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The Hidden Curriculum of Grant Writing

Aug 25, 2022

Dear colleagues:

The hidden curriculum is a barrier to your success. This is especially true in grant writing, where insiders have strategies that make it easier for them and their trainees to secure funding. Let’s level the playing field. You should have access to strategies that help you succeed. 

Today I’m delighted to share part two of my interview with Dr. Zawadi Rucks-Ahidiana. As you may recall, Dr. Rucks-Ahidiana is an Assistant Professor at the University of Albany and a Mellon Emerging Faculty Leader

Here are Dr. Rucks-Ahidiana’s top three tips for people who are learning to navigate grant writing (plus one bonus tip).


1. Don't give up just because you get rejected one time. It doesn't mean you’ll be rejected for life. There are some grants that have restrictions on how many times you can apply, but that's rare. Most grants are more open. You can apply multiple times. You can apply and get rejected. And then revise and apply again. Don’t give up on your projects.


2. Ask for feedback if it's not provided. There are applications where funders have feedback, but they don't necessarily automatically give you the feedback. Request that information. If you get a rejection, follow up. Say thank you and ask if there's any feedback. They may tell you they cannot provide individual feedback, but they may send it to you. Feedback helps you figure out what's working and what's not.


3. Look for samples. Look at who’s been funded before. For most grants, the websites will list projects and scholars. For example, you could look up the sociologists who've been funded. That can give you an idea of what kinds of projects they're funding, but also look to see who you know on that list. Ask those people if you can see their application. You can also reach out to people you don't know who are from a similar field. I've been pleasantly surprised by folks’ generosity, particularly folks I only know from Twitter, who have been willing to share grant applications with me. Sometimes the samples are not similar projects to what you're doing at all. Don’t dwell on the particulars. Look at: what’s the level of detail they provide for their methods? What do they say about what they're going to do with data analysis? How in depth do they go? Do they have a timeline chart? Break down the elements in the sample. Don’t feel like you need to replicate the kind of study that they've done.


Bonus Tip: Don't be scared to ask questions. You may not feel comfortable asking a program officer for a meeting, but that’s part of what they’re there for. It's beneficial for them to screen out applications that aren’t relevant. It’s OK to ask questions.



Thank you to Dr. Rucks-Ahidiana for her insights! You can find her on Twitter, where she regularly shares strategies and advice on scholarly life. She also has a wealth of resources on her site, Practical PhD.

And thanks to you, for reading and believing that scholars deserve support for incredible ideas.


Stay in touch: Twitter and the Newsletter.

P.S. What hobby did you pick up in the pandemic? I focused on bread baking. Pretty proud of this loaf I made!

[Photo of a bread boule in parchment.]