Seminar Overview

Registration for this event is closed.

Grant Writers’ Seminars & Workshops was founded by academicians for academicians to help researchers obtain formal training in how to support their work with grant proposal writing.

This widely acclaimed seminar comprehensively addresses both practical and conceptual aspects that are important to the proposal-writing process. Emphasis is given to such things as idea development, identification of the most appropriate granting agency, how to write for reviewers, and tips and strategies that are of proven value in presenting an applicant’s case to reviewers.

Participants are taught to write with a linear progression of logic, which leads reviewers through their applications. It is stressed that applicants are writing for two different audiences – the assigned reviewers, who have read the application in its entirety, and non-assigned reviewers who may have read little, or nothing, of the proposal before the meeting of the review panel. Strategies, tools, and tips designed to merit a fundable priority score are emphasized. The focus of this seminar will be on grant applications to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). However, the majority of this content will be relevant and usable for individuals applying to various funding entities (e.g., private foundations, professional organizations, and state/other federal agencies). In addition, the trainer is aware that faculty also apply to the U.S. Department of Education and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

This seminar is appropriate for junior through senior faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and doctoral students who have had some exposure to writing grant applications, either through training / mentoring or personal experience. All faculty may use the seminar for new ideas on gaining a competitive edge in grantsmanship, how to write for a broad spectrum of reviewers, and/or for strategies in how to mentor others in proposal writing.

All participants will receive an extensive handout, as well as a selected hard copy Version of The Grant Application Writer’s Workbook


Dr. John Robertson holds a doctorate in pharmacology/toxicology and has been an associate member at Grant Writers’ Seminars & Workshops since 2010. In 2017 he became the managing member. He has been the recipient of competitive extramural funding from both the NIH and non-federal sources. He has authored 30 peer-reviewed journal articles and three book chapters. In addition, he has been a member of grant review panels, a reviewer for a number of biomedical journals, and served on editorial boards. He has also been routinely recognized for excellence in teaching.


National Institutes of Health Version

Note: If you plan to submit to the NIH or to a funding agency that has anything to do with human health, we strongly recommend that you order this version.

The January 2023 edition has been updated to comply with the updated FORMS-H general and program-specific instructions for NIH grant applications due on or after January 25, 2023. Some of the updates and information include: detailed guidance for applicants required to submit a Data Management and Sharing (DMS) Plan; direction for how to use the Center for Scientific Review’s Assisted Referral Tool to identify a qualified review panel for your application; updated R&R Budget and Modular Budget Form information for applicants submitting a DMS Plan; updated information on writing the Introduction to an Application section and Progress Report of the Research Strategy section for resubmitted and renewal applications; and a synopsis of a proposed framework for reorganizing the current five core-review criteria into three factors. All URLs and screenshots have also been updated.

National Science Foundation Version

Note: If you plan to submit to the NSF or any agencies that cover similar mission areas, we strongly recommend that you order this version.

The January 2023 edition has been updated to comply with the revised version of the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) (NSF 23-1) effective for all proposals due or submitted on or after January 30, 2023. Some changes for this revised version are updates to: conducting a Funding Search on NSF’s new website; kinds of submissions to include that NSF has started using Concept Outlines and the Program Suitability and Proposal Concept Tool (ProSPCT) for their submission; EAGER and RAPID proposal submissions; kinds of funding opportunities to reflect that NSF is piloting the use of the Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) solicitation; the NSF-approved and required formats for the Biographical Sketch; Current and Pending (Other) Support information; and more. All URLs, screenshots, and references to PAPPG sections have also been updated.


Note: If you plan to submit to the USDA or to agencies that cover similar mission areas, we strongly recommend that you order this version

The October 2021 edition has been extensively updated with additional content on strategic presentation of background literature and supporting preliminary data; creation of compelling arguments for project significance and novelty; and biographical sketches. Additional samples, sentence starters, and other practical tools/resources are now included throughout the workbook, along with complete examples of the Overview, Rationale and Significance, and Project Summary parts from a funded AFRI proposal. Other features include modifications for proposals that do not involve traditional hypothesis-testing work, and additional consideration of integrated proposals and those with stakeholder engagement. All URLs and screenshots have also been updated, and this edition is congruent with the new NIFA Grants Application Guide, released October 5, 2021.

Successful Proposals to Any Agency

Note: If you plan to submit a grant proposal to a humanities or arts agency, or something similar, then we suggest this version. However, if your research is related to any of the types of research indicated in the first three categories, we strongly suggest that you order one of those.

The grant applications of most agencies contain basically the same sections – only the specific names for the sections and the order in which they appear in the application are different. In addition, the principles and fundamentals of good proposal writing are the same for all agencies. We have written a ‘generic’ workbook that can be used to write a proposal to any granting agency. It walks the applicant through the preparation of each section and is meant to be complemented by the specific instructions of the agency that is being targeted. September 2016 Edition


View Agenda
  • 8:15 a.m. Check-in and Coffee & Bagels
  • 8:30 a.m. General Grant Writing Concepts
    • Introduction to the seminar
    • The three requirements needed for success in any application
      • Your idea!
      • Your commitment!
      •  Your grantsmanship skills!
    • Grant Applications – similarities of all formats
  • 9:15 a.m. Understanding Funding Priorities
    • Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs)              
    • The importance of Program Officers/Directors
    • Electronic News Services
    • Different NIH & NSF funding mechanisms
    • Private foundation grant support         
  • 10:15 a.m. Break
  • 10:30 a.m. Preparation of the Application – General Concepts
    • How to create a compelling Overview/Executive Summary section
  • 12:00 p.m. Lunch Break
  • 1:00 p.m. Approach/Research Plan
    • Significance/Intellectual Merit
    • Background and Preliminary Studies 
    • Innovation
  • 2:30 p.m. Break
  • 2:45 p.m. Biographical Sketches and Environment
    • Broader Impacts
    • Budget – general concepts
    • Titles
    • Project Summary/Narrative
    • Critical review of your proposal
  • 3:45 p.m. The Review Process
    • The concept of peer review
    • Common assumptions about peer review
    •  The importance of identifying your NIH reviewers
    • Recommending or excluding reviewers
    • Implicit vs. explicit review criteria at NIH & NSF
    • NIH & NSF review and procedures
  • 4:30 p.m. General Discussion/Questions
Grant Writing Workshop
Friday, June 2, 2023
Lubar Entrepreneurship Center Room 107
8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Register by April 28. Please contact Mary Heller with questions:, 414-229-4895