About the Author
Dr. Janell Harvey is an Associate Professor and Faculty Chair at DeVry University. She’s a member of the Grant Professional Association’s National Board of Directors and the American Marketing Association. Dr. Harvey has worked in the field of higher education since 2002 while publishing in the areas of fund development and marketing.More Content by Janell Harvey
A lot of work goes into the research stage of proposal development. And, although the information gathered is essential, the more time it takes – the less time there is to tell your story. In the digital information age, no matter how passionate you are about the proposal you’re writing, it’s more important than ever to validate sources before using data to back-up a proposal. Otherwise, that passion can quickly be followed by disappointment and wasted time.
The information might be interesting and impactful, but is it valid?
Proposal developers must measure the validity of the information that they find online during their research prior to including it in a proposal – which means, statistical data should only be taken from authors with the proper credentials. In the book entitled, Transforming Learning with New Technologies1, the authors classify digital information in a number of ways, pinpointing that information found on the worldwide web can be classified as misinformation or mostly useless information when it does not contain factual data. Misinformation may include a mixture of both valid and truthful information, while mostly useless information is material that was intentionally created without ensuring validity.
A proposal developer may find information on Wikipedia and believe that it is valid for research. While wiki sites can be a good starting point, it’s important to remember that they are not edited… anyone can make additions to them. Books and journal articles, on the other hand, go through an editorial process, in which both men and women with knowledge about the particular subject matter are able to raise questions and make corrections to it.
Is it from a credible source?
Another important factor to consider is the uniform resource locator (URL) used for a particular site. For example, information for a governmental entity should be found on a website that ends in .gov. It’s important to remember that some individuals create personal websites with information on certain topics that is merely based upon their opinion, not necessarily fact.
One way to determine an author’s credentials is to enter his or her name into a search engine like google.com and see what comes up. Experienced authors are also often noted in Google Scholar or research databases like Ebsco Host. Writers should be able to research a particular author to make sure that he or she has the authority, experience and knowledge to provide information on a particular subject. If you can’t find information to validate their knowledge and experience then, chances are, their information or “data” is not valid either.
Where to start?
Some of the best websites for gathering grant related data are The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/), The United States Department of Education (http://www.ed.gov/), and The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/datastatistics/). If you are seeking funds to transform an educational district or desire to collaborate with a number of school districts, The United States Department of Education’s website (http://www.ed.gov/) provides a wide array of data related to schools. Local school district websites also provide data related to annual yearly progress and standardized test scores.
If you are seeking funds to enhance employment opportunities for a particular community, The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics contains relevant data. There you can find the qualities needed to pursue a particular field and the communities that are most likely to hire within a certain industry. Proposal developers that work on behalf of health communities will find that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has national data on every health related condition – and they’ve designed it so you can easily maneuver from one topic to another without having to exit from the website.
Quality websites for data are not limited to those mentioned above, but remember to perform a search to determine the validity of an author’s communication. If he or she has publications in a peer reviewed journal and you can check the validity of their stance through triangulation (three or more additional sources) it is likely that the data is usable. Always check the universal resource locator to ensure that the information is found on a website that is considered competent to publish the information.
Now that you’re a grant research expert, you can get started finding appropriate data for your next proposal, BUT… don’t forget to consider the source.
1Maloy, Robert W., Ruth-Ellen A. Verock, Sharon A. Edwards, and Beverly P. Woolf. Transforming Learning with New Technologies. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2011. Print.