Developing & Pitching a Research Project: An Overview of the Workshop Series

The four workshops described below are designed for graduate students who are preparing to write, or who are in the process of writing, either a thesis or grant proposal. This workshop series is unlike our other series in two ways: all of the workshops will be taught by the same instructor, and the workshops will build on one another in order to allow students to get an overview of the proposal preparation process. Each workshop will function both independently and as part of the sequence, and students are welcome to come to any or all of the workshops. The material covered in each workshop is described below.

Writing a Thesis or Grant Proposal

Graduate students write many proposals – federal grant proposals, travel grant proposals, thesis proposals – and every proposal has a potentially significant impact on a student’s ability to carry out specific research. The introductory workshop in this series provides an overview of proposal writing designed to get students thinking about the demands of, and the predictable variations in, this important genre of writing. We will examine the similarities and differences between thesis and grant proposals, consider the main questions that most proposals must answer, and see examples of answers to those questions in successful proposals. We will also consider common pitfalls in proposal writing, and strategies for getting started on writing a proposal.

Strategies for Clarifying and Organizing Your Ideas Before You Write

This workshop is designed to help you clarify in your own mind the content and structure of your next proposal BEFORE you begin to write. Participants will be introduced to a range of strategies for organizing their ideas and will be encouraged to consider which strategy works best given their own learning style and timeline. Drawing on techniques from classical rhetoric for developing and organizing ideas, the workshop will introduce strategies to help students investigate and organize their ideas at both the pre-writing and mid-writing stages. While most examples will be drawn from proposals, the material covered will also be relevant to research papers and theses.

Writing a Literature Review that Demonstrates the Need for Your Research

Like research papers and theses, thesis and grant proposals require graduate students to situate their work within the context of other research in their field(s). A well constructed literature review will help you to clarify key points for your reader such as why your work needs to be done, how it is original, and why your proposed method is appropriate. In this workshop we will examine characteristics of both short and long literature reviews, common mistakes students make when reviewing research in their field, and strategies for increasing the effectiveness of literature reviews. The material covered will be relevant to the literature-review segments of proposals, research papers, and theses.

Clear Thinking, Clear Writing: Communicating Clearly to Your target Audience(s)

Grant proposals require you to communicate a lot of information, in a limited space, to multiple audiences, without ambiguity. Such communication demands clear writing and an active awareness of the needs of both specialist and generalist readers. In this workshop we will examine some of the most common stylistic and grammatical mistakes found in proposals, and consider the ways in which strategic proofreading can help you to identify not only the errors in your writing but also the errors in your logic.