Writing a Proposal

Effective proposals have common elements. Some sponsors provide application forms or outlines of information they expect to see. Others leave it up to the investigator. To increase your chances of having a proposal funded, you should include the categories listed below. It is also a good idea to have a proofreader who is outside of your field of expertise. You can find additional information about writing the proposal in Michigan Tech's policies and procedures manual.

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.

  1. 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. University proposal number
    9. Required university endorsements
  2. Table of Contents
    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.
  3. Project Abstract
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 sketch or vita for key investigators.
    3. Be sure to relate experiences to the specific project at hand.
  6. Other Financial Assistance Sought or Acquired
    1. Describe any financial assistance sought for this project from other non-university resources.
    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.
  7. Facilities, Equipment and Other Resources
    1. Describe existing facilities, equipment and any other resources to be used and how they will support the project
  8. Budget—Budget development is addressed in the next section of the web site.