Guidelines for Writing Your Proposal You'll find information useful for writing a grant proposal in the tabs below. Don't forget - you can also contact the Center for Scholarship and Research Engagement at 303.458.4206 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like further assistance with proposal writing. Getting StartedSimplifyWriting TipsWriting a BudgetReview & Approval Preparing to Write There are a few steps you should take before you write a single word of your proposal. Some of them may seem very basic, but taking the time to prepare beforehand will save you hours of time spent rewriting your proposal later. Review what others have done. Ask faculty who have submitted successful grant proposals if they have any wisdom to pass along. Review the proposals they've written. At the same time, share your research idea and begin to garner support for it from your colleagues (you may need their support later when your proposal needs approval signatures). Read and follow directions. Many proposals don't get reviewed because their author didn't follow the instructions for putting them together. Read the grant application and instructions that come with it thoroughly. Take note of any questions you may have and make a checklist of materials you will need to supply so nothing is overlooked. Take one step at a time. Break your proposal into logical, smaller parts and organize them. Take note of the proposal's deadline and estimate how much time each part will take to complete. Use this information to put a schedule together that allows you to focus on writing one part at a time and meet your deadline. Thinking through and clarifying the core purpose of your research and the specific results you desire will make you a productive proposal writer from the start. Answering the following questions may help to spur your writing. Who is your target audience? What is the funding agency's mission? What are its needs? How will your project fulfill those needs and help the agency with its mission? Is the funding agency familiar with you or your work? What is their perception of you and your reputation? Why should your project be important to the funding agency? What are your research goals and objectives? How will you measure your results? How will you determine whether your research is successful? Who are the key personnel working on this project? What are their qualifications? What are the strong points of your project and institution? How will you and your project provide the best solution for meeting the funding agency's needs? Why or how is your proposed research unique? The answers to these questions will help you discover the main selling points of your proposal and summarize them more easily. Start by Briefly Describing Your Project Begin your writing process by crafting a one paragraph description of your project. Use a maximum of five sentences to simply and succinctly summarize your proposed research. Estimate your budget and state the amount of funding you are requesting. Use this project summary as a starting point for your entire proposal. It should give you clear vision of the "big picture" or context in which you are writing the rest of the proposal. It will also provide a strong foundation for building your project abstract or introductory section. Tips for Overcoming Writing Obstacles The assortment of writing tips you'll find in the paragraphs below will help you overcome many of the common obstacles you may run into when writing your proposal. Adapt Your Outline to the Requested Format Most grant applications ask for similar information, yet many funding agencies ask that you conform your writing to their own format. To address this requirement, modify the outline you created when you first summarized your research project to fit the format of the agency application you are completing. The result will be a working outline for your proposal narrative. If you're lucky, in some cases a grant application will present you with a list of questions to answer or subheadings defining what you are required to describe. In these cases it will be much easier to organize your proposal narrative. Use Your Project Summary as a Springboard Start the first draft of your narrative by using your project summary and outline as a springboard. Focus on addressing the agency's needs and objectives. Your first proposal draft does not need to be perfect or totally complete. If there is a section or part that you draw a blank on, or a section that needs further research, make a note on the draft copy and move on. Just try to write down your basic ideas. You can always refine your writing later. Take Breaks to Clear Your Mind When you are finished with your rough draft, put it down and take a break from the writing process. Pick it back up later with a clearer mind and attempt to read it as though you were the agency and you were reviewing it for the first time. Feel free to mark your draft with notes to yourself; however, this is not the time to polish your writing. Just make sure your ideas are clear and succinct. Read Your Draft Out Loud Another approach for reviewing your draft proposal is to read it out loud to hear how it flows. Check your logic and determine whether your logic is built on previously stated facts. Make certain your logic progresses clearly without jumping or skipping about. Look for places where you may have used jargon or too many acronyms. Get an Outside Perspective If you hit a particularly difficult part in the writing process, it may help to sit down with a colleague and talk them through your draft, making notes of how the two of you interpret different sections. There are also times where it makes sense to have a third person take notes while you work through your draft with a colleague. Compare Verbs, Key Words and Phrases After you've written your first proposal draft, take a closer look at the verbs, key words and phrases you have used in your writing. Compare them to those used in the agency announcement. Get Active and Simplify Try to use action verbs in your writing whenever possible to help you retain the attention of the reader. Fancy, flowery words or descriptions will not help get your point across. Keep your writing as simple as possible by stating your point briefly and clearly. Use Your Power of Persuasion After you have reviewed and rewritten your proposal draft a couple of times, it is imperative to incorporate persuasive language into your narrative. Go back and review the agency's goals and illustrate where your research will meet their needs. Eliminate Mistakes and inconsistencies Make sure you and at least one other person have proofread your proposal before submitting it for approval. Reading the entire proposal out loud is a good way to catch mistakes or weak structure. Go back to your abstract or introduction and make sure it incorporates any changes you may have made when drafting the main body of the proposal. Make sure you have followed the application instructions. Review the requirements checklist you compiled before you began to write for completion. Keys to a Well-Written Budget Your best writing skills will be required when putting together the budget section of your grant proposal. Here are a few recommendations for writing an excellent and effective budget. Why your budget is so important A specific and realistic budget can make the difference between receiving or not receiving external funding for your project. It will communicate that you have carefully thought out your research idea and have a solid plan for moving it forward. Proposal reviewers will examine your budget closely, evaluating it for wise use of their money. Getting your budget right will also increase the chances of your project's success. Carefully identify your project's costs and plan for a realistic amount of personnel and supplies you will need. This will ensure that you have the right amount of funding to complete your project and achieve your desired results. Follow Directions This tip may appear obvious, but many grant proposals fail because their author did not follow the funding agency's budget guidelines and instructions. Review your budget for accuracy more than once to ensure you have completed it correctly. Make a list of expenses While writing your proposal's narrative, make a list of expense items. Include cost items such as university overhead, personnel, equipment, supplies and the cost of any other item or service required to complete the project. This list now acts an outline of your budget. For example, if you reach a certain point in your research that requires data analysis of 10 assays using 500 samples, note the costs incurred while completing this step, whether the analysis will be performed in your own or an external lab. The OAG can help you develop expense categories and budget formats to add to your budget outline so it clearly communicates your planned expenditures. Avoid asking for the maximum Don’t always ask for the maximum amount of funding available, unless you think it will be absolutely necessary for achieving your desired results. If a budget appears too large for your proposed work, your ability to effectively manage and complete your research effectively will be called into question. The same is true if you present a minimal budget that leaves no room to accommodate unforeseen problems during the research process. Make sure your budget realistically represents the project expenses you will incur. You can find many more resources for putting together your research budget in the budget development section of this website. Feedback from Others is Essential (and Required) During the first phase of proposal development, you need to communicate your proposed research project to as many of your colleagues as possible. This will help you test the soundness of your research idea and receive feedback that will assist you with improving your grant proposal's effectiveness. During this time, you should also measure the alignment level of your desired project results against the strategic objectives of your department, school and college. This will help you avoid investing a great deal of time and work into a proposal that has little chance of being approved. Work with a College Contact Share your research idea with an Associate Dean in your department or school who has been designated as a College Contact for the Center for Scholarship and Research Engagement. He or she will assist you with building awareness and support for your proposed research project at the college level of the academic hierarchy. If you work in an area that is not within one of the University's colleges, introduce your research idea to your Director and/or the Vice President, as you will need their approval to submit your proposal to a funding agency. Contact the CSRE After you have connected with your College Contact and communicated your plan to obtain external research funding, it is of the utmost importance that you contact the Center for Scholarship and Research Engagement. We will provide you with resources throughout the proposal development process so that you will achieve the success you desire. Route for Approval When you are ready with your draft proposal and final budget, attach both documents to the CSRE Routing Form and route this packet to the appropriate individuals in your college/department for their review and signatures. Please ensure you allow the amount of time required by your college/department for review. Your approved routing packet must be received by CSRE at least one week prior to the proposal's submission deadline to allow time for receiving the appropriate University signatures. By following this schedule, not only will you receive valuable feedback, but you will ensure you meet the application deadline.