Writing Your Proposal

You’ve selected one or several funding opportunities to pursue, and now you’re ready to write a grant to fund your research.

Many seasoned researchers will tell you that the first step is planning, from researching your sponsor to building out a timeline that will allow for review and submission in time for any internal and external deadlines. It is recommended, particularly for new investigators, to start the writing process months in advance of any expected due date. Developing a new application may take two to three months or longer. Revised applications and renewals may take less time but are still a major effort that should not be underestimated. Use the information and resources below to get started.

Before You Begin Writing…

As soon as you know you’ll be applying for a grant, you will want to take a few important administrative steps, including contacting your Sponsored Programs Research Administrator, initiating contact with the sponsor, and registering with the sponsor’s online system.

Take these important steps before moving forward

Grant Components

No two grant applications are the same. Carefully review the funder’s program guidelines and requirements for your proposal, which may include any of the following:

  • Biosketches: Biosketches are a shorter format equivalent of a CV designed to present the key information and achievements in the career of a faculty member. Different funding agencies have different templates; for example, NIH and NSF submissions typically require a biosketch for all senior team members of a proposal.
  • Budget Justifications: The budget justification section of a proposal provides explanation of and reasoning for the various expenses funded by the grant. The length and level of detail required vary by the type of funding and the funding agency.
  • Data Management Plans: Data management plans outline the types of data to be collected, how the data will be processed, and how the data will be stored/secured. Generally, the more sensitive the data, the more detailed the management plan must be.
  • DEI Plans: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) plans are a part of applications with growing importance. These plans typically outline the recruitment and retention plans for students/staff members of diverse backgrounds on a project, and may also need to detail subject recruitment policies to ensure a diverse subject pool. 

BU Proposal Library

The BU Proposal Library shares successful proposals submitted by BU faculty to external funders, including sample proposals organized by funder and by component (e.g., biosketches, budget justifications, DEI plans, etc.).

Learn More

  • Design/Methodology, Project Overviews, Research Plans, and Research Strategies: These sections provide an overview of the research program included in the proposal. This includes the key research questions, methods that will be used in the investigation, specific equipment requirements, and the roles that senior/key personnel will play in the project.
  • Facilities, Equipment, and Other Resources: Facilities, equipment, and other resource sections outline the specific needs of a proposal in regard to both equipment and physical space. The items outlined can range from as simple as describing office space up to detailed facility maintenance and usage planes for highly specialized shared equipment.
  • Letters of Support: Letter from high ranking institutional officials describing the institutional commitments and in-kind support for the proposal. May also describe resources and initiatives well-aligned with the goals of the proposal.   
  • Preliminary Results/Studies: A preliminary results/studies section provides a place to describe and detail key results from prior work that lay the foundation for the research being proposed.
  • Protection of Human Subjects: If applicable, the details of how human subjects will be handled and kept safe are detailed in this section. Proposals that do not involve human subjects will not include this portion of a proposal. While there is some overlap in content, this section is distinct from the IRB submission process.
  • Recruitment and Retention Program (subjects): The recruitment and retention section includes information on how subjects will be recruited to the study and what procedures will be used to keep them involved in the entire process of the study. Details may need to be included regarding practices to recruit a diverse pool of subjects.
  • Recruitment and Retention Program (staff/students): The recruitment and retention sections includes information on how students and/or staff will be recruited to the proposed project. Special emphasis may need to be included on how certain demographics of students/staff/faculty will be represented within the program.
  • Specific Aims: The specific aims section includes detailed descriptions of the specific research aims of the proposed project. This information might be a distinct section or part of a more general research overview portion of the proposal. 
  • Teaching, Mentoring, and Career Plans: Teaching, Mentoring, and Career Plans sections include information about the development of students, staff, or investigators in a proposal. This may focus on anything from the career path of the PI to how students will benefit from the program depending on the type of proposal. 

Other Proposal Writing Resources

The following resources may be helpful to PIs planning a proposal submission.

General Resources

National Science Foundation

National Institutes of Health

Information For...

Back to Top