The next step in the proposal lifecycle is to plan the development and submission of your proposal. This will ensure that your proposal is well written, responsive to the Request for Proposals (RFP) and that it is complete and ready for submission by the deadline. Consider the following questions before you begin to write.
• What do I want to do and why do I want to do it?
• What are the short-term and long-term objectives and outcomes of my work?
• How will I execute my project? Are the facilities and resources I need available?
• What does success look like? How will I evaluate and assess my progress?
• Does my project require expertise I don't have? If so, can I form strategic collaborations?
• Can I make a case for feasibility based on previously published or preliminary work?
• Do I have alternative approaches in mind, if my hypothesis is not supported or my objectives are not attainable?
• If awarded, will I be able to commit the necessary level of effort to the project?
Your departmental/unit business office
The UA provides both distributed and centralized assistance for proposal administration and development. When planning to develop and submit a proposal, please contact your departmental research administrator or business manager. The content in this section is expanding and will be updated throughout the year, contact us with updates.
- College of Agriculture & Life Sciences Research Administration provides pre-award and post-award support for CALS faculty.
- College of Education Grants, Contracts, & Research Support provides support for proposals and projects routed through SPCS.
- College of Engineering, Engineering Research Administration Services (ERAS) provides pre-award and post-award support for engineering and CAPLA faculty.
- College of Optical Sciences Contracts and Grants group manages and submits proposals for the Optical Sciences faculty.
- College of Social & Behavioral Sciences Research Institute (SBSRI) provides support for extramural funding opportunities for faculty in SBS including proposal development and pre-award administration.
- University of Arizona Health Sciences (UAHS) Research Administration provides pre-award, post-award, regulatory, and clinical trials support for the College of Medicine - Tucson, College of Medicine - Phoenix, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
Research Development Services
- We support UA faculty in the development of a technically sound, responsive, and competitive proposal narrative. We coordinate with you and your departmental/unit business office to work within the established timeline. To learn more about our services, visit How to Engage RDS .
Large and complex proposals benefit from extensive pre-planning and management. To learn best practices visit:
Why proposals fail
These are some of the most common reasons why proposals fail.
- Failure to address sponsor requirements
- Lack of experience/track record
- High-risk project with no contingency plan
- Lack of clarity
- Proposal is not compliant (e.g. line spacing, pages)
- Lack of front-end planning
- Lack of rationale for project aims/objectives
- Lack of identified pitfalls (potential problems) and proposed alternatives
- Lack of a clear evaluation and monitoring plan
- Proposed activities do not align with project aims/objectives
Describe your competitive advantage
Seek opportunities in your proposal to describe how you, your collaborators, your research, and your environment differentiate you from your competitors. Also consider timing: Why is now the perfect time to do your proposed project?
Pay attention to the structure
Depending on the funding source, requests for proposal (RFPs) vary on proposal structure: some give detailed instructions whereas others are vague. That said, the following best practices apply to all proposals.
- Mirror the RFP’s section numbers, titles, and terminology
- Number or title sections and refer to them this way. Don’t use “See above” or “See below”
- Clarify vague language in the RFP with your Program Officer, e.g., for NIH proposals, where should preliminary data be included?
- Respect page limits, i.e., don’t use other proposal components (e.g., Appendices) to expand on your proposal narrative.
Write, review and revise
One of the most effective ways to increase your competitiveness for funding is to have your draft proposal reviewed by your peers. The following guidance has been adapted from industry-wide best practices in business development.
- Strategy Review: Also known as a “pink team” review is a critical review of your idea, this review focuses on the principal ideas and scope of the project. The pink team review can identify major gaps or deficiencies, and significantly improve the design of your proposed work. It should also identify missing elements, which may cause you to reorganize your proposal.
- Full-Proposal Review: Also known as a “red team” review, this is a critical review of your complete draft. This review focuses on how well your written proposal responds to the requirements of the RFP. The red team review can identify missing elements and weak sections. Critiques should highlight deficiencies in the flow of the document rather than the approach.
- Final Review: Also known as a “gold team” review, this is a critical review of your final draft, this review focuses on the details such as use of acronyms, terminology, figures and tables, formatting, spelling, and grammar. The gold team review can catch minor errors that could leave reviewers with a negative impression
Pink, red, and gold team reviewers read the RFP prior to evaluating your work to understand the requirements and apply the same review criteria that will be used by the agency’s review committee. Consider including the following types of members on your peer review teams:
- Peers in your field of research
- Peers in a different, but related, field of research
- Peers with no specialized knowledge of your field of research
- Peers who have received funding from the agency you are applying to
- Be considerate of your peer reviewers, allow them enough time to read the RFP and your draft, and be able to provide critical feedback.
- Allow yourself enough time to incorporate changes based on critical feedback.
- Download this sample timeline (coming soon) for internal review of your proposal.
- Download this sample rubric (coming soon) for internal review of your proposal.
Additional Information Coming Soon
This section will provide guidance on how to develop a proposal submission strategy, including a timeline for proposal development over a multi-year period.
Grant writing resources
- Writing a Grant Proposal 101 (A collection of links compiled by NORDP)
- The Grant Doctor (An online resource by AAAS, atlink, scroll down for writing-related content)
- Getting Funded: An AHRQ Grants Overview (A presentation by Brent Sandmeyer, MPH, Grants Lead/Social Science Analyst at the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ), at the link, press the “Play” button.
- Grant-Writing Tips for Graduate Students (The Chronicle of Higher Education)
- Internal grant review to increase grant funding for junior investigators (Annals of Neurology)
- New Faculty Guide to Competing for Research Funding, Second Edition (Mike Cronan and Lucy Deckard, Academic Research Funding Strategies, LLC; UA NetID required)
- Monthly Grant Writing News (Mike Cronan and Lucy Deckard, Academic Research Funding Strategies, LLC; UA NetID required)
- NIH Grants YouTube channel
- NCI Division of Extramural Activities: Preparing Grant Applications
- How to Apply-Application Guide
- NIAID: Prepare your Application
- NIH-Plan Your Application
- NSF YouTube channel (search for ‘grants')
- A Guide to NSF Success (Madsen, Science, 2007)
- How to Prepare an NSF Proposal: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (pdf download)
- NSF Automated Proposal Compliance Checks (coming soon) (pdf download)
- A few hints for writing a successful grant application (NEH) (pdf download)
- Guidebook for Proposers Responding to a NASA Funding Announcement
- NASA Proposal Checklist (coming soon) (pdf download)
- Grant & Contract Process
- Training E-Modules (including Exploring Funding Opportunities, Effectively Responding to USAID Award Solicitations)