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Tips for Writing a Good Proposal

What topics is CERA looking for?

  • Occasionally, CERA will put out a call for specific topics.
  • For general calls for proposals, CERA is most interested in topics that are currently of great interest to medical educators. 
  • CERA prioritizes topics that are highly publishable.
  • CERA prioritizes two categories of topics:
    1. those that pertain to the central tenants of family medicine
    2. those that are of great interest to medical educators
  • Clinical topics are sometimes accepted, but are not prioritized by CERA

What type of hypotheses is CERA looking for?

CERA is looking for hypotheses that go beyond just describing what is currently happening in family medicine education. We are looking for strong, testable hypotheses. Here are some examples, presented from strongest to weakest:

  • Strongest: “We hypothesize that family medicine programs based in hospitals that also contain orthopedic residency programs teach less basic fracture management”.
  • Weaker: “We hypothesize that less than 25% of family medicine currently provide at least 20 hours of basic fracture management”
  • Weakest: “We hypothesize that few family medicine residencies currently teach an adequate amount of basic fracture management”.
    This hypothesis makes no predictions at all. No definitions of “few” or “adequate” are given. Only descriptive statistics will be used and there is no testable hypothesis.

How does CERA count “questions?” 

To keep surveys a manageable length, and to keep response rates up, CERA limits the number of questions each team is allowed to submit.  The exact number varies by survey.  It is important to understand exactly how CERA counts “questions.” CERA counts every response on a survey as a “question” to keep the length of survey reasonable. Here is how CERA counts various question types:

Each subquestion is counted. For example, the following counts as four questions: 

  1. How important to you feel each of the following procedures are for your residents to learn (1=least important; 5=most important):
    • Shave biopsy        1   2   3   4   5
    • Excisional biopsy   1   2   3   4   5
    • Vasectomy           1   2   3   4   5
    • IUD insertion        1   2   3   4   5

For check all that apply questions, each possible answer is counted. For example, the following counts as six questions:

  1. Which of the following procedures are residents required to become competent to perform in order to graduate (check all that apply)?
    • Shave biopsy
    • Excisional biopsy
    • Vasectomy
    • IUD insertion
    • Colposcopy
    • Limited OB ultrasound

Questions that call for the respondent to rank order have each option counted. For example, the following would count as three questions: 

  1. Rank, from 1 to 3, which of the following procedures you feel are the most important for graduating residents to be competent to perform:
    ___  Shave biopsy
    ___  Excisional biopsy
    ___  Vasectomy
    ___  IUD insertion
    ___  Colposcopy
    ___  Limited OB ultrasound

What types of questions are not allowed in CERA surveys?

While exceptions can be made if there is a compelling reason, the following types of questions are generally not allowed in CERA surveys:

  • Open ended questions are not allowed in CERA surveys.
  • Matrix formats are not allowed in CERA surveys.
  • While they are allowed, “chose all that apply” questions are discouraged. When allowed, each item will be counted as a “question” (see above).



Copyright 2018 by Society of Teachers of Family Medicine