An algorithmic approach to an impactful specific aims page

Surgery. 2021 Apr;169(4):816-820. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.06.014. Epub 2020 Jul 21.


The most vital part of a grant is the specific-aims section. As the leading section of the proposal, the specific-aims section serves as a 1-page synopsis that needs to gain the attention and interest of the reviewers. It must present a compelling case for the importance of the proposed work and provide a convincing rationale and evidence that you and your team are the best people to carry out the project. Developing the specific-aims page is usually the first stage of the grant writing process, as it provides an overview of the proposal and research directions. Furthermore, it can be instrumental in getting external feedback from program officers, collaborators, and others as the grant develops. The process of writing the Specific Aims page requires that one touch on each of the elements that comprise the scoring criteria of the proposal (eg, significance, innovation, investigator(s), approach, and environment) and succinctly introduce all the main topics that will be addressed in the application, but focus especially on the knowledge gap and the importance of filling it, the central hypothesis and the aims that will address it, and the overall impact of the work. This page sets a clear framework for writing the rest of the grant. In this article, we present a set of recommendations and guidelines on how to utilize an algorithmic approach to develop the specific-aims page, what elements to include, and how to maximize its value to create a competitive grant.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Financing, Organized*
  • Humans
  • Writing*