Experimental study design and grant writing in eight steps and 28 questions

Med Educ. 2003 Apr;37(4):376-85. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2003.01468.x.


While writing a grant proposal may take a few days, the planning of the study takes much longer and requires thoughtful consideration. The use of a systematic and itemised approach can help in planning crucial details of a study. An eight-step, 28-question, iterative approach is proposed to help with the careful planning of experiments in order to maximise the researchers' chances of acceptance when submitting the study for funding and its results for publication. The steps include defining a relevant research question; selecting instrumentation, study design and statistics; determining sample size and sampling procedure; ensuring data quality throughout data collection and analysis; setting personnel and budget requirements, and writing a convincing grant proposal. Reviewers pay particular attention to the importance of the research topic and question, the presence of a clear problem statement and up to date review of the literature, the use of an optimal design and instrumentation, a sufficient and unbiased sample, and appropriate and well applied statistics. They also appreciate a clear and easy to follow proposal. The research question is the keystone of the entire enterprise, followed by the selection of an optimal study design and the control of possible confounding variables. No study is perfect. The researchers must constantly weigh advantages and disadvantages and select the most scientifically sound and feasible alternatives. While the steps and questions presented are best applied to experimental studies, the principles are also applicable to a wide range of questions and observational, evaluative and qualitative designs.

MeSH terms

  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Research Design
  • Research Support as Topic*
  • Writing*