Proposal Components

PROPOSAL Part information

Cover Page
Table of Contents
Abstract/Project Summary
Project Description/Research Plan
Bibliography/Literature Cited/References
Biographical Sketch
Budget and Budget Justification
Facilities and Resources
Data Management Plan/Resource Sharing Pl
Resources for Addressing Grant Applications Requiring Mentoring
Current and Pending Support
Compliance Documents

The format and content of a grant proposal depends upon the sponsor's requirements. Most sponsors have specific policies and procedures, including guidelines for font and margin sizes, page limitations, and the use of appendices. It is imperative that you obtain the most recent version of the sponsor's guidelines and instructions prior to beginning the write your proposal, regardless of whether the submission is done electronically or on paper.

Many foundations and other non-federal sponsors use formats similar to those used by either the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.

Cover Page or Title Page

Most funding agencies include a cover/title page as part of the application process. For agencies that do not, they may require a document that includes the following information:

  • Project title
  • Identification of the sponsor’s program (Funding Opportunity Announcement or other identifying number)
  • Name and address of sponsor
  • Name and address of the University
  • Proposed start and end date
  • Funding amount requested
  • Signatures of the principal investigator and the Institutional Official, including dates, titles, offices, and phone numbers (See Institutional Information for commonly requested information).

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents is generated automatically when a grant is submitted through or NSF’s  The Department of Health and Human Services provides templates in both Microsoft Word format and PDF on their PHS 398 Forms page.

 Abstract or Project Summary

The purpose of the abstract/project summary is to summarize the major aspects of your proposed project. The length is often limited. It should be informative to the reviewers and other investigators in the field. Special care should be taken when preparing the abstract as it is often published. The abstract should describe your proposed project’s background, specific aims, objectives and relevance, methods to be used and expected results but should not contain proprietary information. It does not contain biographical information about the Principal Investigator, the amount of funding requested, or similar data, unless specifically requested by the funding agency. Many federal agencies make abstracts available to the public.

Project Description/Research Plan

The project description describes your project, its purpose, relevance, and implementation. Each sponsor has specific guidelines for this portion of the proposal, including page limitations that must be followed.

Common sections in Research Plans are:

  • Introduction
  • Specific Aims/Objectives
  • Background
  • Research Strategy/Description
  • Methods/Plan of Work
  • Timeline


The bibliography should support the research and include all references cited in the proposal. It shows the reviewers that the principal investigator is familiar with the literature and the amount and depth of scholarship that was put into the proposal. It is an important tool for the reviewers when assessing the proposal. Formats for citations and bibliographies can vary from sponsor to sponsor. Guidelines must be followed carefully.

Biographical Sketch

Biographical sketches are often required for all senior and key personnel (principal investigators, co-principal investigators, and significant contributors). Sponsors have different format and content requirements. The NIH format is often used by non-federal sponsors. Sample biographical sketches for the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation are available at the links below.

NIH Biosketch Instructions (expiration date of 03/31/2020):

The Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv), serves as an interagency system designed to create biosketches for multiple federal agencies. SciENcv pulls information from available resources making it easy to develop a repository of information that can be readily updated and modified to prepare future biosketches. A YouTube video provides instructions for using SciENcv.

Budget and Budget Justification

The budget and budget justification is the financial proposal, reflecting the work proposed in the Project Description and outlining in detail the expected costs. The sponsor's guidelines determine the budget requirements and may include policies on Facilities & Administrative costs, cost sharing or matching requirements, and any other restrictions. These guidelines may also outline the format that must be followed and provide templates.

Detailed information on preparing a budget is available at:

Develop a Budget
Budget Template
Budget Template – State of NH
UNH Rate Sheet

 Facilities and Other Resources

The Facilities and Resources section provides information on the resources available for your use on the proposed project. This section should describe space, instrumentation, and specialized service centers available. Identify the facilities you will be using (laboratory, office, animal, computer, clinical, etc.) and outline their capacity, capabilities, proximity and availability. Discuss ways in which the proposed studies will benefit from the unique features of the available resources and/or subject populations. Describe only those resources that are applicable to the proposed work.

The sponsor uses this information to assess the capability of the organizational resources available to perform the proposed project.

NSF Facilities and Resources Template

NIH Facilites and Resources Example

Data Management/Sharing Plans

Many funding agencies require that researchers manage and share their data. For example, the National Science Foundation expects investigators to share the primary data, samples, physical collections and other supporting material created or gathered under a National Science Foundation grant. The National Institutes of Health considers data sharing essential for the translation of research results into knowledge, products and procedures to improve human health.

The Data Management Toolkit @ UNH provides information to help researchers develop data management plans.

Resources for Addressing Grant Applications Requiring Mentoring

One of the key objectives of external funding for research is the development of the next generation of scientists. Many grant programs are directly related to this objective. Other funding programs, both federal and non-federal, include developing young scientists as one goal amongst the specific goals of a particular project. Funding announcements often require that Principal Investigators or trainees describe both the environment and specific goals that will serve to develop graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and junior into both effective and responsible scientists. Below are suggested resources that assist in developing grant applications.

Examples of Specific Sponsor Requirements for Mentoring Plans

  • NIH: Since July 1990, the National Institutes of Health has required all applications for Institutional National Research Service Award (NRSA) Research Training Grants to include a description of a program to provide instruction in responsible conduct of research. All NRSA supported trainees must be provided an opportunity for training in the responsible conduct of research. For more information on these requirements, please visit this link.
  • NSF: Proposals that request funding to support postdoctoral researchers must include a Postdoctoral Researcher Mentoring Plan.

Below are suggested resources that assist in developing grant applications.

  • UNH RCR Training.
  • Office of Research Integrity RCR Resources: The federal Office of Research Integrity (ORI) website contains numerous education resources and products. Visit this site periodically as more universities contribute to the inventory.
  • National Institutes of Health's Bioethics Resources: This site provides links for those interested in bioethics education, research involving human participants and animals, medical and health care ethics, and the implication of applied genetics and biotechnology.  
  • Scientific Management for Postdocs and New Faculty: Making the Right Moves: A Practical Guide to Scientific management for Postdocs and New Faculty is an instruction manual for investigators preparing to establish their own laboratories. It is a comprehensive document with 13 chapters including how to secure a faculty position, staffing and operating a laboratory, mentoring, time and project management, funding opportunities, publications and intellectual property. The Guide was developed by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Burroughs Wellcome Fund for an intensive training course.
  • A Guide to Training and Mentoring from NIH follow this link to access.
  • AAS Science Careers: Science Careers is dedicated to being the world leader in matching qualified scientists with jobs in industry, academia, and government. We are committed to providing all the necessary career resources for scientists as well as effective recruiting solutions for employers. Our mission supports the American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS's) commitment to furthering careers in science and technology, with an emphasis on fostering greater diversity among the scientific community.
  • National Post Doc Association follow this link to access NPDA.
  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)Provides a selection of Teaching/Advocacy Material, including sample mentoring plans.

Current and Pending Support (Other Support)

Current and Pending Support describes a researcher's current funding, as well proposals that have been submitted but not yet awarded or declined. Sponsors generally utilize the current and pending support document for two purposes: 

  1. To ensure that a researcher is not overcommitted; and 
  2. To determine whether the proposed scope of work overlaps with other projects in the researcher’s portfolio and resolve the overlap, if necessary.

A researcher’s total current and pending effort commitments (expressed as a percentage) may not exceed 100%.

The NSF requires current and pending support information for all key personnel at the time a proposal is submitted, including the current proposal, even if no salary support is received from the project.

The NSF Grant Proposal Guide, Proposal Preparation Instructions, Current and Pending Support provides more information. 

The NIH requires that this information be submitted as part of the Just-in-Time report. 

Compliance Documents

The researcher may need to complete a variety of compliance documents, depending on the needs of the specific project and the sponsor. The sponsor may request this information at the time of the proposal, or as a condition of releasing the award.  


If allowed, appendices may be included with your application. They usually include figures, charts, protocols, and letter of support, as well as other information too unwieldy to be placed in the application. Unless specifically required in the application, they should be kept to a minimum as they are often considered supplemental to the application. Appendices cannot be used to circumvent the page limitations of the project description.

Some federal sponsors do not permit photographs or color images of gels, micrographs, etc., to be included as appendices. Rather, they must be included in the Project Description or Research Plan.

Publications that are readily available should be listed in the Bibliography or References Cited section, or Progress Report Publication List section, and/or the Biographical Sketch, as appropriate, with URL or PMC numbers along with the full references.

View Proposals Knowledge Base

The Knowledge Base contains forms, instruction and training material, minutes, policies, tools and other resources to support your research efforts by topic area.

Contact Information 

Sponsored Programs Administration
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