Use the Principle of Recognition in Your Grant Proposals

The simplest and most common decision-making approach that people use in their daily lives is that of recognition, which divides the world into two categories: unrecognized objects, ideas, people, and other topics, and everything else.  It works very quickly and with limited knowledge.

Once an individual recognizes something from memory, the search for information immediately stops.  Because recognition is extremely simple, fast, and frugal, it is heavily dependent on recalled content and the experienced ease of recall.

Recognition is a powerful decision-making tool because a search that relies on recognizing cues makes fewer demands on memory and computational skills than a search for alternatives.  This is especially true under time pressure, when individuals are apt to use simple strategies to solve problems and make decisions.  Nothing is simpler and more direct than recognizing and recalling relevant cues, which seems perfectly tailored to the evaluation of grant proposals.

Because recognition is so widely used in decision-making, grant proposals should be structured to help reviewers quickly locate the applicant’s responses to the grant guidelines’ evaluation criteria. To accomplish this goal, grant applicants should:

  • Organize information by (1) structuring the proposal according to the grant guidelines; (2) discussing major points in decreasing order of importance; (3) summarizing major points and benefits throughout the proposal; and (4) focusing on the needs and mission of the government agency.
  • Develop no more than a few major theme statements that are directly linked to the evaluation criteria and use them to organize the content of the proposal.
  • Ensure that all major theme statements have solutions, benefits, and proof.
  • Write the Executive Summary for non-technical reviewers.
  • Link features and benefits to the evaluation criteria.
  • Write simply and clearly. Use short sentences and paragraphs. Use plenty of white space. Use the active voice.
  • Use plenty of bulleted and numbered lists to make important points.
  • Use headings with the exact wording from the grant guidelines.
  • Use visuals to emphasize benefits, features, and major themes.

Recognition may appear to be a very elementary approach to solving problems and making decisions, but it is widely used by everyone, including evaluators.  In proposals, as in life, cues and clarity foster recognition and recall.

The decision-making processes that grant evaluators use to review grant proposals are adaptive mental strategies that have evolved because of the need to make judgments and decisions with bounded rationality, limited amounts of time, and under the stress of competing tasks.  Like the rest of us, the cognitive resources of evaluators are limited, and thus they rely on a mental toolbox of fast and frugal techniques to decide which proposals to recommend.

Grant reviewers use as little of the available information in proposals as is possible to make decisions, which enables them to work efficiently and effectively. These mental processes may not be optimal, but they do provide satisfactory solutions.  Use the principle of recognition to help reviewers evaluate your grant proposal.

1 Comment

  1. jackie evancho
    October 11, 2010

    Finally something that really make sense. Was looking for this in other sites but not anymore!


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