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In developing a grant proposal, the funding agency will usually specify the components to be included and order to be submitted. All guidelines given by the funder must be followed. However, there are some common elements that appear in most proposals.

Cover Page
Most funders specify the format for the cover page and provide special forms to summarize basic administrative and fiscal data for the project. The following items are typically included on the cover page, but always follow the prescribed format if one is provided:

  • Project title
  • Project summary
  • Total cost of project
  • Funds requested from sponsor
  • Name, position, address, phone number, email, and fax number of PI
  • Signature block for PI
  • Signature block for authorized administrative official
  • Name, position, address, phone number, email, and fax number of authorized administrative official

Abstract or Project Summary
Proposals often have an abstract or summary. Funders typically use the abstract in their compilations of research projects funded or in disseminating information on successful projects.

The abstract appears at the beginning of the proposal but should be written as a concise summary of the proposal. (Write it last!)

Table of Contents
Proposals should list all major parts and divisions including lists of illustrations, tables and appendices for the convenience of the reviewer.

The introduction sets the tone of the proposal. The introduction outlines the goals of the project, timeline, and enough background to provide a context of common knowledge for the reviewers (who might not be experts in your field).

Project Goals and Objectives
Goals and objectives are different and are clearly separated in the proposal. The goal of the project is what one hopes to accomplish as a result of the project.

Objectives are statements of precise outcomes that can be measured in support of the goals. Objectives are SMART (specific, measurable, allocable, reasonable and time sensitive).

Review of Literature
Discussions of work done by others gives the reviewers the impression of how this project will build upon what has already been done by others. The literature will also highlight how the proposed project is different and unique from other projects. (It also shows that you done your homework!)

Description of Proposed Project
The project description is the heart of the proposal and is the primary concern of the technical reviewers.

  • Establish the need for the project and the benefits derived.
  • Be realistic. Distinguish between long-range goals and the short-range objectives for which funding is being sought.
  • Develop a clear timeline for your objectives.
  • Clearly define the focus of the project, including its limits.
  • Clearly identify the means of evaluating the data or the conclusions.
  • Clearly describe the connection between the objectives and the methods to show that the approach is carefully developed and thought out.

Plan of Action, Methodology and Design
While the description outlines in more general terms what the project is about and how long it will take to complete, the action plan spells out in specific steps and procedures how the project will take place.

In addition, it may be helpful to reviewers if you present a visual version of your timeline. For less complicated research, a table summarizing the timeline for the project will help reviewers understand and evaluate the planning and feasibility.

Who proposes to do a project is just as important as What is being proposed because a grant is an investment. Reviewers need to be convinced that the research team is capable. Evidence for this includes: education and training; scientific track-record; specific expertise; appropriate percent effort committed; and use of consultants to fill gaps in staff expertise.

The budget spells out project costs and usually consists of a spreadsheet or table with the budget detailed as line items and a budget narrative (also known as a budget justification) that explains the various expenses. Even when proposal guidelines do not specifically mention a narrative, be sure to include a one or two page explanation of the budget.

Current and Pending Support
Many funders request that applicants supply information on any active and pending support. The potential funders review the faculty/staff time allocations and other potential resources for funding in the pending section.

Evaluation represents the logical conclusion to the proposal and sends a clear message to the sponsor that the project is clearly thought out and that the PI is concerned that the stated goals have been achieved. A well developed evaluation process can create more carefully articulated project objectives.

Dissemination refers to the way in which you will let the wider community know about the final outcomes of your project. Funders want to know the impact of your project beyond the project period. The more people who learn from your project, the more interesting and valuable your project is to a funder.

Supplementary Materials
Such as, curriculum vita(e), resources and facilities, letters of support, appendices (where appropriate), etc.

(Some of the information on this page was adapted from California State University Monterey Bay.)