Annotated Grant & Research Paper


While there are endless ways to approach a grant application we offer some guidelines common to most that can help organize and structure your thinking and writing.

Likewise, taken from A Student's Guide to Reading and Writing in Social Anthropology (2010), there is a detailed annotated research paper for reference.


What is a Funding Proposal?

Below are notes from a presentation given by Professor Steve Caton about how students might approach their grant applications. The grant proposal is a genre like any other, with its own conventions, and it varies from one discipline to the next. However, the rule of thumb is that a funding proposal minimally answers the following three questions:



In other words, the first thing you have to do is to explain clearly and succinctly the kind of research you wish to conduct, or the topic. It cannot be stressed enough that you have to limit the scope of your research within the constraints of time and your level of professional training. In other words, the topic has to be focused. Obviously, there should be some match between your project and the kinds of research the funding agency is likely to support (which is usually indicated in its statement of purpose or any literature it makes available to the general public). It may be that you can adapt your research interests to the funding goals of the agency in a convincing enough fashion, but if the effort seems at all strained or artificial, don’t bother. Look for something more appropriate.



The next important step is to indicate how you will carry out the research, a matter which one might think of loosely as a methodology. This, too, varies, sometimes enormously, from one sub-discipline to another. In social anthropology, fieldwork is an important methodology and it involves more than just hanging out with people or talking with them casually – though certainly those pleasures are not to be discounted – but it also means doing specific things in a particular locale in order to gather information. Thus, interviews, oral histories, census taking, photographing and video documentation, careful observation of routine actions, reading newspapers, listening to the local radio and watching television – often with others to gauge their reactions – are only some of the activities field anthropologists engage in. Note, however, that this part of the proposal is less a catalogue of what you intend to do than an argument for why certain methods or activities will be necessary over others. And you have to demonstrate that you have some background or training in these methods, or that you will somehow acquire them before you go into the field.

Most fieldwork conducted in “foreign cultures” requires a competence in a language other than one’s own and the obvious question will arise as to whether you are knowledgeable enough in the field language. On the other hand, you might be able to make a persuasive argument that you don’t need this competence because it is sufficient to work with interpreters. Or let us say that you wish to study the memories people have of certain events in their recent past (the Kennedy assassination), in which case it is more than likely that oral history will be an important method of research for you. In the proposal, you have to demonstrate that you know something about this method in social anthropology and, ideally, that you have practiced it. But the question might also arise as to whether it is sufficient to tape-record the person or whether it would be better to video tape him or her. A reader of your proposal will want to know why money should be given for something more expensive like filming when audio recording might be sufficient. And if you can persuade the reader that, indeed, filming is crucial, you have to demonstrate that you know how to use the equipment effectively. Finally, part of answering the question “HOW?” is giving a schedule of the research – that is, the stages in which the fieldwork is to be completed – so that a reader can evaluate whether the projected time-line is realistic and makes sense.



This may very well be the hardest question to answer. You may have a burning passion about some topic but the reader will still want to know why he or she should encourage funding for it. In other words, you have to explain the significance of the topic for the discipline of social anthropology more specifically but also for the social sciences more generally. Perhaps your topic is one that is crucial for world peace or otherwise relieving the suffering of humanity – and so much the better – but if so, it is still as an anthropologist that you are doing so and it is as an anthropologist that you ultimately have to explain yourself in your proposal and justify your research. For example, one of the simplest ways is to claim that there is some “gap” in our anthropological knowledge and your research will “fill” it. But you still have to argue that the lacuna is vital. Either way, a critical discussion of the relevant literature in social anthropology will be crucial for your argument. Should you be so lucky as to find some “leading authorities” in the field who point out the gap, then so much the better for you, but that is still no substitute for some kind of critical literature review. More interesting criteria of significance are “novelty” or “originality” (the “this has never been done before” argument), though again you have to demonstrate that claim. For example, you might decide to look at a problem about which much has already been written, but the significance of your research is that you are looking at in a new way (i.e. applying a new framework of analysis that was not available to earlier investigators) and thus teaching us something about it we didn’t already know. You still have to make an argument that the difference is significant.



Almost all funding agencies will require you to submit an itemized budget of research expenses. While the criteria and method of evaluation of these costs vary between funding agencies, as a general rule you should work from your own best estimates, be comprehensive but realistic, and only include expenses like research equipment that you have justified in the methodology section of your proposal. Think carefully about the length of your project, the different places you will be, your means of transportation between these places, and the details of your research activities and cost of living expenses in each of these places. Major budget categories include international travel, local transportation, food and lodgings, health, research equipment and supplies, gifts, fees to gain access or use facilities (libraries, universities, museums, video or photo studios) and other incidentals (postage stamps, telephone calls, books, magazines, newspapers, photocopies, business cards, shipping costs). It is best to present your budget in a single currency (preferably dollars) and also provide an explanation on the exchange rate (if applicable) that you are using.


Annotated Grant Application Sample Text

There are endless ways to approach your grant applications but here is one example with annotations that highlight the above comments of essentials questions that must be answered in any grant application.