Components of the Proposal

Title Page

Select a title that is as brief as possible while still providing a good description of the proposal objectives. The Title or Cover Page may also contain such information as authorized signatures, university representatives’ names and addresses, etc.


Required by most federal agencies. It provides a brief description of the proposed project (approximately 200 words) for informative purposes.

Introduction – (Also known as the “Statement of Need”)

This is the place to establish your credibility. When your institution is well known to the sponsoring agency, you need not describe its organization, history, significant accomplishments, goals and objectives, and commitment to your proposed project unless the project represents a significant deviation from the normal university scope. Mention of the Principal Investigator’s significant accomplishments in the area may be made at this time. A full- scale history should be saved for the Personnel section to be described later, however.

You must identify the scope and severity of the problem, the needs you are trying to meet and the state of research to this point in time. The needs identified must be consistent with the project objectives and procedures. Do not identify massive and complex needs if you are proposing a project which meets only a very small part of the problem.

Describe the significance of the approach used in the proposed project, its relationship to previous experience, and its potential for future use or for meeting similar needs in other areas. Do no propose to duplicate projects that have failed. Proposals which claim to be the first significant contribution in this area frequently show that those who prepared the application are not well informed, so be certain that you conduct a thorough literature search prior to writing this section.

Be certain to include statistical data to substantiate the need, to describe the significance of the research proposed, and to show how your objectives may fit into the larger research issue.


During the past few years, there has been a dramatic change in the content of the objectives section of proposals. Federal and state agencies and private foundations have become very critical of vague and fuzzy objectives which do not lend themselves to accountability, are open to misinterpretation or are not measurable. An objective should be a precise statement of a measurable outcome or process to be accomplished by the principal investigator within the time allotted to the project with the funds requested. The objective should originate from the need or problem statement set forth in proposal and in turn the objectives should structure the selection of the appropriate procedures, evaluation, dissemination, personnel, facilities and budget.

Procedures (Methodology)

The introduction has identified what needs to be done; the objectives section has detailed the anticipated results of the project in specific measurable terms; the procedures section now describes how it will be done. Remember, all proposals components should be interdependent. One should flow from the other. There should be procedures to deal with every objective, just as the objectives should be tied to the significant needs or problems outlined in the introduction. Components of the Procedures (Methodology) section might include:

  1. Design – a description of the approach to be used to reach objectives.
  2. Timing – the sequence and amount of time allotted to the major project activities. A realistic time schedule adds validity to the proposal and indicates to the funding agency that the project has been carefully designed and thought through.
  3. Administration – includes information on:
    • The chain of command (organization charts if appropriate)
    • Key personnel, their roles and responsibilities (include vitae in the Personnel section)
    • The role of any advisory board, council or other unit.
  4. Substantiate your choice of methodology
    • What evidence exists regarding its potential for success?
    • What major alternatives exist and why were they not chosen?
    • Are you and your institution (or department or laboratory) capable of carrying out the methodology selected?


The evaluation design should be developed and scheduled before the project begins. The selection of measuring instruments, the design of forms and questionnaires, and the scheduling of activities are an integral part of the proposal design. An evaluation should include:

  • Review of objectives – the objectives should be presented with conditions of measurement and performance criteria, clearly stated and measurement instruments clearly identified.
  • Identify persons responsible for the evaluation.
  • Build quantifiable terms into your evaluation mechanism, i.e., have you met each objective, were you able to monitor the project effectively throughout the funding period.

Dissemination of Information

If the project being proposed will result in information which must or may be shared, a description of mechanisms should be provided. These may include journal articles, papers delivered at conferences, site visits for agency representatives and/or key professionals in your field, circulation of final reports, media presentations and thorough discussion with the local population.

Description of Resources and Personnel

Whatever format is used, this section must explain what personnel and facilities will be required with a justification of their need. Usually it includes the following information:

  1. An identification of necessary project staff.
  2. Job description for key personnel.
  3. Qualification and selection process for key personnel.
  4. Vitae and resumes for key staff already selected.
  5. Summary and justification for the use of consultants.
  6. Description of facilities and major equipment needed – outlining what your laboratory/department already has and what you are requesting to purchase, rent, or renovate.
  7. Information on any innovative approach being used by the personnel and/or with the facilities or equipment.

Budget Preparation

Before developing a budget, you must understand all the policies and regulations set by both the agency and the university. This includes allowable direct costs, indirect costs, proper forms and instructions, matching funds if they are needed, and what changes are permitted in a budget once the project is approved.

Another budget item which must be considered is the minimum-maximum price range for the budget. The principal investigator should determine before submission of his/her proposal what the approximate range of previous awards from the funding agency has been. In some instances, the agency will also publish an approximate range in which they expect awards to fall.

The actual budget should flow from the narrative of the proposal, determining the costs of the components of each individual activity. Each cost item should be justified in a “Budget Justification” addendum to the budget page. It is a good idea to begin with a budget work sheet to identify all costs of the program. Consideration of whether costs are agency funded or part of a match/cost-share component needed not be a factor at this point. There may be sorted out after the actual costs have been determined and the budget put into final format to be transferred to agency forms.

A budget should include the following items:

  1. Salaries and wages; student stipends
  2. Fringe benefits (including summer fringes for grad students)
  3. Permanent (capital) equipment
  4. Expendable supplies and equipment
  5. Travel – detailed by domestic and foreign
  6. Costs of information dissemination, including final reporting and page charges for publications
  7. Computer time
  8. Other costs, including
    • Consultants (including any travel)
    • Communications (Telephone, fax, and postage)
    • Student Tuition
    • Subcontracts
    • Space rental
    • Miscellaneous Alterations and Renovations, if any
    • Indirect Costs – remember that indirect costs are real costs incurred by you. They refer to a certain sum paid by the funding agency to cover general expenses which are difficult to itemize on a project basis but which provide services necessary to the success of the project. Such costs include the administration of the program, libraries and physical plan expenses, use of facilities, lights, heat, accounting, etc. If the agency to which you are applying does not allow full overhead recovery, you must build the costs in as direct charges (For example, an administrative allowance and/or space charge).

Quick Links

VU Fact Sheet - Information required by sponsors, including  ID codes, pay rates and other critical info. (last updated: 7/23/13)

ORSP Frequently Asked Questions

The Quick Guide to Submitting Your Proposal

Proposal Internal Transmittal Form

Effort Report for Faculty or Grad Students

Student Time Sheet & Student Timesheet Schedule

Annual Time/Effort Summary Certification Form

Video Lessons:

Accessing your Research 4 Index

How to Fill Out an Effort Report

How to Check Your Grant Balance with NOVASIS

(we recommend maximizing the video)