALL eligibility requirements?
  • Am I working with the right people? If not, do I need to enlist additional collaborators?

Write your responses in the form of a memo you can return back to as your grant emerges. Writing should play a role in idea generation at throughout your study.

Practice

Pre-writing for grants is your self-assessment about whether or not you are ready to apply for the funding opportunity. You might be thinking, of course I’m ready! But remember, major grants are often extremely competitive. As my colleague Roger Graves reminds us, top-tier baseball players earning millions of dollars per year need to hit one of every four pitches; while top tier grants often have a success rate of less than one in five. To continue the analogy, pre-writing is batting practice.

Over 80% of applicants spend dozens of hours preparing to apply for these opportunities only to be rejected by reviewers. Can you look yourself in the mirror and be sure you’re going to be in the highest percentile?

Leave your thoughts

Q1 Where do you begin when you are preparing to write a grant?

Q2 What pre-writing or brainstorming strategies work / don’t work for you?

Other Resources

Roger Graves homepage, Roger is a fantastic writing scholar and director of Writing Across the Curriculum at the University of Alberta.

Argumentative Moves in SSHRC Grant Writing, a useful presentation by Roger and Heather Graves looking at grant writing rhetoric

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