Grant Writing Institute – Day 1

For the next five weeks, I will be attending a grant writing workshop being presented by the Office of Research at The University of Tennessee. I hope to find funding for my research on the use and effects of data visualization in journalism. I am thinking about applying to the McCormick Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

NSF Background

  • The largest part of NSF funding goes to unsolicited proposals (or investigator initiated proposals) 
  • Two-types of smaller, quicker NSF grants: High Risk-High Reward (EAGER) proposals (< $300,000 for 2 years) and Rapid Response Research (RAPID) proposals ( < $200,000 for 2 years)
  • Supplements – research assistants – REU (funds undergraduate student for summer) or RET (funds public school teacher for summer)
  • NSF offers 5-year grants which funds full centers. UT received one for a $22 million for an engineering center. Only open to senior faculty.


  • You can use first person writing. You want to convey your excitement and the necessity of the research program. 
  • Must be “elegant sales pitch”
  • Don’t just focus on how research helps discipline, but also how it help society.
Writing Exercise
  1. What are you passionate about? Understanding how the design decisions journalists make while designing data visualizations affect readers’ use and understanding of the data presented.
  2. What is the problem (or need) and why is it important? News organizations are regularly using data visualizations to tell journalistic stories, yet we have little understanding of how individuals process this type of storytelling.
  3. What sources or kinds of data can you use to validate the importance of your proposed project? My research has demonstrated that interactive graphics can result in both political polarization and overcome engrained political misperceptions. My research seeks to understand the processes, which lead to these divergent outcomes.
  4. How is existing knowledge or practice inadequate? Research in the 1980’s examined individuals’ understanding of static graphics (i.e., charts and graphs), but the research has not progressed in to interactive graphics.
  5. Why is your idea better? My idea hopes to build off the earlier research and apply it to the dynamic data visualizations that are used on news organizations’ web pages.
  6. How is it new, unique, different?
  7. What will it contribute and who will benefit from it?

Goal: Rework the above seven questions in to one to two paragraphs. This is my pre-proposal and could be used in e-mail to grant program officer.

 Mentor Questions

  • Networking help 
  • Administrative help
  • Timeline building
  • Reasonable v. unreasonable costs
  • Working with outside organizations
  • How to break into new fields


  • Mentor meeting before May 30
  • Pre-abstract must be submitted before May 23
  • Readings
  • Choose something from Grantseekers’ Toolkit before May 23