Research Council's Application Tips

A Guide to Writing Successful Proposals for the APNF Grant Program
(As presented at the APNA 27th Annual Conference during the Research Council Interactive Panel)

Who is eligible? APNA members with preference for early-stage researchers in an area relevant to practice that fits the APNA Research Priorities

Be a Psychiatric Nurse Chauvinist. Make sure the problem you are investigating can be addressed within the scope of nursing. Use the APNA PMHN research priorities to frame your research problem and questions.

Be practice relevant. Ask yourself, “How will this knowledge affect PMHN practice?”

Collaborate! The best proposals have an experienced researcher guiding with the Principal Investigator and team members who are contributing to the science of the proposal. An ideal team might consist of:

  • A senior mentor (preferably with a stake in the process)
  • A statistical or qualitative analyst to assist with the data analysis section
  • A clinician
  • A person with experience in preparing budgets

Plan for five drafts. Yes! Five drafts that are read by an expert mentor and your team:

  • 2 – for your aims (your mentor and your team)
  • 2 – for your research strategy (your mentor and your team)
  • 1 – final proofread (your mother).

Key Dates:

  • Submission: Monday, February 17, 2014
  • Decision: May 2014
  • Release of funds: July 2014

Start early - at least 4 months ahead by beginning with the submission date and working backwards in 2-week intervals [1 week for revision, 1 week for your reviewer to read it]. The APNF proposals are due in mid-February; this means your calendar should start in October as soon as you get back from the conference. Agree with your mentors and team on deadlines for drafts. Distribute a calendar. Stick to the dates (and they will with you, too).

Read the guidelines carefully:

Some key points about APNF proposals:

  • $5,000 total in funding for each grant
  • Follows the format (e.g. references and spacing) of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th edition; 2010)
  • Ahem; this means double-spaced
  • You have one year to finish the research
  • No salary support is allowed
  • Should be submitted to a Human Subjects Review Board (Institutional Review Board – IRB) at the time of submission; must be approved prior to funding

Read the proposal evaluation criteria carefully.

http://www.apna.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=3543

These were designed by an experienced APNA researcher in consultation with two national experts in quantitative and qualitative research. Everything that needs to be in a great proposal are in these criteria! (see separate handout)

Avoid submission snags such as:

  • Access to your research site - start getting cooperation immediately while you are writing your aims – involve your research site in planning the project
  • Instruments - make sure you have permission to use any instruments that need prior approval – get that early in the preparation process
  • Agency approvals (you may need more than you think!)

Avoid writer’s block:

  • Start somewhere:
    • A good strategy is to create a “laundry list” of all the ideas and questions you have
    • Prioritize them according to how useful each idea is for PMH practice
    • Organize them under the APNA Research Priorities
    • Choose one idea for the proposal
  • Plan your work schedule
  • Get something on the page in every session
    • Aims
      • Are these descriptive or hypothesis-driven?
      • Are you describing something new?[exploratory]
      • Or do you already know enough to create hypotheses about outcomes? [descriptive]
      • Or are you testing an intervention with a known outcome? [intervention]
    • Research Approach
      • Design - is it descriptive, correlational or experimental?
      • Site - can you show that you will be able to recruit your sample?
      • Sample - are you clear on who will be in your sample?
      • Strategy INCLUDING ANALYSIS [and this holds for qualitative also!]
    • Timeline