Grant‑Writing Tips

These are just a few general grant-writing tips, many of them useful across multiple granting agencies and levels.  For information about the required review process in FASS and then Research Services, click here.

Please note that granting agencies provide a lot of useful information on their sites as well. See the SSHRC Funding tab for some links.

1. The Cardinal Rule. If you don't have a draft of your complete application 3-4 weeks before the internal (FASS) deadline, you should probably wait for another round (some grants experts say two months).  There are exceptions--say, a library fellowship that just needs a two-page statement of interest--but for major granting agencies you need that month to cross-check all the details to make sure everything is fully consistent, proofread and revise, get feedback from colleagues, etc.  For tri-agency programs, this is true of us all--past grants success does not make the current forms any less complex and challenging, and data shows that last-minute applications (i.e., those finished either on or after the internal deadline) have a very, very low success rate.  Do not underestimate the value of having a full draft, thoroughly revised, putting it aside for two weeks, and then reading it with fresh eyes.

2.  Write to the instructions. Use their key terms and give them the information they request--even if it duplicates another section, even if you think other information would be more useful.  Adjudication committees compare applications in the context of the instructions:  they need to see the same categories, the same key terms, the same format.

3. Write to be accessible to a broad academic audience. Most applications will be read by a cross-disciplinary committee at some stage, and even a mono-disciplinary committee may not have someone in your particular field.  In the case of programs that send applications to specialist readers, you need to keep both audiences in mind.

4. Details matter (see #1).  From budget estimates to the spelling of scholars' names, everything needs to be checked and double-checked. Budgets are scored by SSHRC now, and a budget that is not "fully justified" can be disqualified; that makes the budget justification the most critical piece of a SSHRC application. For the same reason, you need to understand what they mean by "open access" and when you are required under the tri-agency policy to publish open access, and ditto for "knowledge mobilization" and other buzzwords.

5. Don't get discouraged.  Re-application is the new normal, and the success rate in FASS on resubmissions is higher than for first-time submissions.

6. Program-specific:

  • SSHRC Insight, Insight Development, and Connection Grants: FASS has a number of successful applications and a list of willing mentors; please contact the Associate Dean Research for advice on accessing these resources (ideally 4-5 months before the SSHRC deadline).
  • SSHRC Insight Development Grants: if you're not eligible for the "emerging" category, consider the Insight Grant program instead.  Non-emerging scholars typically fare much better in the IG program.
  • SSHRC Partnership, Connection, and other Grants that Require Cash/In-kind: cash/in-kind letters for FASS contributions require a letter from the Dean's office, so contact the Associate Dean Research as soon as possible to provide a title and short description of the project and discuss possible contributions (allow *at least* two weeks before the internal FASS deadline; these letters can require the involvement of a number of different people so it can take time to get all of the approvals).  The Partnership program is especially demanding because of the complexity of the application and the need to have partners fill out their own SSHRC forms--start working on partnership applications even earlier than Insight applications, e.g. 5-6 months rather than 3-4 months before the SSHRC deadline.
  • CIHR, NSERC, and other Grant Programs: FASS's Grant Proposal Lending Library is almost exclusively SSHRC applications, but it does include a few other programs--please ask the Associate Dean Research. Dalhousie Research Services will also try to connect you with a successful sample application if you contact them.