Proposal Writing Tips

The grant seeker’s best strategy is to start with the funder’s proposal guidelines. We recommend using the guidelines and required sections as the outline or framework for your proposal. Most proposals include the following core elements:

  • Executive Summary/Overview/Abstract: Concise project description, usually limited to one page.
  • Proposal Narrative: Detailed description of need/problem to be addressed, project goals and objectives, project activities/ methodology; project participant(s) role(s); projected outcomes, evaluation methods, and dissemination plan. THIS IS WHERE YOU MUST MAKE A COMPELLING CASE FOR FUNDING.
  • Project Budget: List of resources needed over the life of the project with corresponding costs. A narrative explanation (budget narrative or justification) may also be requested. Tie expenses directly to project activities and use reasonable cost estimates.
  • Appendices/Attachments: Additional information such as project personnel CVs, letters of support/commitment, logic model or detailed evaluation plan, quotes for purchase of equipment, description of facilities, etc.

Grant Writing Guidelines

  • Carefully read the applicable grant guidelines and adhere to all formatting and content requirements. 
  • Be clear, concise and complete. Avoid rhetoric, hyperbole and jargon.
  • Highlight your strong points—what makes your project unique? Why are you the best qualified person to undertake this work? What will this project contribute to your field, to your teaching, to your institution?
  • If your grant is for an ongoing program, explain how it will be sustained once the grant funding runs out.
  • Be specific regarding how you intend to measure tangible outcomes. 
  • Allow time to review and refine your text, including asking colleagues for feedback.

Online Proposal Writing Resources

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab Introduction to Grant Writing

The Writing Center at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill

Community Tool Box

Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants

Open Grants List - free sample proposals for scientists

Bioscience Writer's Journal tutorial on writing specific aims

NIH provides tutorials on its YouTube page, as well as information on the review process

Books on Proposal Writing

Marketing for Scientists: How to Shine in Tough Times for purchase

Funding Your Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences: A practical Guide to Grant and Fellowship Proposals

Proposal Panning and Writing

Models of Proposal Planning and Writing