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Getting Research Funding in Psychology & Law: 12 Things You Need to Address

This is a summary of a presentation on grant writing in psychology and law (forensic psychology) given by Professor Ray Bull at the Student and Early Career portion at the annual EAPL conference. Professor Ray Bull teaches courses on forensic psychology and conducts research in the area at the University of Leicester, UK. As of June 27th, 2014, Professor Ray Bull is also the President of the European Association of Psychology and Law.


To have a chance of being successful a funding application should

(i)   propose research of very high quality

(ii)  be of value not only within the research community but also to potential users/beneficiaries in the ‘real world’

(iii)  demonstrate value for money (but not necessarily be ‘cheap’)

(iv)  convince the reviewers/readers of your (the team’s) ability to deliver

(v) mostly be written in plain English. [Your proposal is likely to be seen by many people, including some who will not be familiar with your particular specialisation. Detail and specification may necessitate the use of disciplinary terminology and this will be clear to the peer reviewers, but the ideas you wish to convey and your reasons for doing so should be easily apparent to a wide audience.]

To have any chance of achieving this you MUST ask lots of people to help you improve your (draft) proposal.

Top 12 things you need to know: Ask yourself the following questions.

1. Have I clearly formulated the problem, have I put it in context of contemporary scientific and theoretical debates, and demonstrated the way in which my work will build on existing research (e.g. by others) and make a contribution to the area? 

2. Is there a clear and convincingly argued analytical framework? What will the research do, to whom or to what, and why?

3. Have I established appropriate aims and objectives? Are they clear and concise, do they reflect both intellectual aims and practical, attainable objectives? 

4.  Have I provided a well-thought out research design in which there is a reasoned explanation of the scale, timing and resources necessary? Am I being realistic about these? Am I using the most relevant approach and the most appropriate methods? How will the design relate to and deliver the objectives? 

5. Have I given a full and detailed description of the proposed research methods? Is there any innovation in the methodology I am planning to use? Am I developing any new methods or using established methods innovatively? 

6. Have I fully defended my chosen research design and made it clear why others are not appropriate?

7. Have I demonstrated a clear and systematic approach to the analysis of data and how this fits with the research design? 

8. Have I recognised and planned for the skills and competencies that will be required to bring the work to a satisfactory conclusion? 

9. The reference list at the end of your application may well be used in the selection of referees and will indicate your familiarity with the theoretical grounding and current status of your topic. 

10. Have I made it clear how the proposed grant holder(s) has/have relevant competence, credentials and expertise? 

11. Have I identified potential users of this research outside of the academic community; have I involved/consulted them in my planning? Have I arranged for their continuing involvement in the research process in an appropriate way?

12.Have I provided a clear dissemination strategy for the research demonstrating how the research outcomes will be communicated to all interested parties including potential users of the research outside of the academic community?  

Keep the following questions in mind as you plan:

  • what is the story you are telling?
  • who are the audiences? 
  • why does it matter? 
  • why now? 
  • why you?