About this Resource
What’s in a proposal?
Who are you writing your proposal for?
Why the criteria for evaluating your proposal matter so much
Evidence of success – a funder’s perspective
Demonstrating how your proposal meets the assessment criteria
Ensuring that your submitted proposal will get as far as the review process
Developing an overall argument to convince the assessors and reviewers
Warranting the conclusion of your overall argument
Telling a convincing story
Sources of information to consult in preparing a research proposal for the ESRC
Checking where to include components of your overall argument in any proposal
A research proposal logic checksheet
Illustration: a completed logic checksheet for a successful ESRC research proposal
Ensuring that assessors and reviewers get your message
Getting your message across
Subjecting your draft proposal to multiple checks
Final tip – build all the secrets of success into your habitual practice
Subjecting your draft proposal to multiple checks 
Networked Cranfield > AIM Research > Key Topics > Developing proposals > Subjecting your draft proposal to multiple checks

By the time you get to writing the final draft of your research proposal, it will represent a big investment of your time and intellectual effort. So don’t risk wasting that investment by letting errors slip through that you could have avoided.

  1. Check it yourself. As you draft your proposal, try to get into the habit of scrutinising what you have written to see how the assessors and reviewers who you are aiming to convince would respond to your argument and the quality of your presentation.
  2. Ask a friend to check it. You can never see your own work exactly as others might see it, simply because you have written what you then read through, so you know what was intended and what’s coming next. But you can help yourself to produce a convincingly argued and well-presented proposal by enlisting some confidential ‘critical friendship’ support. Could you ask one or more experienced researchers who are broadly sympathetic to your work to take the role of assessors and to give you some constructive feedback on the argument and presentation? Or maybe your institution has a more formal arrangement for scrutinising proposals prior to submission. If so, you should make good use of the support on offer. (But in fairness to your critical friends, make sure your proposal as good as you can make it before asking them to check it over.)
  3. Proofread it. Maximise your chances of giving your assessors and reviewers a good impression of your rigour and attention to detail by proofreading your final draft thoroughly. Go through everything you have written and check the accuracy of the finances before you submit the proposal.
  4. Treat it to the ‘linkage tracker test’. We have showed you how very part of a research proposal should link logically together if it is to be as convincing as possible to your assessors and reviewers. Check this for yourself.

First select any piece of the text, a table or a reference, whether in the application form, the case for support or other attachments. Then ask yourself two questions:

  1. why is this material here?
  2. how does this material relate to building up the warranting or asserting the conclusion of my argument designed to convince my assessors and reviewers that my proposal is worth funding?

It should be clear why anything is included in your account, and how it relates to the stated focus of the research. There should be nothing that is irrelevant to your overall argument.

Second, try tracking the logical links between parts of your account, going forwards through the warranting evidence towards the conclusion, and backwards from the conclusion through the warranting evidence. There should be a logical sequence from title to the planned outputs and potential impacts for key academic and non-academic beneficiaries, or in reverse from potential impacts back through to the title. Anything that is not directly or indirectly linked might not be relevant to your overall argument. If so, do you think it should be removed?

Secret of success No. 10: check the final draft of your proposal yourself and get others to check it for you.