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Index of Assignments

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Functional Genre

The Grant Application has to summarize a research project in a form and format that make it look attractive enough to convince grant evaluators that it deserves to be funded. Grants often have limited funding, so the application must make the project extremely attractive.



The grant evaluation process often involves several different groups of readers, beginning with “screening” readers who evaluate projects very briefly to see if they fit the call for proposals, and are of professional quality, and then proceeding to further evaluation in more detail, by readers who determine the feasibility and appropriateness of the application’s goals, procedures, and budget. The first round readers will be determining how “exciting” the project looks, a matter of presentation and orientation toward the existing literature; and the second round will want to see exactly how we have planned to get things done, a matter of precise and exhaustive details. CFPs usually stipulate an extremely rigid and detailed structure, so we will need to follow instructions exactly. There is often a “liaison” for each CFP, someone we can contact to ask questions about the format and requirements, and if there is, we should meet with that person as early as possible. Readers of functional genres are often looking for easy ways to disqualify submissions, and failure to follow instructions is a particularly quick ticket to rejection.



The grant application will have multiple sections, each making important arguments of its own, but the overall thrust is the same: This project has been developed from existing sound, evidence-based research, and yet is also innovative enough to produce useful new knowledge and/or services—and it is also ethically, administratively, and financially feasible. We cannot propose a project that duplicates what others have already done—grant evaluators will not want to spend money just to repeat a study—but at the same time, proposals that are absolutely innovative, attempting something completely new, often do not do well either. We need to argue that we are taking the logical next step from the knowledge already available. The grant proposal therefore includes most of the components of a research proposal, along with an extremely detailed budget summary.



Like the research proposal, the grant application will need to refer to other sources in order to establish the urgency (exigency) of its project, and the innovation or contribution to the knowledgebase on the topic. It will therefore be necessary to refer to reliable public data (if we need to claim that a problem has gotten worse, necessitating new research), and to academic journal articles (if we need to show how we venture beyond existing knowledge). Generally, we should not refer to conclusions or information from our own professional experience, although we may want to refer to data from pilot projects, or our other previously-completed research on a subject, if such data-collection was grant funded. We can establish good ethos and demonstrate our aptitude for the work by showing that we have already managed a budget or completed a grant to someone’s specifications before.


Hybrid Writing

In order to summarize the existing literature, our methods, and our plans for completing the project very quickly, we may need to be adept at switching between discussion of theories or others’ conclusions, and what we ourselves plan to undertake. In some sections of the grant proposal, this will feel more like “theoretical” writing, but in others, it will feel more like “hybrid” writing.


Internal Funding: Most universities offer CFPs for grants funded by the university itself. Like all grants, these will be extremely competitive, and yet not as much so as the other categories below. Formats, methods for submission, and structures often vary more from one of these funding sources to the next, so it is important to pay careful attention to what is requested.

External Funding—Implementation Grants: Some grants ask researchers to implement new or proposed programs, rather than collect data for scholarly purposes. These “implementation” grants are sometimes also called “contracts,” and are evaluated much as government agencies evaluate contracts to build bridges or repair roads: expertise and quality work are important, but so is the ability to get things done quickly and cheaply. These factors form an implicit argument for this subgenre: these researchers are the best and quickest and cheapest fit for the project. It is worth noting, too, that implementation grants are not always “worth” as much for tenure-line faculty as other types of grant.

External Funding—Federal Grants: This variant is listed separately because it is the most competitive class of grant applications.   Federal grants always have very stringent standards, and lengthy application structures and formats, and are evaluated by extremely high standards. They often exhibit a “Catch 22” feature: the best qualification to receive a federal grant is often to have already received a previous federal grant, so in many cases we may need to join a well-established research group in order to participate in one. Not all federal grants are created equal, however: we can pay careful attention to the kind of grant being offered. Some federal grants are intended for “early career” researchers, or are geared toward professional development or education. These are often the only options for those who have not established an extensive grant-management track record.

Note: Exact requirements may vary from instructor to instructor and from assignment to assignment!

So check the instructions carefully!

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