Parts of a Grant


  • Conform to Guidelines (i.e., if limited in characters, do not exceed the limit)
  • Should be informational (i.e., it may state long-term goals and should include key words)


  • Accurate and Simple (state purpose of work, what will be accomplished, how it will be accomplished and how society will benefit
  • Not provocative (choose words carefully)
  • Interesting-relate to general public
  • Maximum of one page or less (unless otherwise stipulated)

Research Plans

  • Have a limited number of clear objectives, each limited to one sentence (i.e, 1-5 specific aims with sub-aims only if absolutely necessary)
  • Correlate proposed experiments with specific aims
  • Design the proposal so that it is driven by a hypothesis (avoid simply characterizing)
  • Indicate that you are not simply on a fishing expedition (give preliminary data if available)
  • Show strong ideas, modern methods (Show you are on the cutting edge)
  • In the background, be selective in reviewing the literature (Show you are up to date, refer to your own contributions and site contributions of likely reviewers)
  • Emphasize practicality (Be realistic about your abilities and your time table, show you have assay working or it is easy to learn)
  • Indicate possible outcomes and have contingency plans
  • Don't hide potential pitfalls (point them out and show you can handle them)
  • Animals used in experimentation must have species, strain, age and gender indicated (Justify the species and the number of subjects and indicate the method for minimizing discomfort and method for euthanasia)
  • Humans used in experimentation must have approved consent forms (Efforts to include both sexes and minorities must be made, if applicable to the protocol)


  • Be reasonable for both the project and the agency (Be realistic)
  • Justify all requests (show how you arrived at each requested amount for each item)
  • Make special needs beyond the first year explicitly clear
  • Avoid the appearance of overlap (reveal source and scope of other support)
  • Budget Components-follow categories set up by the funding agency

Biographical Sketches

  • Demonstrate that you already have expertise wherever possible
  • All critical personnel should be included here
  • Highlight relevant accomplishments
  • Usually allowed a maximum of two pages/sketch
  • Content is usually an abbreviated curriculum vitae (minimally contains, educational background, experience and publications)

Letters of Recommendation and/or Agreement

  • Recommendation letter - obtain as early as possible
  • Agreement letters from Collaborators or Consultants - make sure the letters of agreement correlate with what you are proposing

Supplemental Materials

  • May not be permitted
  • Should be used sparingly
  • Should not be used to circumvent page limitations
  • Useful for materials that copy poorly, materials that require the use of color, reprints and preprints and significant late findings

Cover Letter

Although not necessary for every grant submitted, a cover letter may be useful to provide specific information regarding the proposal. For instance, when submitting to NIH, it is possible to suggest referral to a particular study section and institute.

Other Things to Keep in Mind When Writing a Grant Application

1. Be mindful of the conditions under which the proposal may be read

  • Late at night
  • On plane
  • In hotel room

2. Impressions matter!

Quality of writing-

  • review carefully
  • get help to improve scientific writing skills
  • conformity to instructions

Appearance, type size, type face, density

  • Indent paragraphs
  • Double space between paragraphs
  • Insert figures into text, a picture is worth a thousand words
  • Set heading off from text
  • Font size must be 10 pt or greater (larger font size preferred)

3. Ethics

  • Science depends on trust
  • Follow guidelines on responsible conduct
  • Don't exaggerate the credentials of personnel and/or collaborators
  • Use money for what you said you will