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How to Write a Research Proposal in Vascular Surgery: The Basics and Details Not to Forget

Open ArchivePublished:November 28, 2017DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejvs.2017.10.010
      The investigation of a hypothesis in vascular surgery requires financial and administrative resources that are usually unavailable to the investigator. To obtain support and funds from public entities, or private foundations, it is necessary to write a document explaining the project. The description should include all relevant aspects, stating the importance of the project in order improve quality of life or reduce the mortality rate, and detail the necessary costs. An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project even if the idea is brilliant. In contrast, a high quality proposal, even if the idea is not unique, can predict a successful project, and can also make a good impression on the evaluating committee about your potential as a researcher.

      Basic contents

      Most organisations have structured guides with indexes and contents. You will be competing for highly sought after economic resources, so the formal filter will be the first hurdle where some projects will be immediately rejected. Even if the proposal can be resubmitted before the deadline, the chances of success will have diminished drastically. Make sure that your application complies with the organisation's requirements the first time around.

      Title

      An effective title not only pricks the reader's interest, but also predisposes him/her favourably towards the proposal. Vascular academic titles should be descriptive and concise, preferably including a catchy word or phrase (i.e., strength, impact, new …), the topic key words, and describe the study design. A “normal” title would be “A comparison of femoropopliteal stents and DEBs in the elderly” a better one would be “Outcome of elderly patients with femoropopliteal disease: prospective comparative study of patency and limb salvage between stents and DEBs”

      Abstract

      Although there is more formal freedom than in an original manuscript sent to a journal, the abstract should include the rationale behind the study and the explicit research question. The “Methods” must include the design, sample, procedures, time frame, and all instruments that will be used.

      Introduction

      Define the background leading to the study, describing previous research and the current situation, with the gaps in the evidence that this project will try to fill. Explain the theoretical, practical and/or social importance of the problem for vascular disease; specify the potential applications, scope, and contributions of this research. Mention other groups that are working on the same topic and their achievements, which can support the hypothesis. Include a reasonably complete and updated bibliography and historical scientific landmark papers.

      Objective

      The objective should clearly convey the researcher's idea to the project evaluator. It should answer the following questions: Why this research? Why at this time? What do we want to do? Where do we want to go? The feasibility of the study should be seen at a glance.

      Hypothesis

      There may be more than one hypothesis, and they must be developed independently. The variables should be understandable, well defined, specific, and measurable. The researcher must also include secondary endpoints such as quality of life and other related issues. As many hypotheses in vascular surgery are technology related, the project should be feasible with the technologies available.

      Methodology and working plan

      This must include a more exhaustive description than in the “Material and Methods” of a paper. The most valuable types of study in vascular surgery are prospective, controlled, experimental ones. However, observational cohort studies are necessary for epidemiological and outcome knowledge. Specifically, vascular surgery is a field with many highly regarded valid registries that are excellent tools. Specify how the data will be collected, organised, guarded, and analysed. Include a timeline with tasks and milestones to be achieved in each time frame, with an explanatory algorithm. Always comply with the guidelines of Good Clinical Practice, and ethical and legal requirements.

      Expected scientific contributions

      The researchers are usually the only ones to present and publish the results. The distribution of economic benefits should be agreed in writing, if they are expected.

      Details not to forget

      Importance of the research project

      “Sell” the project to the potential sponsor. The need. Why is it so important to carry out this project? The utility. What is it for? Giving due importance is essential if you are to excel over other projects.
      Highlight the innovative character of the project.

      Social and economic impact

      Who will benefit from the results? How?

      Budget

      Except for grants with a predetermined financial allocation, all reports must include a detailed and justified budget with direct and indirect costs.

      CVs

      Include the scientific CVs of all members of the applicant team.

      Annexes and appendices

      These can include figures and tables that are too complex to include in the text, a glossary of terms and abbreviations, complete bibliography, algorithms, and schedules.

      Good writing

      Poor writing and redundancy are the most common mistakes. The proposal should be coherent and persuasive. Check for grammatical and spelling mistakes. Ask for feedback from external reviewers. The best proposals move forward with ease and grace.

      Useful websites

      1. Study Guides and Strategies. “How to write a research proposal”, http://www.studygs.net/proposal.htm

      2. University of Birmingham. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/schools/law/courses/research/research-proposal.aspx

      3. USCLibraries Research Guides. “Organising Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Writing a Research Proposal”, http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/researchproposal

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