Page Limitations

As behavioral intervention research is complex, the page limitations frequently imposed by funders can be painful. There are many different components to explain in an intervention study as discussed earlier, particularly at the efficacy and effectiveness phases, and page limitations imposed by funders can be a challenge.

Unfortunately, behavioral intervention researchers are caught between needing to provide details and lack of space to do so. A common critique by grant reviewers is that a proposal lacks sufficient details to fully understand the proposed study particularly as it concerns a recruitment plan, the intervention, the measures, and/or the data analytic approach. Thus, despite page limitations, the narrative of a proposal must contain the essential details for reviewers to fully comprehend the applicant’s plan of action. Therefore, every word and sentence in a proposal must be contributory. There is no room for superfluous statements.

It can be challenging to decide which detail to include in a proposal narrative. Using tables to summarize information such as proposed measures, their psychometric properties and testing occasion, or session-by-session (see Chapter 3) description of the intervention may save space and allow a lot of information to be displayed. As figures and tables can often be inserted in a proposal using small font sizes (e.g., Arial 9), they can save space yet provide important details; however, always check first as to whether the funding agency allows this type of approach and smaller font. While all grant proposals do have a certain level of redundancy, in an intervention proposal this has to be minimized given space constraints.

Page limitations are particularly challenging when proposing efficacy or effectiveness trials as study designs for these trials often have multiple components that must be explained. For example, when proposing a randomized trial, each of the following elements of the study design must be explained: the testing occasions, measures, each of the interventions to be tested (treatment and control groups), recruitment and retention plans, fidelity strategies, theory bases, pilot work justifying the trial, power and sample size considerations, and analytic plan. To maximize space, a flow chart to illustrate the proposed study design or conceptual model can help to illustrate the variables of interest and their hypothetical linkages. As stated previously, a table of measures can outline each measure being proposed, its purpose (e.g., covariate, baseline descriptor, primary or secondary outcome), psychometric properties, and other relevant details; and a table outlining the content of intervention sessions can efficiently relay what will be tested.

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