Designing Competitive Research Questions for Grant Proposals

Workshop Summary

Federal grants supporting new educational initiatives typically require a blend of implementation and research. Where evaluation focuses on the effectiveness or success of the implementation, the research components focus on more generalizable learning. In this workshop, we will focus on tools to identify research questions and develop research plans to answer them. You will work in pairs to give one another feedback, which will also provide lots of opportunities to get to know other participants.

Learn about the whole summer series here:

Goals of the Workshop

The goals of this workshop are:

  1. Participants will learn how to use management tools (gap, SWOT, etc.) to identify research questions
  2. Participants will apply new tools to their own proposals and collaboratively provide feedback to hone specific questions
  3. Participants will learn how to craft a research plan based upon specific, answerable research questions
  4. Participants will be better equipped to draft a successful grant proposal

Tentative Schedule

At this time the schedule is tentative.

  1. Introductions & networking (30 minutes)
  2. Brainstorming research questions for sample project (30 minutes)
  3. What makes a good research question? (30 minutes)
  4. Gap analysis – what are your research questions? what are your hypotheses? (75 minutes)
  5. SWOT analysis – how can you answer them? (75 minutes)
  6. Grant writing next steps (45 minutes)

Note: Breaks not shown


Enrollment is free and is limited to 20 participants per workshop. It is hoped that the small workshop size will facilitate networking and promote collaboration across institutions by individuals who share common interests in research and education.

Participation priority is for current HSI faculty and staff who teach undergraduate STEM courses. Non-HSI faculty staff who teach undergraduate STEM courses are eligible to apply if they: 1) currently collaborate as PIs/co-PIs on a funded or pending NSF EHR/DUE grant that includes HSI faculty/staff as PI/co-PIs or 2) would like to network to find HSI partners for future collaborative projects in education or research.

Admission priority is for faculty within the first 10 years of their first academic tenure-track appointment. Applicants should be aware that the selection process strives for diverse geographical and institutional representation.  The selection decision is final and summary reviews are not provided.


Submit your application at this link:

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to…

  1. Use a gap analysis to identify a focus for their grant proposal’s research
  2. Use a SWOT analysis to identify the best route for answering a grant proposal’s research questions
  3. Design specific and answerable research questions
  4. Identify potential sources of baseline data
  5. Build a research plan around the proposed research questions

Workshop Details

  • Workshop Description

    Gain insight into what makes a good research question. Using tools such as a gap and SWOT analysis, we will develop the tools necessary to identify your grant’s core research topic and then hone a set of clear and grant-appropriate research questions.

  • Workshop Dates:

    03/18/2022 | 9 AM PDT – 2 PM PST

  • Who should attend?

    Faculty and staff who are writing or planning to write grant proposals for any federal agency should attend. No prior experience or background in any particular research methods are necessary. Please come prepared with a 1-page summary of your proposed idea and the relevant solicitation or request for proposals.

  • Cost

    The workshop is free to all attendees

  • Flyer

    Click to Download PDF

Workshop Speakers

Dr. Rupu Gupta, Researcher, Knology

Dr. Gupta is a conservation psychologist, trained in applied social psychology with expertise in mixed-methods research methodologies and data analysis. She leads Knology’s Biosphere research, focusing on inclusive practices in the environmental movement, community resilience, and culturally responsive evaluation. She is a lead researcher on STEM Matters, a 5-year NSF-funded research initiative exploring the role of zoos and aquariums in STEM learning, and has been named research personnel on over a half a dozen additional federal grants.

Dr. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, Researcher, Knology

Dr. Barchas-Lichtenstein is a linguistic anthropologist who leads Knology’s Media research, as well as a core member of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology’s Committee on Language and Social Justice. Her work focuses on how media circulates, and what that means for questions of both learning and representation. She is Co-PI of Meaningful Math, a 4-year NSF-funded collaboration between PBS NewsHour and Knology, and has been named research personnel on over half a dozen additional federal grants.

Workshop Sponsors and External Links

Logo - National Science FoundationLogo - HSI Stem Hub

Workshop Attendees

October 29, 2021

  • Celia Jenkins – Director of Grants Management, Cochise College
  • David Quintero – Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University
  • Heather Haeger – Associate Director of Educational Research, California State University – Monterey Bay
  • Hui Cai – Assistant Professor, University of California – Merced
  • Victor Burgos – Chief Learning Officer, AMBE Academy, Inc. 501 (c)(3)
  • Tammy Castro – Professor, Bloomfield College
  • Kalynn Baldock – Assistant Professor of Agriculture, Eastern New Mexico University
  • Carolyn King – Associate Professor, Queensborough Community College – CUNY
  • Chantale Damas – Associate Professor of Physics, Queensborough Community College – CUNY
  • Ji Kim – Assistant Professor, Guttman Community College – CUNY
  • Zaira Mateo – Director of Scientific Research Center/ Faculty Biomedical Sciences, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
  • Elizabeth Langran – Professor of Education, Marymount University
  • Eri Bubar – Associate Professor of Physics, Marymount University
  • Matthew Loeser – Biology Instructor/ STEM Grant Director, Yakima Valley College