The Role of a Literature Review in Grant Proposals

Christmas is coming up, so what’s a professor got to do? Hide from the family and work on grant proposals, naturally. Right now I’m upset about the misunderstanding of the role that literature reviews play in grant proposals (by way of reviewer comments).

Reviewing literature is just a general activity, but one that can serve many purposes. Depending on the purpose, different review techniques are more or less suited to help achieve that purpose. I’ll focus on the two main purposes, related work and theory building.

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How Not to Organize Written Exams

The traditional and efficient way for setting up and grading written exams is to have a professorship create the exam, supervise the actual exam, and then also have them grade it. They will usually use a team in the supervision of the exam and the grading, where work is split by exam question: One person (or a team in the case of a large exam) gets to grade one question across all exams. This ensures fairness, consistency, and speed.

Enter the Bavarian Ministry of Education. It invented a wholly different approach to creating and grading written exams. Here, it applies to students aiming to become informatics high school teachers.

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Dear Ph.D. Student: Don’t be Afraid of Prior Art

A first step in a one-person research project in a domain new to a researcher (Ph.D. student) is to read-up on related work. This can be daunting, as sometimes it feels like everything has been done already, and there is nothing new to write a dissertation about. Fear not! With enough digging, the opportunities will present itself.

In software engineering research, the value of past engineering work can be confusing. What does it mean that there is an open source project in which someone implemented something similar to your idea? And even wrote a blog post or report about it? The short answer: This is a golden opportunity for fabulous research and not a threat to your idea.

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Price for Value, not for Costs

If there is one thing I wished more of my fellow academic peers would understand when working with industry, it is this: You should

Price for value created, not for costs incurred.

Many professors, when asked about the price of some proposed work, will calculate the direct labor costs needed for the project, add some university overhead or other margin, and then quote the industry partner the resulting costs as the project’s price.

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