Texas Tech University

Why Wait for the RFP?

Crafting a Concept Paper for Fast Feedback – Part One

Download: "Creating a Project Work Plan" Template


Did you know that 50 percent of NSF and 80 percent of NIH funding is awarded through unsolicited, investigator-initiated proposals? Funders want to fund good research, no matter how they learn about it. There is no need to wait until a formal call for proposals is announced to share your research idea. Before investing a lot of hours in preparing a response to an RFP, you can be more competitive by following our simple guide to seek fast feedback from funders. First, you must create a project work plan. Creating a work plan is an effective way to think through your great idea and shape the research you want to conduct, whether a single project or a multi-year research agenda. The process allows you to thoughtfully and strategically identify the purpose and scope of your research without worrying about the parameters of a specific call for proposals.

To start, focus on the "so what?" of your project. Look at why a funder would invest in your research:

  • What significant problem does your research address?
  • How does your project address that problem? You should focus on the outcomes of your project.
  • How is your project different from what has already been done?
  • How is it innovative?
  • Who will benefit from your project, both directly and indirectly?
  • What is the broader impact of your research?

Addressing these "so what?" questions will help you generate and refine your research questions. This will help you find the goals and actions that define the scope of work and identify the resources required for success. This information is then used to identify collaborators with the expertise necessary to finalize the work plan. Develop the research methodology, project timeline, and budget, then begin drafting the concept paper.

As you develop your work plan, please work with an ORD member or your college's grant writer who can help conceptualize your research to optimize its fundability and complete the work plan template. A link to the template, "Creating a Project Work Plan" is located below. This template is merely a guide, a starting point for operationalizing your research project. Adjust the template as necessary to make it work for you. And, since the work plan is a working document, perfection is not required. Provide enough detail to accurately describe the scope of work and required resources, and then move on to crafting your concept paper.

Part two of this series focuses on the concept paper you will need to win funding. The Office of Research Development is always happy to help you create a work plan. Contact us today!