Writing For Research: Part 2¶
Reviews can come about through multiple different means, including; deciding that a review is needed for an area and writing one, asking a journal if they’d like a review for a specific area, or being invited by a journal to write a review. A review should be considered as an expanded introduction section.
To write a review you must:
- Define the topic (broad or narrow) and an audience (specialist or general) for the review
- Do a literature search to figure out what needs to be covered, and develop your understanding of the area
- Take detailed notes as you go
- Choose the type of review (mini, or full, descriptive or integrative)
- Keep focused on the defined topic but make it appealing to a more broad audience
- Be critical! - point out major findings, potential problems and gaps in the research
- Use a logical structure to your writing - try to tell a story
- Seek and use feedback, including from experts
- Include your own research about the topic, but be objective about its significance
- Be up to date, but don’t forget about older major findings
When submitting a manuscript, you need to make sure that your work meets all the guidelines and formatting , as provided in the “instructions to authors”. This will include the format of the document, whether figures should be submitted as separate documents, etc. It’s also a good idea to include a cover letter that introduces yourself and describes how the submission will fit the readers of the journal and the journal’s focus.
It could take quite a long time to hear back from the journal, but it’s best to be patient. The fastest responses will be rejections though and it’s important to keep trying to submit to other journals as well.
If it’s not rejected straight away, you’ll likely be told that the paper is entering the review process. The feedback you’ll get will typically be in multiple categories:
- Minor changes - rewording sections, adding more figures, improving the formatting, etc.
- Major changes - more experiments are needed, a complete rewrite might be required, etc.
You can respond to the reviewer’s comments, though you should consider their words and reflect on them before responding rationally and calmly. It’s important to be concise and non-argumentative, responding to all of the reviewer’s comments and questions. Take your time and get a friend to proof read your response before sending. Again, be patient.
Are provided from many different sources, including:
- Government bodies - NHMRC/ARC
- Universities and research institutions, both internal and collaborative
- Private sector companies
- Charitable bodies and foundations
- Individual sponsorships
They will typically fund for different reasons, based on their corporate objective (everyone wants an ROI), though there could be more philanthropic motivations. The body may come with their own biases, objectives and incentives, so it’s important to be aware of how that may shape your research and what they want of you.
For example, a particular organisation might want to have control over:
- Your research target group
- Your way of operating
- Any special functions of your research
- Particular priorities of the research
It’s important to figure out:
- How much will be provided through the grant
- What specifically is funded (travel, salaries, equipments etc.)
- If there needs to be a personal investment
- How the grant is to be paid (lump sum, monthly, etc.)
Before you start writing, you need to plan your project and collect preliminary data. It might be necessary to build some support for the project. You need to identify potential funding sources and decide who you want to fund you. From here you need to look at the guidelines, read ALL the information available, talk to the contact person, ask questions about the application process, compile a list of everything you’ll need to submit and start to gather all the required documentation.
In the application itself, you shouldn’t assume anything about your audience, though you should keep you application succinct. Answer all the questions (you can always call and ask if you need clarification), ensuring your responses are clear and don’t use jargon. Keep it simple.
Components of a Submission¶
Cover letter (not always required for government bodies)¶
This should be a formal letter, addressed to the funding body and signed by executives of the requesting organisation. This is where you would introduce the mission statement, show how it aligns with the funding organisation’s values and describe the project and outcomes.
Obviously this includes the title of the project, but also should identify the Principal Investigator (PI) and institution as well as have all the contact details of the PIs. This could also include an overview of the requested funds.
Describe what the project is about, why it’s important (what needs does it meet and what’s the impact), and how you’ll carry it out.
In this you should talk about why the research is needed, socially, medically, commercially, etc. Avoid circular arguments and be honest about what you don’t know. The research will provide more answers.
This is the methods section, it should explain all the planning, processes and analysis. This is typically the major focus of the application and will take the most time to write. Respond to all grant sections/selection criteria. Every grant funding body will have their own selection criteria and each of them needs to be addressed.
Detail how the funds will be used and justify every expense that you’ve listed. This could include salaries, stipends, equipments, consumables, travel, etc. The specifics of this section will be detailed by the funding body.
You need to convince the funding body that you’re capable of doing the research, there will be a requested format of this, such as your five best papers. This shouldn’t be too long though and you shouldn’t make unfounded claims.
This could be a full list of your publications, any preliminary data or other items as requested by the funding body.
These are the classic way of pitching a project to a funding body, by presenting to a panel of assessors. In these you should use short sentences and paragraphs, avoid excessive formatting and switching between formatting styles, use bullet points and bold headings, and use clear figures to assist and clarify your research.
You need to convince that panel that:
- There is a need that the research will cover
- That you are the best person to undertake the research
- That you are already making progress in the field (preliminary data)
- That you WILL achieve the goals with the funds requested in the time allocated
- That the outcomes will have a significant impact
Before you submit the application, you should ensure that you’ve ticked everything off your to-do list, make sure you have the right number of copies, ensure that your TOC aligns with the sections in your application and double check with the funding body that you are sending it to the right person.
Once you submit it, celebrate, thank the people that have helped you and be patient. You can check progress but be sure not to nag.
Will have a clearly defined review process that will involve external peer review and a broad interest review panel. The panel may contain specific members that will review the application more closely, but the panel will ultimately rank all the applications and fund some of them, based on the % funding of individual grants and how much money is available. This may only be 12-25% of applications.
Private enterprise and charitable funds¶
The process in this case may not be so clearly defined, and may involve interviews. Make sure you know as much as possible about the organisation, including the areas that they’re likely to support and any information about their review/selection process.
When You Get a Response¶
Tell everyone involved ASAP and be sure to thank them! You need to be proactive in acknowledging the funding body, and most of all do well in your research. It’s important to fulfil your obligations to the funding body and to keep them informed about the status of your research.
Follow up with the funding body ASAP to get specific information. This could include, to make sure that your project/application met the guidelines. Make detailed notes so that you can tailor your next application better. Be sure to let the board/committee members of your institution know and be sure to file your notes with the application.