Recommended Reading

  • Hall, Mary and Susan Howlett. Getting Funded: The Complete Guide to Writing Grant Proposals. 4th ed., Continuing Education Press, 2003.
  • Teitel, Martin. “Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal”: A Foundation Director Reveals What Happens Next. Emerson & Church, 2006.
  • Coley, Soraya M. and Cynthia A. Scheinberg. Proposal Writing. 2nd ed., Sage Publications, 2000.
  • Crawley, Gerard M. and Eoin O’Sullivan. The Grant Writer’s Handbook: How to Write a Research Proposal and Succeed. Imperial College Press, 2016.
  • Geever, Jane C. The Foundation Center’s Guide to Proposal Writing. 6th ed., The Foundation Center 2012.
  • Rajan, Rekha S. and Daniel R. Tomal. Grant Writing: Practical Strategies for Scholars and Professionals. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
  • Sternberg, Robert J. (Ed.). Writing Successful Grant Proposals for the Top Down and the Bottom Up. Sage, 2014
  • Ward, Deborah. Writing Grant Proposals that Win. 4th ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012.
  • Walters, Mary W. Write an Effective Funding Application: A Guide for Researchers and Scholars. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.

Proposal Writing Tips

Common Proposal Elements

  • Cover page or “face page:” institutional data Project title, project period, funding requested, PI name and title, authorizing signatures. See for frequently requested information.
  • Abstract or project summary: Succinct and accurate description of the proposal application.
  • Table of contents: List of all application elements.
  • Budget: Typically divided into two sections: direct costs and Facilities and Administrative cost (also referred to as “F&A” or indirect costs). Please follow the sponsoring agency’s guidelines for format and budget justification. PIs and DAs should ensure compliance and “allowability” with agency guidelines and cost principles (see WashU’s Unallowable Costs on Sponsored Projects, OMB Uniform Guidance 2 CFR 200). Note: NSF normally limits salary compensation for senior project personnel on awards to no more than two months of their regular salary in any one year.
  • Budget justification: Categorical justification for the budget request. Consult WUSTL and agency guidelines regarding specifically stated unallowable costs.
  • Cost sharing: Funds or “in kind” contributions committed to a project by Engineering, which may include cash, effort, supplies and/or equipment. Note: Unless required or specified in the solicitation guidelines, cost sharing is not required or recommended on most proposals to federal agencies. All cost sharing requests included in a proposal need ADVANCE approval from the Engineering Dean’s Office. Please see policies and guidelines.
  • Biographical sketch (biosketch) and/or curriculum vitae (CV): A chronological and comprehensive detailing of the professional accomplishments of the PI. Curriculum vita(e) of all key personnel involved in the project should be included if specifically requested; often a biosketch of the key personnel is sufficient. Review agency format and instructions before requesting from key personnel.
  • Current and pending/other support: List of current and pending grant support of all key personnel. NSF requires that the currently proposed project be listed as well. Also see: Calculation of person months.
  • Proposal narrative: Objectives of the project and work to be accomplished (see solicitation guidelines).
  • Bibliography/references: List of references cited in the Proposal Narrative.
  • Other elements, as required:
    • Human subjects protocol
    • Animal subjects protocol
    • Other compliance approvals (recombinant DNA, radioactive materials, and embryonic stem cells)
  • For outgoing subawards (from proposed subrecipients):
    • Budget
    • Budget justification
    • Biographical sketch(es)
    • Scope of work
    • Facilities statement/Resources (if necessary)
    • Letter of intent (Template)
    • Signature of institutional official on letter of intent, which includes:
      • PI name
      • Project title
      • Agency name
      • Performance period
      • Cumulative budget total
      • Scope of work
  • For incoming subawards (where WUSTL is the subrecipient):
    • Complete all required information as you would for a normal proposal.
    • OSRS completes the letter of intent.
  • Additional Resources:

Note: DoD has several sub-agencies (e.g., ONR, ARO, AFOSR, etc.) that have their own proposal guidelines. Please consult the sub-agency’s specific requirements.

Internal Selections

An internal selection is required when an external sponsor limits the number of applications that can be submitted by a single institution.

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