Proposal Development

Proposals that are well reviewed address general and specific expectations of the funding agency. These include the following:

  • A clear, well-documented approach to a problem that meets the expectations of proposal guidelines and solicitation requirements
  • Preliminary work that validates the proposed “innovative” method will in fact work and findings from this work have already been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal
  • Carefully thought out and meticulous presentation of research plan from start (well defined hypotheses) to finish
  • Review of literature on important information and on experimental and sampling procedures
  • Demonstrated knowledge and experience in the discipline and with methodology
  • Partnerships and co-PIs who can collaborate to carry out the work and address the problem in an transformative way
  • Strong and practical budget rationale and assessment plan
  • Proof that the university will support the proposer and that the proposer has sufficient access to necessary resources

The Sponsored Programs Office can help you assemble your proposal, provide counsel on various portions of the project, and help you develop your budget.  In addition, PI guides for NSFand NIH have been developed to assist the principal investigator (PI) in preparing a proposal in conformance with sponsor guidelines. These guides/checklists provide information in regards to required elements, forms and formatting.

Typical Proposal Information

The following list includes links to the RD Toolkit. This site is password-protected and only accessible by those with an Google login. This content may not be shared outside of Michigan Tech.

  1. Internal documents are required for every proposal requesting funds. The transmittal and the internal budget spreadsheet are needed for every proposal, but you may need to complete additional forms if there are sub-awards, contracts, or committed cost share.
  2. Cover page—If a sponsor does not specify a format or content for the cover page, we suggest you include:
    1. Title of proposed project
    2. Name and address for Michigan Tech and your department
    3. Name and title of PI(s) and Co-PI(s)
    4. Proposed project period (e.g. July 1, 20XX–June 30, 20XY)
    5. Total funding request
    6. Date of proposal
    7. Name and address of sponsor
    8. Specific solicitation or program (number, name, link) that you are responding to.
    9. University proposal number
    10. Required university endorsements
  3. Table of Contents 
    Note: Usually a table of contents is generated by the application system, such as NSF FastLane or If you are not using one of these systems, consider the following:
    1. Depending on the length of the proposal, use subheads and page numbers.
    2. Many word processing programs will automatically generate a table of contents if you use their style and formatting functions.
  4. Project Abstract or Project Summary
    1. The abstract includes a brief description of the proposed research and outcome or activity that will take place
    2. Typically, abstracts are no longer than a page; many are shorter.
  5. Project Description
    1. This provides a plan for the scope of the proposed work, including experimental design and procedures.
    2. Discuss the project's relationship to institutional priorities and departmental goals, as well as impacts on graduate and undergraduate education.
    3. Provides background information and a literature review.
    4. Include information about the significance (or potential significance) of the project
    5. Proposed method for evaluation.
    6. A good starting place is to make an outline that mirrors the solicitation to make sure you are addressing all the criteria made by the sponsor.
  6. Personnel
    1. List those who will contribute to the project, including full names, highest degrees earned, ranks/titles, experience, publications and accomplishments.
    2. Include biographical sketches or vita for key investigators, as required by the sponsor.
    3. Be sure to relate experiences to the specific project at hand.
  7. Other Financial Assistance Sought or Acquired
    1. Describe any financial assistance sought for this project from other non-university resources. This might include external matching/cost share.
    2. Describe any other projects that involve the same personnel and financial assistance provided or requested. In this case, also explain how the projects relate and any relevant arrangements among the projects. This is often done in required sections like “Results from Prior Support” and/or “Current and Pending” documents.
  8. Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources
    1. Describe existing facilities, equipment, and any other resources to be used and how they will support the project. There are examples of descriptions available on the RD Toolkit.
  9. Budget Development