Accessibility statement

Tips for success

Questions to consider

Questions to consider

You should address the following questions:

  • Does this proposal add to knowledge on this topic?
  • Does the proposal fit within the stated policy of the organisation? 
  • Is the proposal of sufficient interest and importance to merit funding by this organisation? Why?
  • Would it be relevant to consider whether the proposal meets foresight priorities? 
  • Would this organisation normally provide the level of funding required to complete the project satisfactorily? 
  • Does this organisation exclude any of the costs I am likely to incur or place other restrictions on the proposed project? 
  • What do I need to put in my application?


Know the criteria

You should also ensure that your project meets the stated aims and objectives of the grant-giving body.  It is essential to know the basic rules laid down by the grant-giving body; failure to do so puts your application at a disadvantage.

Reference sources

Departmental offices may have copies of the relevant booklets giving the regulations of the main Research Councils and other funding bodies; you can also get these from the relevant websites.

Advice from others

You will find that senior colleagues can usually give advice on these regulations.


In formulating a research application you may find it helpful to take into account the criteria applied by the granting bodies' assessors and other factors. Grant-giving bodies receive many applications. Before submission to the formal committee proposals are sent usually to assessors who are experts in the field of study covered by the project submissions.


State your case clearly

Just as you, in marking examination papers, appreciate answers which are clear, thoughtful and to the point, so too do the assessors of research grants look for a concise and well-formulated case which states precisely:

  • What you want to achieve
  • How you propose to do it
  • What advantage will arise from the work
  • Why you feel your proposed methods are appropriate to the task
  • Why you are suitable and particularly appropriate as the investigator
  • What it will cost
  • How you will disseminate the results of your project
  • Whether the content of your research has any relevance to foresight
  • For projects in science and technology, how exploitable results might be identified and handled
  • Show awareness of relevant work carried out in other fields

In setting out your application remember that the amount of work which you have done and upon which your proposal is based will not be as obvious to the assessors as it is to you.

Costing and constructing

Use Worktribe to cost your project and as a checklist to ensure that all costs have been identified and included in the application. 

Consider the following when constructing an application:

  • State the objectives of the project and their relation to the objectives of the sponsor 
  • Specify likely output from the work
  • Show why the project is important and worth funding 
  • Indicate what added-value your project will give to this research area
  • Consider whether your methodology is appropriate, feasible and sound
  • Ensure that you have covered all eligible costs; that your budget is feasible and realistic 
  • Who owns the IPR and is your freedom to publish restricted in any way


Review and evaluate your proposal

Ideally try to have enough time before a deadline to prepare a good proposal, well presented. Check that you meet the presentation specifications of the sponsor.

Assessor comments

The expert assessors are asked to make the following detailed comments:

  • The significance of the research
  • The merits of the technical methods proposed
  • Suitability of these methods for the project
  • Justification for staff and equipment requests 
  • Is the research duplication of any similar or related work, past or current, in that field

Discussions with colleagues

At all times discussion with colleagues, particularly those with previous experience in obtaining and managing research grants, is invaluable. Above all, be realistic in assessing your project, the costs and the amount of time it will take. Only apply for projects you are confident you can undertake and complete successfully, and ensure that all your costs are covered and are accurate and that the necessary resources, such as space, technical support etc can be made available by your Department.


Feedback from the awarding body

Unsuccessful applications

It can be helpful to have feedback on your application if it is rejected and it is worth asking for this if it is not offered routinely.

The assessors' reports are now made available to unsuccessful applicants to the ESRC. Their comments also include a statement on whether or not the application as a whole reflects knowledge, planning and capability on the part of the applicant; whether alternative techniques might more advantageously be employed; and whether the timescale and scheduling of the work is appropriate and realistic to the aims of the research.

In certain cases where, for example, the application has industrial significance the assessment may include an estimate of the scale of the benefit likely to accrue to industry and a view on this benefit in relation to the cost of the proposed research.