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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

Grant Application Tips

Tips to Help You Get Started

  • Before you begin writing your grant application, read the Form PHS 398 instructions carefully and become familiar with all requirements.
  • If you are responding to an AHRQ Program Announcement (PA) or Request for Applications (RFA), please read the announcement and all instructions carefully. After reviewing the announcement, we encourage you to contact an AHRQ staff member to clarify any questions you may have. AHRQ program staff can provide advice on scientific and technical issues. AHRQ grants management staff can provide advice on business and administrative issues.
  • If at all possible, it would be helpful to contact someone in your institution (e.g. Research Administration office) who can assist in understanding and completing application materials. It may be helpful to preview an application submitted by your institution that competed successfully.
  • When preparing the grant application, it will be helpful to establish internal deadlines, especially when collaborating investigators are involved. Consult staff within your institution to determine whether there are institutional deadlines that you need to adhere to.
  • Please reread your application and share with collaborators to obtain feedback. It is a good idea to have colleagues or an independent expert provide an objective critique your application.
  • If more than one investigator is contributing to the writing, it would be helpful to have one overall editor. Prior to submission, a final proofread of the grant application should be done.
  • When submitting a revised application, it is critical to respond to reviewer comments from the original summary statements. We recommend that you consult the AHRQ Project Officer for guidance. Also, it is critical to thoroughly review the application to determine what updates may be necessary.

Tips on Preparing the PHS 398 Application

Applicants should follow Form PHS 398 instructions. Please note that the PHS 398 application is revised from time to time. Please be sure to use the most current version of Form PHS 398. Applicants should pay careful attention to the special instructions described in any individual grant announcement that they are responding to. AHRQ strictly enforces formatting requirements and may return improperly formatted applications.

Please pay attention to page limits. The page limit for the research plan of an R01 large research grant application is 25 pages and only sections a through d of the research plan count toward the page limit. The detailed budget and justification pages, biosketches, literature cited, human subjects information, consortium/contractual arrangements, letters of support (e.g., consultants) as well as appendix material are not included in the 25-page limit.

Please pay attention to font, font size, margins, and spacing requirements.

Formatting tips:

  • AHRQ encourages you to use Arial 12-point font.
  • Do not exceed 15 letters per inch; fewer is better.
  • Use no more than 6 lines per vertical inch—don't squeeze lines together.
  • Margins must be at least 1 inch.
  • Font size in figures and tables must be easily readable.
  • There are other specifications; for example, the document must not be permanently bound and, except for the appendix, it must be photocopy-ready (black and white, no glossy paper).

General tips:

  • Be clear and try to avoid jargon.
  • Be consistent with terms, references and writing style.
  • Make sure all acronyms are spelled out when being used initially.
  • All materials are to be prepared in black ink.
  • Make sure all citations include complete information.
  • Have an outside reader review the application to provide objective comments.
  • Essential information should be included within the body of the grant application. The appendices should contain supportive or supplemental information. It is recommended that a Table of Contents for the appendix materials be included as a cover sheet with the appendices.
  • Ensure that the application face page includes all necessary information, including check boxes, and that original signatures are included (e.g., Principal Investigator and institutional business officials).
  • As you prepare your application, keep in mind the deadline for receipt of applications and plan your submission to arrive on time.

AHRQ does not accept modular budgets. A detailed budget with full justification is required.

Current as of February 2005

Internet Citation:

Grant Application Tips. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care