Write the Proposal

Good writing takes into consideration the audience, purpose, and occasion. Focusing on these areas helps you identify exactly what, why, and for whom you are writing, thus keeping your thinking clear and organized.

Audience, Purpose & Occasion

The audience is who you are writing for. The style, tone, organization, diction, and content of your writing will depend on who you want to influence with your ideas. Individuals who have served on grant review committees are your best source of information on your audience.

The purpose is the intention behind your writing. What are you trying to accomplish?

  • relate an event and explain its importance
  • review or evaluate a journal article
  • explain a concept or idea
  • examine or investigate a problem
  • argue a position
  • a combination of the above

The occasion is your personal motivation for writing the proposal. What meaning does this topic have for you? For others? Why is your topic compelling, valuable, and/or important?

The Structure of a Proposal

A proposal explains what you will do, as well as how and why you will do it. A good proposal is clear, concise, interesting and well presented. While each funding agency has its own structure and formatting requirements for this section, the content of the proposal is fairly standard. Most funding agencies offer advice on what they consider to be good funding proposals. Read this advice and follow it.

Generally, a good research proposal will:

  • place the research within the context of what is currently happening in the field
  • summarize relevant prior work in the field (if applicable), including landmark studies
  • develop a coherent and persuasive argument for your proposal
  • provide enough detail on major issues (and not too much on minor issues)
  • exhibit a strong sense of direction (and not ramble excessively)
  • articulate the goals
  • stay focused on the research objectives/question
  • describe a research plan and methodology
  • indicate why the research is useful or important
  • cite consistently and accurately
  • meet the length requirements of the funding agency

Research proposals typically include the following sections:

  • literature review
  • introduction
  • problem statement
  • project narrative
  • research objectives
  • methods
  • dissemination
  • abstract
  • references
  • appendices

See Review the Literature and Proposal Structure for detailed descriptions of each of the sections above.

The above information is intended to provide grant writing advice and ideas that can be applied regardless of the granting agency being targeted. However, if you are interested in acquiring ‘tips and tricks’ specific to a particular grant application, the best (and quickest) strategy is to consult our community of grant facilitators. Visit the Facilitator Directory to search for a colleague with expertise.

A good research proposal can be made even better if it’s shared with colleagues for feedback. You may set this up independently, or take advantage of HeRRO’s Internal Review service.

Acknowlegement: This section borrows from A Condensed Version of Proposal Planning and Writing by Jeremy T. Miner and Lynn E. Miner and Research Handbook for Surrey Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) by Surrey NHS Primary Care Trusts.

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