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Writing Proposals

  1. Getting Started

    • Before you begin, know the project for which you seek funding. Display knowledge, background, current information about the project or related field(s), its significance in the discipline, and the relationship of this research to your previous scholarship.
    • Choose funding agencies whose priorities fund projects similar to the one you are proposing.
    • Do not limit your funding search to one source.
    • Look for all available information about funding source and proposal guidelines. Check eligibility, average size of awards and maximum amount available, previous awards, proposal requirements and format, deadlines, evaluation criteria and process.
    • Speak with a program officer, previous reviewers, and successful colleagues so you begin the process armed with as much information as possible.
    • Outline the details of the proposal before you begin to write – narrative, timetable, methodology, budget, personnel, and institutional commitment.
    • Know the literature and use references to strengthen the need for funding your project.
  2. Suggestions on Writing

    • Base the proposal on a good idea that fills a gap in the knowledge of your discipline.
    • Be realistic — Ask for as much funding as you really need to support the period of time in which you can successfully complete the research.
    • Use language that is straightforward, concise, and direct. Be sure that you clearly and completely outline the project.
    • Explain the urgency/timeliness of your work.
    • Explain why YOU are the person to complete this research, i.e. provide evidence that the project can be completed successful by you.
    • Read the guidelines carefully. Then read them again. After you have completed the proposal, read them once more.
    • Follow the directions COMPLETELY. Some proposals demand type sizes, margins, page numbers in particular places etc.
    • If appropriate, describe effective dissemination.
    • If appropriate, describe a credible evaluation plan.
    • Be sure that your audience can understand your proposal. Write specifically to the reviewers and/or program officers who will read your proposal.
    • Provide updated materials, i.e. c.v., literature references, etc.
    • Be honest. State what you expect to be the outcomes, what pitfalls or alternative approaches could arise and contingency plans you might investigate.
    • Use terminology correctly – e.g. Goals and Objects: 1) Objectives are specific, measurable outcomes – promised improvements in the situation you described in the need statement; 2) Goals are broad statements of what you want to do. They cannot be measured.
    • Make sure that you are consistent and that figures and/or text in the narrative, budget, and abstract all say the same thing.
    • Use a style that displays your competence, your excitement for the work, and the importance and timeliness of the project;
    • After you have completed the narrative and the budget, write the abstract and create a title. It is important that these components represent the entire proposal. Since it is the first thing the reviewer and/or program officer will see, be sure it is accurate, describes your proposal, and reflects the goals, objectives and importance of your research.
    • The abstract or proposal summary: May be the first (or only) thin a funding agency reads; it must be clear and concise; it should describe who you are, the scope of the project, and should give the project cost.
  3. Getting the Proposal Out the Door

    • Understand that the first draft needs revision. Get help. Ask colleagues within and beyond your discipline to review it. Ask your grants director to edit.
    • Check deadlines carefully. Do not confuse “postmarked by” with “must be received in this office by.” Know that deadlines are not negotiable.
    • Make sure that your institution is aware of your proposal application and is prepared to sign-off on it. If institutional commitment is a component, get appropriate cover letter stating intent.
    • Use the guidelines as a checklist and make sure everything in the proposal is included, in order, and sent to the correct address.
    • Make enough copies (after institutional signatures) to send to all who have been involved in the process.