X Marks the Spot: a General to Specific to General Model for Proposals

Beginning grant proposal writers often skip any preamble to their introduction, beaming like a laser upon their main focus - an urgent need for their community, and how their project will bring about a cure for a cancer that's killing the community - help, help! But proposal reviewers are just human readers, and they need some general background and transition before being hit with the specific project idea, as if it were a heavy bludgeon.

How can one avoid this heavy-handed approach? Think of the shape of the letter "X."

Participants of this workshop will learn how to use the "X" model concept to always remind one that the main section of your proposal needs to have some easy transitions from general information to the specific project proposed, then back out to less specific statements. The general statements are the wide part of the "X" and the specific project idea is the narrow part. After being very specific with the project idea, one can then write more abstract, general statements, perhaps offering some supporting information like benchmarking data or demographics. This workshop will include some hands-on writing drills that will include (1) writing a general "hook" starting sentence; (2) writing one or two transition sentences, then a specific "project idea" sentence; and (3) finishing with a general, much more abstract recap of the preceding sentences.

As will be shown with examples, the beauty of the "X" model is that it can be applied to a single paragraph or to an entire multi-page project description.

Learning objectives. The workshop participants will:
1. Learn the distinction between the abstract and the concrete in proposal writing;
2. Attempt to create some examples of the "X" model using their own device (laptop or tablet);
3. Leave the workshop with online and literature resources for further examples and self-learning. 

GPC Competencies Addressed:
How to craft, construct, and submit an effective grant application
Practices and services that raise the level of professionalism of grant developers

Dr. Richard Redfearn is the Director of the Office of Scientific Writing for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. He earned his Ph.D. in chemistry from Duke University, and worked in industry for many years. He also taught organic chemistry at Rhodes College from 2000-2006. He has been a full-time grant professional since 2009 and is President of the Mid-South Chapter, based in Memphis. He is a past President of the Arkansas Chapter, for which he is a charter member.