Aim assist

Jan 17 2016 Published by under Grantsmanship

I'm trying to begin preparing for a fellowship proposal on a project that I am really excited by right now. I'm trying to jot out some aims for the project but I am hitting a brick wall whenever I start to put type them out. Does this ever happen to you folks? I am really enthusiastic for this project but it is crushing me that I'm not laying down my aims with clarity. I'm sitting and staring at the preliminary data that I have collected so far to draw inspiration from. I know I'm not crafting the Great American Novel, but I'd at least like to extract the ideas out of my head with some clarity and put them down to paper (I'm going back to the old school route, this tends to help when I have writer's block).

So does this ever happen to you?

10 responses so far

  • Dave says:

    I know this sounds dumb, but i think it really helps me to work from objective/hypothesis first and worry about the prelim data later. If you are constraining yourself into "how do i fit this awesome data into this grant" it limits the overall cohesiveness, which probably shows up when folks read it.

    I try to think of the strongest/most interesting objective and hypothesis and work out from that, thinking of aims that best fit that objective, next then later worry about whether the prelim data can be used as justification later.

    • genomicrepairman says:

      Thanks Dave. I'm looking at the prelim data to help guide my hypothesis and theme of the proposal. But you are definitely right, don't want to constrain my thinking to the data that I just have.

  • MicroTolo says:

    Words written on a page >>> words in your head. Any words on the pages are better than not. Any. Words.

    Normal mortals - even scientists - clarify their thinking when writing.

    Write some stuff. It's okay if it's not what you want - it can even be stream of thought if that gets you started. But start.

  • eeke says:

    Stop writing and draw a diagram of what you think is going on or of the story that is developing (ie your overall hypothesis). Then indicate in the drawing what part of the hypothesis that each of your aims addresses. Craft your spec. aims page around this drawing. A picture is a thousand words they say, it will be clearer to you and to those who have to read what you put on the page.

    • genomicrepairman says:

      I love models. I try to include them in every single paper I write now just to make it easier for myself to convey the information to the reviewers/readers.

  • thorazine says:

    The advice you've got so far is good.

    Write it down. Write the parts that are easy/make sense first, so you can see the parts that you need to connect them. For me, this means the experimental aims first (it's easier for me to fantasize about the future than to face the past?) Then I write the intro/prelim data - having the aims helps me understand how the intro should be expressed. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until it's clear and doesn't have obvious holes. Then have other people read it and rewrite more based on their advice.

    I've found, as I've become more experienced, that I can write and rewrite the same text basically simultaneously, which is sort of strange.

  • Established PI says:

    I have three suggestions:
    1) Ask some friends or your PI if you could see their specific aims pages from fellowships or grants that were funded. This will give you models for what works and what constitutes an aim.
    2) Explain your research plan to a lab mate, either one-on-one or in a mock "chalk talk." Sometimes talking things out, with some feedback, can help you focus in on a set of aims.
    3) Once you get something on paper, get a colleague to critique it (after they promise to be brutally honest). Even at my advanced age, I still solicit feedback to make sure my SA page is clear to readers who are not specialists in my sub-sub field.

    Good luck!

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