By Heather Stringer
Many graduate students in nursing who are interested in conducting research face the daunting question, “How will I fund this project?” According to a study published in January 2015 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, there has been a steady decline throughout the past 10 years in the federal funding of research in the U.S. “The number of applicants also has increased, which means fewer and fewer people are getting grants from organizations like the National Institutes of Health,” said Jane White, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate dean for research at the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. Although this reality may seem discouraging, White knows several strategies to keep expenses to a minimum and for finding funding beyond large government grants, she said.
“Young researchers often think they have to do huge, groundbreaking, expensive projects, but that is not the only way change happens,” said Patrick Coonan, EdD, RN, dean of the College of Nursing and Public Health at Adelphi. “There are ways you can do research on a shoestring budget. Change also can be made in small, incremental steps that eventually become large shifts.” Here are 10 tips from White and Coonan on how to fund research on a tight budget.
1) Find partners
Rather than hiring consultants to work on a project, consider partnering with faculty members who have the expertise you need. For example, a professor may be interested in doing statistical analysis in exchange for credit on the project. Undergraduate students may be willing to stuff envelopes, pass out surveys or enter data in exchange for partial credit on the study.
2) Post flyers
When recruiting subjects, it can be costly to mail letters. Also, organizations usually charge a fee to divulge member addresses. Posting flyers is cheaper and may yield higher returns on study participants. For example, if you are looking for new mothers, hang flyers in a pediatric office.
3) Cut data collection costs
Rather than paying for a polling organization to set up a survey, researchers today have access to free Web-based services such as SurveyMonkey. If the study involves qualitative research, telephone interviews usually are less expensive than in-person interviews.
4) Select the right instrument
Instead of paying for a copyrighted survey instrument, try to find one that is free. It may be tempting to pay to use a well-known survey or questionnaire, but there usually are reliable alternatives for measuring everything from depression to eating disorders.
5) Don’t skip the data analysis preview
Before collecting data, meet with a consultant who can help you construct the right questions and database for your survey. This preliminary consultation helps researchers avoid making mistakes that could later cost time and money. Investigators also often overestimate the number of responses they need, and the consultant will determine the minimum data set required to obtain a meaningful result.
6) Find money in chunks
Although some researchers secure large grants to cover the costs of a study, many find what they need by applying for smaller amounts of money from different entities. Organizations such as Sigma Theta Tau, the National League of Nursing, American Organization of Nurse Executives and school alumni associations often have grants available for research.
7) Get on a listserv
Government and philanthropic organizations such as the NIH and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation regularly send out emails listing different grants that are available. Regularly reviewing the listings also is an excellent strategy for learning what areas of research are receiving funding.
8) Transcribe for less
For qualitative research, it can be costly to hire someone to transcribe hours of interviews. There are economical software programs such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking that can transcribe recorded interviews.
9) Find affordable space
Instead of renting office space for a study, consider asking to use a room on campus. Professors usually are more than happy to help researchers find free space.
10) Skip the gifts
In hopes of recruiting more subjects, researchers sometimes give participants a gift card or some other token of appreciation. Coonan and White have not seen this method increase the rate of participation.
Heather Stringer is a freelance writer.
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