Before you can begin doing any research, you must obtain funding from a foundation or government organization. Whether or not you are granted this funding relies heavily on the quality of the grant proposal you submit to the organization; regardless of the quality of research you propose, a poorly written document will get quickly disregarded in favor of those more easily understood.


Unlike primary research articles and posters, proposals do not have any conventional format (such as IMRD). The most common way to organize a research proposal is through three major sections:

  1. Project summary
  2. Project description
  3. References cited

The Project Description is the most extensive of the sections, but we will cover each of them in detail in “Organization,” below.

Because nearly every funding organization has a different yet exact way they want your proposal to be organized, it is best to research what format the organization you are applying to would like you to use. This information is usually available on websites along with example proposals.


Besides the extremely general guidelines we provide you on this website, you have another invaluable resource for writing your research proposal: the Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP, sometimes also called a Request for Applications (RFA), is a document provided by the funding agency that includes all the instructions you need to apply for a grant.

RFPs are your best friends when writing proposals. Reading these documents carefully will save you undue time and stress trying to figure out how to properly construct your document. The instructions within will tell you exactly how to format and organize your proposal and how to address the needs of the funding agency so that you will get funded.


As you read through the rest of this page and learn how to create a compelling research proposal, keep in mind the following reasons that research proposals are rejected:


Common reasons research proposals are rejected*  
Content Execution
  • Author did not demonstrate a clear understanding of the problem
  • Author did not adequately address why the project is important or how it will contribute to society
  • Objectives were not well defined
  • Wrong audience was addressed
  • Procedures and methodology were not specific
  • Cost estimates were not realistic (too high or too low)
  • Resumes of key personnel were inadequate
  • Proposal did not provide adequate assurance that the completion deadlines would be met
  • Essential data were not included
  • Proposed time schedule was unrealistic
  • Objectives were not linked to an agency-based need


  • Proposal did not arrive by the submission deadline
  • Personnel lacked experience or required qualifications
  • Proposal was poorly written and not well organized
  • Proposal did not follow the organizational pattern specified in the RFP
  • Information requested in the RFP was not provided



* Table is adapted from Robinson et al. (2008), who gathered this information from Bowman and Branchaw (1992)


After you study the information on the rest of this page, revisit the table above and test yourself to see if you know exactly how to avoid each of the mistakes listed.

Audience and purpose


The audience for your research proposal are the people who get to decide whether or not you deserve to be funded by their agency. They will be at least somewhat familiar with your line of research, although it is rare that they will be complete experts in your exact research topic (unless you are applying for a very specialized grant). The RFP for your grant should inform you of who will be reading your proposal so that you can gauge how familiar they already are with your topic.

The RFP is not so explicit, one possible approach is to approach your audience on two levels. The first is to address a more general audience when first introducing your ideas and providing background information. Some of the ways you can accomplish this are to 1) define more acronyms and other terms you might normally assume are known by a more expert audience and 2) use graphics to help illustrate more complex ideas.

In your experimental approach section, however, you should start to address a true expert audience. By including proper details and using formal scientific language—skills reviewed in our section on Addressing Your Audience here—you can fully demonstrate your own expertise in the area.


Because your audience, being comprised of people from various backgrounds and with diverse biases, has a highly critical and inherently more subjective perspective on your research, your proposal must be more welcoming and readable than a journal article. The terse verging on mechanistic style of an article has to be smoothed into an enjoyable (yet convincing!) read. Remember that your readers are sifting through sometimes hundreds of proposals and will likely spend less than an hour deciding the fate of your grant request; if your proposal is dense and unpleasant to read, they won’t bother spending more time than necessary trying to decipher it. We will address how to make your proposal approachable and welcoming in our Style and Conventions section, below.



Purpose: to persuade


Everything you include in your proposal should contribute to the goal of persuading your potential funding agency that they should fund your work. The three most important components of this process are to convince them that their interests require your work, that your research ideas and abilities are intellectually sound, and that your work will have broad impacts on your community and society.

1. Need

If your audience doesn’t believe that your research wouldn’t contribute to attaining the goals of the funding agency, they aren’t probably going to want to fund your project. The first step in this, of course, is to apply for grants from the appropriate agencies, ones whose goals already align with your work. The agency’s RFP should delineate the needs of the agency for you if you are not already familiar with them.

Assuming you’ve chosen an appropriate grant to apply to, all you have to do is make this connection clear in your proposal. Don’t be afraid to use the ideas provided for you in the RFP instructions to state explicitly in which ways your research goals overlap with theirs. Don’t make the readers infer the connection themselves!


2. Acumen

Your second major goal is to convince your funders that both you and your research plan are worth funding. The following points summarize the most critical components of this part of the proposal assessment.

  • Is your proposal well-written? A well-written proposal shows that you pay attention to detail, are thorough, and are organized. Your competence will truly be partly evaluated on your ability to write a good proposal, so be sure to spend adequate time editing your writing itself.
  • Is your timeline realistic? The timeline you propose for your project must simultaneously reflect an efficient process and be realistic. If you estimate too much or too little time for some components of your project or fail to convince your audience that you will be able to complete your project according to your timeline, you won’t appear to be a reliable candidate for funding.
  • Do you know the limitations of your methods? By demonstrating that you know the extent of your methodology, you show your audience that you are a reasonable and experienced scientist. Error bars, detection limits, and other methodological limitations should always be included in your proposal.
  • Do you have the necessary skills? You need to tell your readers why you are the right person to conduct this research by enumerating your past accomplishments and research experience, education, publications, grants received, conference presentations, and other contributions to science. For undergraduates, some of these areas may need to be replaced by letters of recommendation, transcripts, and other documents.
  • Is your research more deserving than others? In order to contribute to the progress of science, your research needs to explore something novel and/or do so in a novel way. If your work seems unoriginal, funders won’t be interested in it. Gap statements are a great way to introduce what exactly your research contributes.

3. Impact

Even if your research is creative and explores a novel subject, if its scope is too narrow, it will be hard to convince people to fund it. At the very least your research should be able to impact other scientists; ideally, it will impact a particular community or even all of society. With this aim you are addressing a broader audience, so be sure to express the impacts of your work in broadly accessible language. Even if your particular results will be small in the scope discovering planets or of curing cancer, their implications should be large.



Style and conventions


Readability is one of the most important aspects of your proposal. Within the often very strict length limits of a given proposal you have to fit as much persuasive information as possible without losing your reader’s focus. According to Robinson et al. (2008),

A 15-page proposal should take less time to read than it typically takes to read a five-page journal article.

To see some examples of how this is accomplished in successful proposals, open any of the samples below.

A proposal for an undergraduate summer research fellowship (SURP, UC Irvine)

Adapted from Anonymous (2014) on the SURP website



Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) imaging is a label free method for monitoring the adsorption of organic molecules and biopolymers proteins onto gold surfaces. DNA microarrays created on gold surfaces can be used for a variety of purposes, including DNA-DNA, RNA-DNA, and protein-DNA interactions at extremely small, nanomolar concentrations (1). The fabrication of microarrays allows for a myriad of applications, including genetic analysis, clinical analysis, and immunoassays. Microarrays provide a simple, rapid, low-cost fabrication method. A continual goal of the Corn Group is to create microarrays that require lower concentrations of compounds for detection.

In Surface Plasmon Resonance, collimated white light is shot through a prism where it hits a gold slide treated with biological molecules. By employing a multiphase complex Fresnel calculation, one can calculate the changes in the index of refraction of ultrathin organic layers on the surface of the slide (2,3). From this, not only can hybridization efficiency of DNA be determined, but the kinetics of biochemical interactions can be found to a precise degree as well.


Previous experiments by the Corn Group have found that the direction in which thiol-modified DNA is applied onto a microarray affects the signal intensity of SPR measurements by nearly four-fold. DNA applied with the 3’ end facing the gold surface of an array produced signals significantly higher than those applied with the 5’ end attached, despite the fact that both sequences were identical in their base composition. The goal of this project is not only to determine the cause for such a large difference in signal intensities between 3’ and 5’ thiol-modified DNA, but also to improve the methodology of constructing DNA microarrays so that smaller concentrations of compounds, such as DNA, are required.

Experimental Design

a. Preparation of Gold Slides

A thin gold film (45 nm) will be vapor deposited onto a SF-10 glass slide (18 X 18 mm) with an underlying layer of chromium (1 nm) using an evaporator (4,5).

b. Deprotection and Purification of thiol-modified DNA

Thiol-modified DNA purchased from Integrated DNA Technologies contains a thiol group at either the 3’ or 5’ end. In order to attach the thiol-modified DNA to a cross-linker, the hydrogen of the thiol group must be removed. DNA will be resuspended in a solution of phosphate buffer, pH = 8.4, and subsequently reacted with dithiothreitol (DTT) for 30 minutes. This will remove the hydrogen attached to the sulfur group, leaving it deprotected and available to attach to the cross-linker. Afterwards, the DNA will be purified using High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The purified DNA will be dried using a Spin Vac, and then the Optical Density (OD) will be measured using UV/Vis Spectroscopy in conjunction with Ellman’s Test. This will allow me to determine the concentration of DNA with an unprotected thiol-group. Because this DNA has free sulfur groups, there is the possibility of disulfide bonds forming between the DNA. Consequently, the purified DNA must be used within a 2-week period.

e. SPR Measurements

Once a microarray has been fabricated, I can begin to take measurements using Surface Plasmon Resonance. The microarray is placed in a sample holder in contact with an SF-10 prism. A collimated white light source is shone through the prism, hits the gold surface of the slide, and some of the light is absorbed due to the DNA attached. Solution containing complementary strands of DNA will be flowed through the microchannels in a buffer (pH 7.7) consisting of 20 mM phosphate, 300 mM NaCl, and 1 mM EDTA, allowing the probes to hybridize with the complementary strands. The buffer solution will be introduced to the microchannels via a simple aspiration pumping system. This hybridization causes a dramatic increase in the absorbance of light, in turn creating a larger signal intensity. This allows us to monitor the hybridization efficiency of the strands of DNA.


I intend to work on this project for the remainder of Spring quarter, and given that I receive a SURP Fellowship, full-time during the summer. The following is an expected timeline for the remainder of Spring quarter and Summer:


  • Preparation of solutions to be used with Microarrays
  • Alignment of SPR Imager
  • Alignment of FTIR


  • Fabrication of Microarrays containing DNA sequences w1 and w3
  • Fabrication of Microarrays containing DNA sequences w3 and w5

June and July

  • Fabrication of Microarrays consisting of DNA with Thymine Spacers longer and shorter than 15 bases
  • SPR Imaging Measurements using buffer solutions with varying polarities
  • SPR Imaging Measurements at various temperatures

A proposal for a graduate research fellowship (NSF)

Adapted from Ricks (2008), provided by MIT


BACKGROUND: RNA-interference (RNAi) technology is a powerful tool currently used to explore cell signaling pathways including the cellular response to DNA damage. One of the genes under investigation by this method is ATR (ATM and Rad3-related). In in vitro studies, lymphoma cells that have undergone RNAi-mediated suppression of ATR are moderately resistant to the frontline chemotherapy drug doxorubicin (DOX), which causes double-stranded DNA breaks (1). However, when those same cells are injected into a mouse model, the resulting in vivo tumors are sensitive to DOX treatment—the complete opposite of the in vitro result.

After a series of preliminary experiments exploring this difference, I concluded that currently unidentified microenvironmental factor(s) present in vivo (but absent in the cell culture) were affecting the tumor’s response to DOX. Through a flow cytometry DNA content analysis of ATR-deficient cells treated with DOX both in vitro and in vivo, I found that the in vitro cells arrested at the G2/M checkpoint while the in vivo cells lacked this arrest response. Furthermore, in vitro cells deficient in ATM (a protein similar in function to ATR) displayed a stronger G2/M arrest and a higher level of resistance to DOX treatment.

HYPOTHESIS: The presence or absence of a G2/M arrest determines the overall response of ATR-deficient lymphoma cells to DOX-induced DNA damage. The in vitro cells undergo arrest at the G2/M checkpoint and repair the damaged DNA before proceeding through mitosis. The in vivo cells are somehow unable to arrest at this point and attempt to proceed through mitosis with damaged DNA. As a result, these cells die through a process called mitotic catastrophe that leads to apoptotic cell death.

RESEARCH PLAN: The hypothesis will be tested by 1) determining if the tumor cells treated in vivo show upregulation of proteins that drive cells through the G2/M checkpoint, 2) determining if these tumors undergo mitotic catastrophe leading to apoptosis, and 3) determining if the cells treated in vitro repair their damaged DNA, undergo mitosis, and reenter the G1 phase.

I. When phosphorylated at certain amino acids, Cdc25B and C signal the cell to proceed with mitosis (2). If the treated ATR-deficient cells are being driven through the G2/M checkpoint in vivo, then they should display higher levels of activation of these proteins than treated in vitro cells that arrest at G2/M, or untreated cells. Immunoblots will be performed to determine the levels of phosphorylated Cdc25B/C in ATR-deficient in vivo lymphoma cells, ATR-deficient in vitro cells, and ATM-deficient in vitro cells. All three groups will be treated with DOX and cells will be collected 12 hours later, with untreated cells from all three populations used as controls. Cell lysates from each group will be run on two SDSpolyacrylamide gels, one gel per protein tested, along with an appropriate loading control (β- actin). The gels will be run through the standard electrophoresis and membrane transfer protocols, probed with antibodies specific for the phosphorylated proteins, and detected via chemiluminescence.

II. Mitotic catastrophe is a cell death mechanism that is characterized by the formation of micronuclei that arise from multipolar spindles and incorrect chromosome segregation during anaphase (3). Mitotic catastrophe eventually leads to apoptotic cell death through a p53- independent pathway (4). In order to show that the ATR-deficient tumors undergo mitotic catastrophe and not canonical (p53-dependent) apoptosis, DOX-treated ATR-deficient in vitro and in vivo cells will be stained with antibodies specific for α- or γ-tubulin, followed by fluorescently-labeled secondary antibodies. α-tubulin staining will identify multipolar spindles, while γ-tubulin staining will visualize multiple centrosomes, both hallmarks of mitotic catastrophe (3). The absence or presence of the canonical apoptotic pathway will also be determined by performing an immunoblot with in vivo and in vitro ATR-deficient cell lysates. The primary antibodies used will be specific for phosphorylated proteins involved in this pathway (e.g. p53, Puma, Noxa). Mitotic catastrophe does not involve the activation of these proteins, so the presence of phosphorylated (activated) versions of these proteins will indicate cell death via the canonical apoptotic pathway. In both of these experiments, untreated ATRdeficient in vivo and in vitro cells will be used as controls.

III. Finally, I plan to show that the treated ATR- and ATM-deficient cultured cells successfully repair damaged DNA during G2/M arrest, proceed through mitosis, and reenter G1. DNA content will be examined by flow cytometry for these treated cell populations prior to treatment and 12, 24, 48, and 72 hours after DOX treatment (3). If the G2/M arrest is transient, then DNA content analysis should demonstrate a reversion to the normal cell cycle with the majority of cells in G1 within this 72 hour window. Treated in vivo ATR-deficient cells as well as untreated populations of these three cell types will be used as controls.

EXPECTED RESULTS: I expect to find upregulation of G2/M arrest inhibitors (e.g. Cdc25B/C), hallmarks of mitotic catastrophe, and the absence of indicators of p53-induced apoptosis (e.g. p53, Puma, Noxa) in the treated ATR-deficient tumors in vivo. I also expect to see a transient G2/M arrest and an eventual return to a normal cell cycle in the ATR-deficient cells treated in culture. Together, these results will point to a drug response mechanism in which the lymphoma cells are able to sense the DOX-induced DNA damage and arrest at the G2/M checkpoint in vitro. While undergoing arrest, the damage is repaired and the cells proceed through mitosis successfully. Conversely, the cells treated in vivo either do not recognize the DNA damage or cannot arrest at G2/M in order to repair it. These cells attempt to proceed through mitosis with heavily damaged DNA, which results in mitotic catastrophe and eventually apoptosis. The goal of future investigation should be to identify the extracellular factor(s) that prevent the in vivo population from either recognizing DOX-induced DNA damage or arresting at the G2/M checkpoint.

BROADER IMPACTS: At the conclusion of this project, I will have gained a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the response of ATR-deficient cells to DOX-induced DNA damage. Performing research on a basic, central part of cell biology like cell death will solidify my background in this field and strengthen my ability as an instructor. Despite the development of new drugs and treatments for cancer, chemotherapy-resistant tumors remain a major obstacle to successfully treating this disease. Understanding how specific genetic mutations lead to drug resistance or sensitivity will help scientists design treatments that are more effective. Physicians and cell biologists will also be better able to predict if existing drugs will be successful against a tumor containing certain genetic mutations. I plan to not only build up this understanding, but also disseminate this information to physicians. I hereby attest that this proposal is my own work, with reviews from faculty advisors.


What similarities do you notice in these sample proposals? What differences? The content of the proposals is dependent, of course, on the RFP for each grant, but you should notice some stylistic themes.

The following tools and proposal-specific conventions can help you write a proposal that makes highly technical science more accessible and welcoming as do the samples above.


Headings and subheadings


Like in journal articles, separating sections of your proposal with clear headings is important. But because proposals are often longer and more variable than articles, it is critical to maintain an especially clear hierarchical heading format.

Below we provide examples of what this hierarchy could look like in your proposal.


This is the title
Heading  Style Example
Major division title All-caps, centered, bolded PROJECT DESCRIPTION


Research Objectives

Objective 1. This is the first objective.

Objective 2. This is the second objective.

Project Background

Level 1 heading All-caps, left-justified, bolded
Level 2 heading Title case, left-justified, bolded
Level 3 heading Title case, indented, bolded
Text Sentence case (normal)


You can usually choose any heading styles you like, as long as they are clear and simple and that you use them consistently throughout your proposal.


One highly recommended strategy for designing sub-section contents is to match these sections and section headings directly with each instruction given in a research proposal. So if the proposal asks for the following information (numbered), you may consider using the corresponding headings (italicized) for those sections of your proposal:

1) a summary of what has already been completed in your project

“Summary of accomplished work”

2) an explanation of what your work will contribute to the field

“Intended contributions to the field”

This strategy will make it clear to your reader how you have addressed each of their requirements.


Be sure to maintain formatting parallelism in your headings by keeping capitalization, punctuation, and structure consistent among headings whenever possible. Compare the following two sets of lists:


A) Rock core analysis:

1. Sample locations

2. Classifications

b) Acquiring the GPS data.

c) Signal Processing

1. Rock core analysis

1.1. Sample locations

1.2 Classifications

2. GPS data acquisition

3. Signal processing


In the example on the left, the numbering scheme, uses of capitalization and punctuation, and grammatical structure are inconsistent. The example on the right is consistent in each of these areas.



Verb tense and personal pronouns


While a published journal article focuses almost entirely on what research you have already conducted, a proposal is based upon what you will do. Accordingly, in the latter genre you will make heavy use of the future tense in addition to past and present tenses.

Your goals and objectives should be written using the present tense, such as:

“The primary goal of my thesis project is X.”

“The specific objectives contributing to this goal are A, B, and C.”

The present tense should, as always, also be used for any type of knowledge that has been considered to be true over time while the past tense should be used for information discovered at one point in time but that does not necessarily still hold true.

Because it has occurred recently and is considered part of the current project, work conducted in the past is generally referred to in present perfect tense, such as in the following statements.

“The first step in this process has been tested.”

“The relationship among these variables has been investigated by our group.”

All planned work is often discussed in the future tense in proposals. This may seem obvious, but note that in articles, it is often suggested that future work could or should be done. But in a research proposal you are using the future tense to state a fact of what will be done, as in:

During the duration of this fellowship, I will concentrate on X.”

“These accomplishments will fulfill objective Y.”



Unlike in other forms of professional writing, personal pronouns are also acceptable in research proposals. Normally these pronouns are omitted for the sake of objectivity, but a proposal is already a very subjective work in which you are convincing the reader that you and your work should get funded. Thus, personal pronouns are used commonly, such as in the following statements:

Our approach is based on X.”

We propose to apply these methods.”

Note, however, that these pronouns are not equally appropriate in all areas of a proposal. When a statement is based on a particular scientific concept and not on anything involving you as a researcher or your lab’s work, it is probably still better to focus on the science at hand by avoiding personal pronouns. Additionally, it is recommended that you refrain from using “I” or “we” in opening statements of each major section.





When constructed well, bulleted and numbered lists are efficient and effective tools for getting ideas across in research proposals. Lists organize your information in a highly readable format that readers can reference when needed.

Lists are common for outlining project objectives and for the expected outcomes of your project. As an example, we created a list adapted from the Expected Outcomes portion of the proposal by Ricks (2008):


  1. Upregulation of G2/M arrest inhibitors (e.g. Cdc25B/C) and the absence of indicators of p53-induced apoptosis in the treated ATR-deficient tumors in vivo
  2. Arrest of transient G2/M and an eventual return to a normal cell cycle in the ATR-deficient cells treated in culture
  3. A drug response mechanism in which the lymphoma cells are able to sense the DOX-induced DNA damage and arrest at the G2/M checkpoint in vitro
  4. Identification of the extracellular factor(s) that prevent the in vivo population from either recognizing DOX-induced DNA damage or arresting at the G2/M checkpoint


Wherever you choose to use them, lists need to adhere as closely as possible to parallelism guidelines, summarized below:

  • Language: Parallel language should be used whenever possible in lists to make them cohesive and coherent. For example, if item one in your list says, “Providing a measurable increase in efficiency,” item two should also begin with a gerund and be followed by a noun, such as, “Enabling immediate access to databases.”

  • Numbering: If in one part of your proposal you use a “1, 2, 3…” numbering system, do not use a “I, II, III…” or “A, B, C …” system in another part.

  • Formatting: All other components of formatting, such as indentation, bullet style, text style, and punctuation should be consistent throughout your proposal.





Here, we will cover a standard format for constructing the Project Description portion of a research proposal. Throughout this section, keep in mind that each and every funding agency will have its own specific instructions for how it wants your proposal to be organized. You should always follow these instructions exactly, although you’ll likely find that sections that may be called by different names than we call them here, they include much of the same content and can be organized similarly.



Goals and Importance


The first section of the Project Description is intended to introduce the work by establishing its goals and its importance in the context of other scientific research. A clearly laid out argument is critical in this section for convincing a funding agency that it is worth their time to look at the details of the project itself.


Potential headings for Section 1
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Significance and Goals
  • Project Significance


RP Goals MS


1. Identify goals and objectives. Although this section might have a narrower focus than Moves 2 and 3, it is usually important that it come first so that a funding agency can quickly determine whether or not the project will contribute to the agency’s own goals and therefore merits further review. The goals of your study are usually broad, long-term ends toward which your project is directed but will not achieve on its own; objectives are more specific and should be directly measurable in your research. Move 1 should establish both of these aspects of your study.


Potential headings for Move 1
  • Goals and Objectives
  • Specific Aims
  • Research Objectives
  • Goals of the Proposed Study
  • Project Goals


2. Establish importance. Proving to your audience that your project is important is crucial to obtaining funding. Each submove contributes to establishing the importance of the research you are proposing. First, you should introduce the general topic of your project in a way that hints at its importance. For example:

Although premature birth is the leading cause of neonatal death, its contributing factors are poorly understood.

In submove (ii), the scientific literature should be used to provide background information and important details about the topic. Who else has interest in this area of research? What have they discovered that is of great importance? Who benefits or will benefit from the research? What have others stated a need for? This should set you up to identify the gap in the literature (which you intend to fill with the results your project).


Potential headings for Move 2
  • Rationale and Significance
  • Project Background
  • Significance of Proposed Research
  •  Background and Significance
  • Introduction
  • Importance of the Investigation


3. Introduce the proposed work. Once you have established that there is a great need for a greater understanding of some kind in the general scientific topic you identified in Move 2, you can present your project, which will save the day! If Move 2 identified a challenge, explain how your project faces the challenge. If it identified a problem, your project will solve the problem. This solidifies the importance of your project while identifying what it will actually do. Move 3 is not often given a separate heading of the kind in Moves 1 and 2, but instead flows more smoothly from Move 2 in a new paragraph.



Experimental Approach


This section is the most technical of the three in the Project Description and therefore must proceed in a logical manner that is easy to follow. By starting with what you’ve already accomplished in relation to the proposed project and showing that it is already yielding favorable results, you contextualize and strengthen the reader’s confidence in your proposed methodology.


Potential headings for Section 2
  • Experimental Approach
  • Experimental Section
  • Experimental Design
  • Proposed Methods
  • Research Plan
  • Proposed Research Activities


RP Experimental MS


1. Describe previous accomplishments. If you have done any previous research that worked towards the same or a similar goal, this is your opportunity to share its accomplishments. Doing so will build readers’ confidence in your research abilities and current project plan.


Potential headings for Move 1
  • Prior Accomplishments
  • Previous Work
  • Summary of Previous Accomplishments


2. Identify promising results. Most funding agencies will hope that you have some empirical reason to believe that your proposed project will work, meaning that you have conducted preliminary research that has indicated that your objectives are reasonable and achievable. In this move, you should share these results (if you have them).


Potential headings for Move 2
  • Preliminary Results
  • Current Work
  • Initial Findings
  • Work in Progress


3. Propose methodology for reaching an objective. This move should be distinctly made for each objective that you presented in your Goals and Importance section in the same order as you presented them. It is customary to first present simpler, more straight-forward experiments first and progress to those of higher risk or, alternatively, to group methodologies by the types of information that will be gathered, such as synthesis yields versus biproduct identifications. Start by transitioning from your preliminary work to your proposed work in submove (i) before getting into the exact methodology.


Potential headings for Move 3
  • Proposed Methods
  • Proposed Research
  • Research Plan
  • Proposed Studies
  • Proposed Work
  • Experimental Plan


It is helpful to use a separate sub-heading for each iteration of Move 3, as well, so that each objective’s methodology is clearly distinguished from the next. These headings can be generic, such as “Objective 1,” or descriptive, such as “TENR Library Construction.”

Unlike in a journal article methods section, only provide enough detail in this section to convince your audience that you can do the work. Focus on the general approach and avoid details (e.g. instrument model numbers or reagent purities) that will take up space and distract your reader from the overall importance of your project.

In submove (iii), address potential limitations or setbacks you can foresee in your plan. You are bound to have some in any research, and acknowledging them shows that you have thought carefully about your proposed research.


Outcomes and Impacts 
The first two moves of this section essentially summarize what you have already presented in a new format. The end of the proposal then broadens in scope to focus on the wider impacts of the research, beyond its addressing of your individual objectives to the more general goals of the scientific area.


Potential headings for Section 3
  • Outcomes and Impacts
  • Expected Outcomes
  • Summary and Conclusion


RP Outcomes MS


1. Present project timeline. This move allows you to summarize your experimental section in away that makes your anticipated accomplishments tangible. The timeline is presented in paragraph form but reads very list-like, with phrases like “In the spring of 2016, we will complete the Si experiments.” The timeline can be fairly general but must be realistic.


Potential headings for Move 1

Project Schedule

Project Timeline

Anticipated Timeline


Timetable for Work Plan

Plan of Work

Proposed Work Plan


2. Describe predicted outcomes. List measurable achievements that link back to your objectives in section 1. Be as specific as possible so that readers are left with the feeling that your project will result in tangible outcomes.


Potential headings for Move 2

Expected Outcomes


Summary of Research Plan

Project Deliverables

Project Outcomes

Expected Findings

Research Summary


3. Conclude the proposal. Because they are key components of the proposal, Move 3 begins by summarizing once again the goals and significance of the proposal. This can usually be accomplished in roughly 3 sentences and comprises its own paragraph. Make your closing remarks in submove (ii), where you tell your funding agency how your project will benefit the greater scientific community and/or general public. The broader the impact of your project and the more people it benefits, the more likely it is to be funded.


Potential headings for Move 3


Research Summary

Project Summary

Summary and Conclusions


Conclusions and Impacts

Impacts and Significance

Summary and Broader Impacts