The Research Assistant: Resources for Behavioral Science Researchers.
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Why you're doing the study. See sample: Background. (Adobe Acrobat File help)

  • This section is your opportunity to convince reviewers that your research is imperative. In other words, the background section should be a carefully constructed and subtle argument for the fact that your research simply must be done.

  • The literature review shows the reviewers that you understand your field and have the base knowledge to perform the tasks you propose. Make sure your review includes the most recent publications in the field. As a general rule, citations more than 10 years old should not be used unless they are absolutely necessary in making the case for the proposed study or if they are seminal works that ought never to be omitted by any informed scholar.

  • The background section should contain:

    • Information about the topic you are studying and why it's widespread, serious, or important (usually called “scope of the problem”);

    • A well-grounded theoretical basis for your study or project; remember that reviewers tend to look favorably upon projects that have strong theoretical underpinnings;

    • A critical review of the relevant literature, including highlights or “sound bites” of ongoing research and gaps in knowledge;

    • A defense of why this study needs to be done and why this research is relevant and necessary for the target population. Use statistics and prevalence rates to emphasize the need; and

    • The long-term uses of this research, including the contributions to the existing pool of knowledge.

  • Sum up this section with a few bullets explaining why your proposed research is important, innovative, timely, and worth doing.

  • This section should be approximately three to five pages.
What is the scope of the problem?

What is the theoretical basis of your study?

What are the gaps in current knowledge?

What are the long-term benefits and contribution to the scientific field?

Note: This sample grant is available for downloading in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, which allows the document to be downloaded, viewed, and printed with all of its original formatting. To view files in this format, you must first download a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader and follow the instructions for installation.



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Last updated: August 12, 2003.