Prepare your proposal

Use these tips and our sample proposal sections to develop a strong proposal and increase your chances of being awarded.

Jump to writing resources, proposal examples and workshop info.

Student in earth sciences at a snowy research station, standing outside holding up sampling equipment (looks like a screen)

Proposal writing tips

  1. Manage your time – Know the deadlines and plan ahead to obtain requirements like transcripts and recommendations.
  2. Follow directions carefully – Applications that are missing elements or submitted incorrectly are usually removed from consideration. Double check the requirements before submitting.
  3. Use simple language – Keep in mind that many members of the panel will not be experts in your field. Your proposal should be intelligible to someone with little to no background in your subject matter.

Outline for a proposal


  • In simple language provide a very brief overview of your project.
  • Start with one or two sentences about the issue.
  • State the objective of what you plan to do.
  • Finish the abstract by two or three sentences about how you will conduct the research/creative work.


  • This is the place to tell us what your research is all about.
  • Clearly state the problem you are addressing.
  • Point out why your research or study is necessary or important.
  • Discuss the research of others pertaining to your topic.
  • Identify any gaps in previous work that your research would fill.


  • The objectives should be stated very specifically.
  • Bulleting or numbering the objectives is a useful way to stay on track and clearly present the aims of your project.
  • Include study questions or hypothesis as appropriate
  • Explain the purpose of what you want to do

Plans for research/creative work

  • Remember that many members of the review panel will not be experts in your field.
  • Spell out the tasks of your project step by step. Use numbers or bullets if appropriate.
  • Clearly explain how to accomplish your objectives.
  • Discuss in detail how your research will address gaps in previous research on your topic.


  • Be realistic about how much you can accomplish in the timeframe provided. Reviewers will be looking to see if your project is feasible.
  • Explain how you will accomplish the steps in your research plan.
  • A chart may be a helpful aid in this section.

Plans for dissemination of results

  • Demonstrate who will benefit from the work you have done and how you will share it with the public, other students, and the academic community.
  • Sharing your results is very important to the review panel.
  • State whether you ultimately will be preparing a paper, report, or a presentation for a conference.


  • This section allows you to justify the expense of your project.
  • Provide a specific list of items required for your project.
  • Provide justification for each item in your budget.
  • Hosting is not permitted in your budget.

Human subjects or vertebrate animals

  • If your study includes human subjects or vertebrate animals, your application must include documentation.
  • Visit the Research Integrity & Security website for more information about studies with human subjects.
  • Visit the Animal Resources website for more information on studies with vertebrate animals.

Campus assistance for proposal writing

The University Writing Center offers services dedicated to proposal writing.

Visit the University Writing Center

Sample application sections

Proposal writing workshops

We have partnered with the Writing Center to provide you with research, scholarship and creative activity writing workshops.

Check the workshop schedule