The Specific Aims section is the most important section of your grant proposal, however, the good news is that you already have a good foundation built with your one-page specific aims document made in the previous chapter.

  • Stop and Consider: This is the most important section of the entire grant proposal. It is likely that the success or failure of your application hangs on this section.
  • You can now afford to expand the wording on your original one-page specific aims document if allowed by the funding agency. Keep the overall feel and organization of the document.
  • List succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed, these may include:
    • Test a stated hypothesis
    • Create a novel design
    • Solve a specific problem
    • Challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice
    • Address a critical barrier to progress in the field
    • Develop new technology.
  • Your Specific Aims: The aims are the tasks that must be undertaken, in the order that they must be undertaken, to obtain the objective. You should limit your aims to no more than three or four and each should be of equal weight and contain an equal amount of work. Each must flow into the next; however, it is important that none of your specific aims are dependent on specific accepted outcomes of a previous aim.
    • NOT:  Does A cause B? 
      • If you have an “Does A cause B?” type of aim, remember that your project may come to a sudden and horrible end  if A doesn’t turn out to cause B.
    • USE:  Does A cause B or non-B
      • By using “Does A cause B or non-B” you shift the project and your success no longer depends on only one outcome, and one or more different outcomes would also be of interest.
      • Make sure the “non-B” outcomes make sense based on both your central hypothesis and preliminary data.
    • Descriptive Specific Aim
      • Example: “We will measure levels of X in 1,000 samples of Y to characterize the pattern of expression of X.”
      • Though this may be very doable, it is rarely a highly significant finding in itself and often should be avoided unless you have no other choice. Such descriptive findings should usually be part of your preliminary data, not part of your proposal.

Then, you need to write the final few general closing lines about the positive impact of your proposed research. Summarize the general impact of the expected outcomes that, collectively, will advance your field vertically, as well as contribute to the mission of the funding agency and the RFA that you are targeting.