Successful grant-writing involves solid advance planning and preparation. It takes time to coordinate your planning and research, organize, write and package your proposal, submit your proposal to the funding agency, and follow-up.

Structure, attention to specifications, concise persuasive writing, and a reasonable budget are critical elements in writing a grant. There are many ways to organize grant proposals. The funding agency’s guidelines will contain specifications about required information and how it should be arranged and failure to follow these guidelines generally leads to delay.  Standard proposal elements are: project/research narrative, budget, appendix of support materials, and authorized signature. Many proposal applications require abstracts or summaries, an explanation of budget items, and certifications in addition to letters of support. Below are some general components of a grant proposal.

I. Specific Aims:

Statement of Goal or Need.
State the overall purpose, goals, measurable objectives, and significance of the problem being addressed and emphasize its importance in a concise introductory paragraph.

Clearly and concisely describe a specific set of testable conjectures. A well-formulated hypothesis leads to the specific aims that form the basis of the research.

Specific Aims.
Specific aims test the hypothesis. The relationship to the overall goal and significance should be clearly outlined in the specific aims.

II. Background

This section provides perspective on the importance/signficance of the proposal through reference to the literature. It serves as the foundation for your scientific ideas and research plans.

III. Preliminary Data:

  1. A review of previous work done by the investigators or Center that support the capability of the investigators and initiative to do the work.
  2. Any relevant unpublished data or pilot data that is important to the work described A summary of data that will convince the reviewers that the work is feasible (e.g., an adequate pool of subjects with a specific disease can be identified to support enrollment of the number of subjects required to meet the sample size estimate for the study.)

IV. Project Design and Methods: This section should contain:

Project Design. Describe the research method and design that will be used to accomplish the goals and objectives. The design is how the research will be structured; method is how it will be done. Click here for a comprehensive tutorial of research design, put together by graduate students at Cornell University.

Protocol. A detailed characterization of how the study will be done including drafts of forms detailing the data that will be collected and used. This section includes a description of the intended scope of work and expected outcomes, outline of activities, as well as description of various staff functions.

Analytical Approach or Method of Evaluation. Some studies require very technical measurements for results. A description of data analysis approaches relative to the type of research design chosen should be included. Biostatistical assistance is often necessary for planning this section of the research proposal.

Project Timeline. This section should provide an overall picture of project flow that includes start and end dates, schedule of activities, and projected outcomes. A timetable relates the sequence of experiments and shows the estimated time for each activity.

Credentials (CV or Biosketch): A biosketch should be provided for the principal investigator and all other key personnel. This lists employment, experience, honors, and publications and assures the funding agency that the investigator can successfully undertake the proposed effort. In most cases, a biosketch is required for any personnel, as it is a shortened form of the CV that standardizes personnel qualifications across disciplines.  A template and an example of the biosketch by the NIH can be found here.