Over at the Discover magazine blog Cosmic Variance, Julianne Dalcanton shares tips for crafting what she calls a "well-argued proposal." Such a proposal must show that the science is "important, feasible, [and] efficient." To demonstrate those three qualities, Dalcanton suggests focusing first on selling points — the importance — and on potential weaknesses — which speak to the feasibility and efficiency — of the proposed work. "I then start filling out each with short bullet points listing every possible argument for or against what I'm proposing," she says. While pointing out selling points is relatively simple, Dalcanton says focusing on potential weaknesses can be tough because "you need to channel your inner crabby reviewer."
Once that's done, Dalcanton says to take a step back to evaluate the overall proposal, making sure that its main message comes through. "If your ideas are strong, you'll usually find that several of the most compelling bullet points will group together and can be ordered to tell a single story," she says. For any unresolved potential weaknesses, Dalcanton suggests constructing a "road map for what you need to do to make your experiment look feasible and efficient" in the reviewers' eyes.
Overall, Dalcanton recommends thoroughly considering all positive and potential negative points to include in the proposal before beginning to write it. "The exercise of structuring your argument first is designed to be fast, so you don't sink much time in before you decide whether to continue or not," she says.