Typical Components of a Proposal

While specific requirements regarding content and format differ markedly and change frequently among sponsors, the following are general requirements that are not routinely subject to change.


Titles should be concise, clear and precise. Excessive length may result in ambiguities should parts be abbreviated during processing at the agency. News releases often rely on the title to reference research, and precision will help to avoid misrepresentation of a study


The abstract describes the major objectives of the proposed research and the research strategy to meet these objectives. It serves a variety of purposes and should be prepared with great care. Agency staff often use the abstract in assigning the proposal to the appropriate study section for review. Reviewers use the abstract to gain an initial perspective of the key concept of the study and its significance, and again later as a reminder when the proposal comes up for discussion. If a proposal is not in a reviewer’s area of specialization, the abstract may be the only part read to prepare for the panel discussion. After funding is secured, the abstract may be used for entry in national databases and its keywords are picked up for quotation indexes.

It is advisable to write the abstract at the end, when all other sections of the proposal have been finalized. A good abstract will strike a good balance between simple and technical language, and highlight key concepts for which the reviewers should look in the main body of the proposal.

Description of Project

The investigator is expected to present a description of the proposed project and to explain the general goal and its various specific objectives. At the same time, the need for the project must be justified and its significance should emerge clearly and convincingly. The overall goal may be stated in general terms, but specific objectives need to be clearly defined. Investigators often use brief statements in numerical ranking of priority to achieve this end.

Related Studies/Review of the Field

A discussion of previous work in the field demonstrates an investigator’s knowledge and provides an evaluation of the “state of the art” in his/her specialization. It also shows the extent of preparation for the proposed study, and the novelty and individuality of the approach. For these reasons, this section has to be more than a bibliography. It must demonstrate that the investigator is aware of other work in the discipline. Careful selection of sources must be made and only those significant to the proposed research should be discussed in detail.

With regard to those who are new to research or academia, reviewers acknowledge the fact that few publications are available on which the strength of an investigator can be assessed. Therefore, the analytical richness of a review of the field is used to gauge the new investigator’s sharpness of intellect and potential for success. It should be noted that both NIH and NSF Study Section reviews indicate that pilot data (preliminary results) are “a must.”

Methodology and Time Frame

In this section, the investigator will describe the proposed research methodology, organizing the material logically according to progressive steps of inquiry. Investigators must make a careful decision about how much detail will be needed to assure clear understanding by the reviewers without going to excessive lengths. It is equally important to describe how potential problems will be addressed.

The overall length of time required to conduct the research project must be projected with care to allow for data collection, analysis and interpretation. Unrealistic projection or omission of a period of performance may lead to reviewer criticism. Investigators need to allow for a reasonable time frame after the application submission date for processing, review and evaluation of the proposal at the sponsoring agency. Considering this factor may enable the investigator to propose more accurately which phase of ongoing research the funding should support.

Evaluation Design and Statistical Analysis

Many projects require an evaluation of results. Evaluation may be planned both at critical points during the project period and/or after its conclusion. It may be designed to be carried out by participant staff or by outside consultants. The description of the evaluation design should be detailed and the applicant should make it clear how it is to be administered and how the resulting data will be analyzed. It is also important to indicate how the evaluation results will be used and/or how they will be disseminated. In biological, behavioral, chemical and physical sciences, research faculty should state their test evaluation and statistical methods.


If possible, all professional, technical and academic personnel who will participate in the research should be identified by name and title or category of employment. The following categories are most often needed:

  1. Project Director and Co-Director(s), Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator(s), Program Director
  2. Faculty Associates (generally members of the faculty holding academic rank of Assistant Professor and above)
  3. Postdoctoral Associate
  4. Research Assistants (i.e., graduate students engaged in research or research training under the proposed grant)
  5. Professional Assistants (e.g., computer programmers, design engineers, laboratory assistants, technicians)
  6. Other (e.g., secretarial, clerical, shop, undergraduate students)
  7. Consultants (generally, these are from outside the University)

A CV, or curriculum vita (resume) is required for each of the major researchers. However, it is advisable to highlight specific research experience, related publications and other important biographical information with regard to professional personnel. This information should be presented in the text of the proposal or as part of the budget explanation. Reviewers have indicated that it is helpful to have specific research capabilities of the major researchers stated in the text, although these qualifications may also be listed on the CV.

Facilities and Special Resources

Applicants will need to describe the facilities and resources that will be used in the proposed research. If unique facilities exist with regard to the proposed research it is important to emphasize this in the proposal. The application may require data on the size of the University, a profile of faculty and students, or details on university-wide facilities such as the library, computer centers, or specialized centers. In addition to their own college resource personnel, applicants may look up current information on the Web at http://www.ufl.edu/ or call the Division of Research Program Development (392-4804) for assistance.

Dissemination of Information

In order to assure wide impact of funds invested in research, demonstration or development projects, many agencies emphasize the need for well-planned dissemination of results. Most investigators hope to publish research findings in refereed journals. If other strategies seem useful they should be listed in the dissemination section of the proposal. Examples of dissemination are conferences, training workshops, special newsletters, manuals, production of audio-visual material or any other means of sharing research data with the scientific and technological community.

Other Required Sections

Please see the Grantsmanship Resources page for boilerplate information, sample text, and guidelines for additional sections that may be required, such as Data Management Plans and Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plans.