You and Your Research Proposal

my current task …

How to Do Great Research

It’s that time of year again, when researchers young and old gear up to write research proposals. Graduate school hopefuls are preparing research statements, Ph.D. students are writing fellowship applications, students who are trying to graduate are writing thesis proposals, and professors are writing grant applications to funding agencies.  At the core of each of these activities is a single kernel: a research proposal.  Since research proposals show up in many forms throughout one’s research career, figuring out how to write a good one is one of the most important skills that a researcher can learn (and hone).  I think it’s also important to embrace the process—as a researcher you’ll be writing a lot of proposals, so learning to enjoy the process (and becoming good at it) is an important part of one’s happiness (and, hence, ultimate success) as a researcher.

I was initially motivated to write this post…

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writing from the PhD thesis: letting go

advices on getting somethings from thesis


I often meet post PhD people who are stuck. Even though they are now doctored, they are not over the Big Book.

Some of them are stuck in thinking how they might get something, anything, out of the thesis. A few of these people have just finished and are not sure where and how to start. Others are a way away from the post-viva celebration. They might have already had one or two shots at writing an article. Maybe they’ve even sent something to a journal and it’s come back with a lot of comments and exhortations to rewrite. And the requirements seem like such a lot, and so they put the paper away hoping that at some time in the future they’ll have the energy to revisit it.

Now one big reason for feeling stuck on getting articles out of the thesis is because people are still actually stuck

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On why you should seriously consider actually submitting your grant application

3 reasons why should submit Your grant your Application

Funding Ideas

I have just finished providing the first round of feedback to a number of faculty members at my institution in the wind up to the first major research funding deadline in Canada of 2014. During the first round, I feel I do the most service to prospective applicant by providing the applicants with substantive feedback pushing them to be very specific with their research question, clear with how their question emerges from or responds to the existing literature, and clear defining their methodology.

But sometimes this substantive feedback, given with the objective of allowing them to produce the most competitive application possible, leads to a sense of discouragement.

For example, today I received a phone call from one of these applicants, saying that the applicant agreed wholeheartedly with my comments but felt that because of the work that needed to be done on some of the concepts was now considering…

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The importance of the research question

tips in writting Research grant Application

Funding Ideas

As I ramp up towards the next big round of research grant applications at my university, I’m back to advising faculty on how to build their applications for success or how to revise a previously unsuccessful application into a successful one. For my first post, I thought I would tackle by number one piece of advice.

Photo  taken by Ethan Lofton Photo taken by Ethan Lofton

A competitive research proposal must have a clear and compelling research question.

I am a strong opponent of copying and pasting from one section of the research application form to another, but the research question is the exception that proves the “no-copying” rule. Feel free to repeat the research question, in the same phrasing, ad nauseam throughout your application – in the summary, the project description, the student training section and even in the title (!).

It is your research question that provides the motivation for the project and provides…

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Who reviews scientific papers and how do reviews work?

Food for thoughts on peer-reviews publication

The Logic of Science

I spent my afternoon reviewing a paper for a scientific journal and making a recommendation about whether or not the paper should be published. As a scientist, this is not an uncommon task for me, but it is a process that is largely foreign to the general public. Indeed, the peer-review system often seems to be a mystery to those who don’t participate in it, and, as a result, it is a frequent topic for this blog. For example, I have previously written about what it takes to publish a paper. However, I have not previously written a post specifically about what it is like to be a reviewer or even who reviewers are. So, I thought I would take this opportunity to explain the process from a reviewer’s point of view and offer you a window into the system that determines which papers get published.

Who are reviewers and…

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thesis to journal article – five things to remember

Preparing to write for new readers !


Once you have winkled the topic of your paper out of its thesis shell, you need to select the journal that you want to publish in. And once you’ve made that decision, you need to remember these five things as you start to think about the process of reshaping the material.

  1. You are writing for a new reader

The reader is no longer an examiner who was looking for evidence that you knew how to ‘do’ research and that your research made a credible contribution to your field.  The journal reader expects a paper about something that will interest them, that will connect with what they already know, that  is believable, well constructed and tightly argued. Their expectations mean that you now need to tailor make the material from your thesis into something different.

Photo: Bill Benzon, flickrcommons Photo: Bill Benzon, flickrcommons

2. You have to write a new rationale

You have to construct the particular case for this particular slice…

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from conference paper to journal article – writing in small chunks

highly applicable to rewrite your conference paper into journal article


You may not always have the luxury of a block of time to revise your conference paper. Or you might choose to devote the big slab of writing time you do have, perhaps over summer, to a big new project. After all, having extended time is a rarity and you don’t necessarily want to waste it on something that can be done in smaller slices. So if you have decided to revise or rewrite your conference paper in chunks, then here’s one way to go about it.

The usual caveat applies – this is only one way, not The Way – and you may well already have, or find other approaches. But this is worth a go.

I’m assuming that you have already chosen the journal and you know its house style and  readership. You already roughly know the ways in which your revised paper is going to connect with the on-going journal conversation. That’s the foundation you’re now going…

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