Monday, January 5, 2009

Want to share proposals with my students?

In the comments on my post yesterday asking about non-academic proposals, Suvrat asked if I was going to show my students examples of successful proposals. The answer is yes... and I'm looking for help in showing students a wider variety of proposals, both from academics and non-academics.

I've written proposals and gotten them funded, from NSF, from internal pots of money, and from local foundations. But I'm just one person, writing proposals for my pet projects, and I know from reviewing for NSF and from serving on a foundation's grant-awarding committee that there are many styles of proposals that work.* I'm planning to ask other members of my department if they would be willing to share their proposals with my students as well, but there are only six of us, and we're at a teaching-intensive institution. And my students already know a lot about what we do, because they're talking to us about possible senior thesis topics.

So I'm asking around for other examples. For academics, would any of you be willing to share a successful proposal (from any organization, large or small) with my students? I'm willing to hide any part that you don't want to share, and I promise not to steal research ideas - I don't have time to steal ideas from other people, honestly - or to tell my colleagues about work you plan to do. In return, you get to sell your research to 15 juniors who may want to do graduate work someday. (And I've found that students can really be influenced by examples of research that they see. That's another reason to avoid focusing on my work - I don't want my students to feel pushed to become my clone.)

For non-academics... well, I imagine that it's trickier to share proposals or bids for contracts, especially for people doing exploration work. So don't offer anything that would be against the policies of your employer. But if anyone has examples, or ideas for how to create my own, or would be willing to replace identifying information with imaginary places, I would love to show students something non-academic and realistic.

For everyone: here's how I'm thinking of using examples. I want students to think about what proposals have in common, and what's different depending on the type of work and the audience. So I'm thinking of assigning pairs of students to look at different proposals, and asking them to figure out who is the audience, what's the proposed work, how the work is justified (or what kind of details are offered as supporting evidence), and what things are left out. (Any ideas about what else the students should look for?) Then I'm planning to spend one class discussing the similarities and differences between proposals.

The students will have the opportunity to write their own proposals to different audiences in any case - they need to get their advisor's approval for their thesis proposal, and they get a grade from me, and if they need money to complete their project, they have to write proposals for funding, as well. (The college has some money for undergraduate research, but it's awarded competitively, and the committee that reads the applications includes people from all over the college. The differences between successful departmental research proposals and successful funding proposals can be an educational experience. Also frustrating, as learning experiences frequently are.)

Thanks to anyone who is willing to help. If you want to share materials privately, my e-mail address is shearsensibility AT gmail DOT com. (Replace AT with @, DOT with . , and take out all the spaces.) Or alternatively, you can find my work e-mail by googling my real name.

*There are also many that don't work. I've learned a lot from my own rejections (and from reviewing).


Missy / Crystal Dolphin said...

Not sure if this will help you, but here is a list of proposals that have been written and submitted for public comment with the Australian Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. They oversea and administer the Environmental Protection areas at a National Level.

Silver Fox said...

Kim, I'm going to look into this after I get back to work. I might know a few people who would have some consulting proposals.

A Life Long Scholar said...

I don't have a proposal to share at this time, but reading your description of what you want your students to do reminded me of this article written by an astronomer friend of mine:

Different field, useful integration of writing skills & science.