Jump to section:
Cover Page/Title Page
Table of Contents
Project Description/Research Plan
Budget and Budget Justification
Facilities and Resources
Data Management Plan/Resource Sharing Plan
Current and Pending Support
The format and content of a grant proposal depends upon the sponsor's requirements. Most sponsors have specific policies and procedures, including guidelines for font and margin sizes, page limitations, and the use of appendices. It is imperative that you obtain the most recent version of the sponsor's guidelines and instructions prior to beginning the write your proposal, regardless of whether the submission is done electronically or on paper.
Many foundations and other non-federal sponsors use formats similar to those used by either the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.
Most funding agencies include a cover/title page as part of the application process. For agencies that do not, they may require a document that includes the following information:
- Project title
- Identification of the sponsor’s program (Funding Opportunity Announcement or other identifying number)
- Name and address of sponsor
- Name and address of the University
- Proposed start and end date
- Funding amount requested
- Signatures of the principal investigator and the Institutional Official, including dates, titles, offices, and phone numbers (See Institutional Information)
The Table of Contents is generated automatically when a grant is submitted through Grants.gov or Fastlane. The Department of Health and Human Services provides templates in both Microsoft Word format and PDF on their PHS 398 Forms page.
The purpose of the abstract/project summary is to summarize the major aspects of your proposed project. The length is often limited. It should be informative to the reviewers and other investigators in the field. Special care should be taken when preparing the abstract as it is often published. The abstract should describe your proposed project’s background, specific aims, objectives and relevance, methods to be used and expected results but should not contain proprietary information. It does not contain biographical information about the Principal Investigator, the amount of funding requested, or similar data, unless specifically requested by the funding agency. Many federal agencies make abstracts available to the public. For example, when a project is funded by the National Institutes of Health, it becomes part of its Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT). If funded by the NSF, the project summary is published on the NSF website.
The Department of Health and Human Services provides templates in both Microsoft Word format and PDF on their PHS 398 Forms page. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases provides a sample grant application.
The NSF's Grant Proposal Guide's Proposal Preparation Instructions provides instructions for completing the project summary. The Project Summary must contain an overview, a statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and a statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity.
The project description describes your project, its purpose, relevance, and implementation. Each sponsor has specific guidelines for this portion of the proposal, including page limitations that must be followed.
Common sections in Research Plans are:
- Specific Aims/Objectives
- Research Strategy/Description
- Methods/Plan of Work
Guidelines from various sponsors on how to write this section are available at Application Guides and Guidelines.
The bibliography should support the research and include all references cited in the proposal. It shows the reviewers that the principal investigator is familiar with the literature and the amount and depth of scholarship that was put into the proposal. It is an important tool for the reviewers when assessing the proposal. Formats for citations and bibliographies can vary from sponsor to sponsor. Guidelines must be followed carefully.
Biographical sketches are often required for all senior and key personnel (principal investigators, co-principal investigators, and significant contributors). Sponsors have different format and content requirements. The NIH format is often used by non-federal sponsors. Sample biographical sketches for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are available at the links below.
NIH Biosketch Instructions (expiration date of 03/31/2020):
The Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv), serves as an interagency system designed to create biosketches for multiple federal agencies. SciENcv pulls information from available resources making it easy to develop a repository of information that can be readily updated and modified to prepare future biosketches. A YouTube video provides instructions for using SciENcv.
The budget and budget justification is the financial proposal, reflecting the work proposed in the Project Description and outlining in detail the expected costs. The sponsor's guidelines determine the budget requirements and may include policies on Facilities & Administrative costs, cost sharing or matching requirements, and any other restrictions. These guidelines may also outline the format that must be followed and provide templates.
Detailed information on preparing a budget is available at:
University of Arizona Facilities & Administrative Costs and benefit (ERE) rates are available on the Institutional Information site.
The Facilities and Resources section provides information on the resources available for your use on the proposed project. This section should describe space, instrumentation, and specialized service centers available. Identify the facilities you will be using (laboratory, office, animal, computer, clinical, etc.) and outline their capacity, capabilities, proximity and availability. Discuss ways in which the proposed studies will benefit from the unique features of the available resources and/or subject populations. Describe only those resources that are applicable to the proposed work.
The sponsor uses this information to assess the capability of the organizational resources available to perform the proposed project.
Examples of Facilities and Other Resources sections are available on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Sample Applications and Summary Statements website.
Many funding agencies require that researchers manage and share their data. For example, the National Science Foundation expects investigators to share the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting material created or gathered under a National Science Foundation grant. The National Institutes of Health considers data sharing essential for the translation of research results into knowledge, products and procedures to improve human health.
National Science Foundation proposals must include a supplementary document of no more than two pages labeled “Data Management Plan”. This supplement should describe how the proposal conforms to NSF policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. Information on the NSF’s data management plan requirement is available at Dissemination and Sharing of Research Results.
The National Institutes of Health's Data Sharing Policy requires that all proposals requesting awards greater than $500,000 in direct costs contain data sharing plans.
After October 1, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will require that all proposals submitted to the Office of Science for research funding include a data management plan. Their Statement on Digital Data Management outlines the requirements for these plans.
University of Arizona Resources
- University of Arizona Libraries provide resources for both creating data management plans and for the management and sharing of research data.
- University of Arizona Research Computing provides centralized resources for data analysis, visualization, consulting and storage.
Current and Pending Support describes a researcher's current funding, as well proposals that have been submitted but not yet awarded or declined. Sponsors generally utilize the current and pending support document for two purposes:
- To ensure that a researcher is not overcommitted; and
- To determine whether the proposed scope of work overlaps with other projects in the researcher’s portfolio and resolve the overlap, if necessary.
A researcher’s total current and pending effort commitments (expressed as a percentage) may not exceed 100%.
The NSF requires current and pending support information for all key personnel at the time a proposal is submitted, including the current proposal, even if no salary support is received from the project. The NSF Grant Proposal Guide, Proposal Preparation Instructions, Current and Pending Support provides more information.
The NIH requires that this information be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time report.
The researcher may need to complete a variety of compliance documents, depending on the needs of the specific project and the sponsor. The sponsor may request this information at the time of the proposal, or as a condition of releasing the award. These could include:
- Institutional Review Board (IRB)approval for human subject research
- Verification of Human Subjects Training (PDF, Word)
- Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) approval
- Institutional Biosafety Committee approval for recombinant DNA research
- Conflict of Interest documentation
- Compliance with Federal Disability laws
- Sponsor and program specific requirements
If allowed, appendices may be included with your application. They usually include figures, charts, protocols, and letter of support, as well as other information too unwieldy to be placed in the application. Unless specifically required in the application, they should be kept to a minimum as they are often considered supplemental to the application. Appendices cannot be used to circumvent the page limitations of the project description.
Some federal sponsors do not permit photographs or color images of gels, micrographs, etc., to be included as appendices. Rather, they must be included in the Project Description or Research Plan.
Publications that are readily available should be listed in the Bibliography or References Cited section, or Progress Report Publication List section, and/or the Biographical Sketch, as appropriate, with URL or PMC numbers along with the full references.