Category Archives: Planning

Exploring Careers in Academia event

Exploring Careers in Academia: Broadening your Options

Tuesday, December 10th (begins at 9:30 AM in Campus Center 163C)

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School Office of Professional Development, the Graduate Women in STEM (GWIS), and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). Would you like to learn more about academic career paths? Gain insights from a panel of professionals from Springfield Technical Community College, UMass Amherst, Western New England University, and Westfield State University. No registration required for the panel session and all are welcome. There are a few seats remaining at the networking luncheon with panelists – register below.

Event flyer:  Exploring Careers in Academia
Guest speakers: Panelist Bios
Luncheon: Networking Lunch Registration


The start of the semester is upon us and now is the time to prepare for classes, meetings, dissertation writing, and teaching to conflict with your grant writing. As graduate students it is important to remember that every requirement of your academic career needs to get some of your time. A good way to manage what items need to be addressed at what times is by using a Gantt chart. In its most basic form, a Gantt chart sets out tasks and dates/hours/lengths of time in a format that makes it easy to assess progress. This is a charting system you can do with Excel and can be as simple or fancy as you prefer.

Check out this video on how to make a simple Gantt chart in Excel.



Many granting agencies like your project to be laid out in this way so they can see that you have thought about how you will progress. It is also useful for other academic planning and life scheduling. In the GrantSearch office (527 Goodell) we are working on a Gantt chart to maintain our own schedule of events and activities that need to be carried out weekly, throughout the semester, and throughout the academic year.


Getting Started

writers-blockSo, once you’ve done your preliminary search, and come up with a list of possible funding opportunities, what’s next?

Figure out what exactly you’re proposing for each grant. Funders look for different types of projects or different aspects that they are interested in funding. You might have a few grants with similar expectations, or you might be applying for grants with different angles on the same project. If all of the funders are for the same project, or the same part of it (if you’re applying for small grants), then you might be able to use some of your materials for several applications. You’ll want to be really careful about this though, because in general each funder has a particular interest in funding research, and you want to make sure that your materials really address that specifically in each application.

Depending on how you’ve organized yourself, you might find it helpful to make a list (if you haven’t already) of what documents each application requires, and the page, word, or character limits for those documents. You can also include the deadline for each grant to help you figure out what order you might need to work in. (See also our post on organizing your grant search and application process.)

It might be helpful to include in this list some of the keywords that define the funder’s interest and the description of the grant itself. That way, when you are looking at what you need to write, you’ll have a reminder of what each funder’s angle is, and you’ll be able to incorporate some of those ideas into your description of your project (see also our post on how to conceive of and describe your project).

Everyone has a particular way that they write best. It might mean making an outline first, or simply starting to write and see where you get. Maybe you write three different versions and then think about what the virtues are of each version, and how you can consolidate them to get all of the best parts into one piece. In any case, the process will take a lot of editing, so be ready to do multiple versions of each document, where you pare down your text to fit the space limits, refine your language to be as precise as possible, and check that your description is appropriate for the audience. If you have small pieces of text that you anticipate you’ll use for several different applications, you might want to keep a document where you store those paragraphs so that you can find them easily. It’s a good idea to keep all of your major drafts, so that if you later remember something that you included in an early draft that you want to put back in, you can find it easily.

Part of the challenge at this stage is keeping track of what you’re doing. You can use your list of funders and documents as a checklist to mark which documents you’ve started, which you’ve proofed, maybe which you’ve shown to peers or professors for comments.

One of the biggest problems that a lot of us have with all aspects of academic production, including grant writing (also dissertation writing) is simply getting started. And one of the secrets is that once you overcome that initial inertia, things become much easier. So once you know what kinds of documents you need to write, pick one and start on it. It might be the grant that you’re the most excited about, or the description you think will be the easiest, or that you’re the most ready to write. You might start part of one document and later discover that actually, it belongs in a different document (the project proposal or the personal statement, for example), but at least you’ve started.

Set yourself goals for finishing drafts. If it helps, team up with colleagues who are also working on applications and keep track of each others’ goals to keep yourselves honest. You can even break up documents into smaller parts and then set shorter-term goals for sections of text. The section on your experimental methodology for your project proposal, or the section of your personal statement where you discuss how your experience with teaching has influenced your research goals (with concrete examples).

The important thing is to get going and then keep going. Try to write a little each day. How much will depend on you as a writer, on the grant itself, on your timeline. But once you get into the habit, you’ll find that the end comes more quickly.

Reminder: Intro to Grant Writing Sessions next week

72749_438069952943719_326566882_nIf you missed our Intro to Grantwriting session in February, you’re in luck! We are offering it again in April. This session is the second half of a 2-part series and focuses on the basics of grant proposal writing (if you need an introduction to seeking and applying for grants, check out Part I: Intro to Grant Searching). We are offering the Part II: Intro to Grant Writing session twice – with one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. Pre-registration is required. Please register via this link:

Intro to Grant Writing
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
9:30-11:00 am/Campus Center Rm 165-169

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
4:30-6:00 pm/Campus Center Rm 165-169

Reminder: Register for Start Your Grant Writing Workshops


Want to start writing a grant application to an external (non-UMass) funder but don’t know where to start? Trying to get a proposal in shape to submit and don’t know how to get the reviewer’s attention with the all-important first paragraph? Then attend GrantSearch’s Start Your Grant Writing Workshop!

Choose the workshop appropriate to your field:

  • For STEM/Health Sciences Students
    • Tuesday, April 16th, 4:30-6:00 pm
  • For Humanities and Fine Arts, Isenberg School of Management, and Social and Behavioral Sciences students
    • Tuesday, April 17th, 9:30-11:00 am

This hands-on writing session will:

  • inspire and motivate you to get started on applying for external funding for your research;
  • show you how to craft a paragraph that will grab the reviewer and make him/her want to read more;
  • give you practice giving and receiving feedback with a peer partner (don’t worry – we encourage constructive critiques and establish a collegial atmosphere!);
  • provide you with a skill that will become part of your academic tool kit, which you can use to prepare funding proposals, apply for jobs, submit a conference paper, or impress that major scholar you got lucky enough to meet in an elevator.

This workshop is limited to 20 participants and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.  Please come prepared with at least a rough idea of the research you want to seek funding for.   

Please register here.
The location of the event will be emailed to the first 20 students who register (based on the time each student’s email is received by GSGS).  Once we have a list of 20, other students will be put on an alternate list and will also be notified of their alternate status.

NOTE: We will assume that you have a basic understanding of the application process for external grants and fellowships. No instruction on this topic will be given at the workshop. For general information on grants and fellowships, go to the Downloads page and review the “Intro to Grant Writing for Grad Students – the Basics” PDF file and other handouts available there (you’ll need a reader such as Adobe Acrobat).