Office of Research & Creative Scholarship
Compiled by Program Directors in the Division of Undergraduate Education
Read the Program Announcement
- NSF has no hidden agendas. It’s all there in the program announcement.
- Talk with a program officer to make sure your ideas fit in the program. If the program officer tells you your ideas are too narrow or don’t fit a program, look for other sources.
- Make sure your project is worthwhile, realistic, well-planned, and innovative.
Work on Projects You Care Deeply About
- Let your commitment come through in the proposal.
- Make sure reviewers can understand the importance of this work to your institution and to others.
- Caveat: Don’t become such a one-song person that you can’t listen to other ideas.
Build on What Others Have Done
- Like any research project, you must build on what others have done before you and then add to the base of knowledge. Don’t reinvent the wheel.
- Read the literature, go to workshops, talk with others.
- Be current.
- Discuss the value added of your project. What are you adding to the knowledge base?
Think Global, Act Local and Global
- Your project must have more than just a local impact. It must impact more than just your students and your institution. How can others use and build on your work?
- However, we do want you to be a “prophet in your own land.” If the project is not good enough for you and your institution to use, why should others use it?
Have Measurable Goals and Objectives
- Enhancing student learning, improving undergraduate education, and other similar things are lofty, but not measurable. Make sure you have measurable goals and objectives. What will be delivered? What is needed to convince others that this works and is worth supporting or emulating?
- Successful projects are team efforts, although individuals matter too. Your project team should be greater than the sum of its parts.
- You work in a department. Department efforts are more likely to be successful than one-person efforts.
- You must have the support of administrators. Keep them involved, make them look good, give them credit, find out what they need to support you.
- Get a good group of internal and external advisors and an outside evaluator (or evaluation team).
Use Good Management Skills
- Have a realistic timeline and implementation schedule from the beginning and stick to it.
- Have milestones and specific deliverables (with dates).
- Use carrots when you can (but be prepared to use the baton when you must). Don’t reward until people deliver.
- Assign responsibilities, but also give folks needed authority to do them, and then hold them accountable.
Evaluation is Impact and Effectiveness
- You do need numbers. How many students are impacted? How many faculty? How many students succeed in the next course?
- You also need evidence that your project is having an impact and that it is effective. How do you know the project is working and that it is worthwhile?
- Ask who needs to be convinced and what evidence will they accept.
- You cannot evaluate yourself. You must have outside validation.
- Build in evaluation from the beginning.
Spread the Word
- Work with other faculty and support them as they try to implement your materials. Doing new things is not easy.
- Try to get a team of folks who have used your materials to help spread the word.
- Reach out to other disciplines.
- Have a proactive dissemination plan. A website is necessary, but not sufficient.
- Keep NSF or your funder informed. They have to report too. It’s all a cycle.
- Send in reports on time. Use the required format.
- Send in “nuggets,” information about awards, student impact, pictures, etc.
- Give credit to NSF or other funders, your administrators, your team members, your department, etc. Giving credit to others makes you look better and gets you better support later.
- Offer to be a reviewer and to help others.
External Funding Pre-Approval
Before starting an application for funding from an external institution, please fill out and submit the External Funding Pre-Approval Form.