Skip to main content

NCCIH Research Blog

Writing a Grant Application? Make Sure Your Idea Is Unique

July 26, 2023

Wendy J. Weber, N.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Wendy J. Weber, N.D., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Branch Chief

Clinical Research in Complementary and Integrative Health Branch

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View biographical sketch

Are you planning to apply for a research grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)? Make sure your proposed research is truly new and unique. We know how much time and effort go into writing an application, so we don’t want you to waste time proposing work that someone else has already done. Unless your goal is to replicate a previous study, NIH is unlikely to support your project if it duplicates someone else’s research.

You can use these three resources to help you identify completed and in-progress studies on topics closely related to the one you want to investigate:

  • PubMed®PubMed is a free U.S. Government database that includes more than 35 million citations for biomedical publications. It’s the best place to start when you want to search the literature for published research. If you’re new to using PubMed, check out this page on our website for a quick introduction to its most useful features. To learn more, go to the PubMed User Guide.
  • NIH RePORTERNIH RePORTER gives you access to an extensive database of information on completed and in-progress NIH-funded research projects. To get started, check out our guide to NIH RePORTER. The MatchMaker tool within RePORTER can help you identify similar projects and find the related NIH program officials. We recommend talking to a program official before submitting your application and this is a good way to find one. RePORTER includes projects funded by NIH as well as the Administration for Children and Family, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Health Resources and Services Administration, and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • is the world’s largest repository of clinical trial information. It includes both ongoing and completed trials. You can search it using a variety of terms for interventions and conditions; find out whether a trial has been completed; get details about study design, sample size, and comparison groups; and examine the results of the trial if they have been posted. If your application will include a clinical trial, this is an important database to search.

The time you spend searching these databases is a good investment because you can use what you learn to help you develop a better application. To choose the best research question, you need to consider:

  • How does your idea differ from earlier work?
  • How would your project build on the existing evidence?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of previous research?
  • What knowledge gaps could your study fill?

Your project should take the next step in advancing the science in your area of research. Knowing what work has already been done can help you decide what that step should be.

For More Information

Learn more about applying for grants from the Grant Application Resources page on our website.


Comments are now closed for this post.