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Jessie Ball duPont Library

Research Proposals

How to Write Research Proposals for Grants and Other Funding Opportunities


As when present in other types of writing, the abstract of a research proposal is a short concise statement of the entire proposal. While lengths vary according to organizational requirements, the typical length of an abstract is 150-200 words. 


The narrative of a proposal can range quite a bit depending on the specifications of the solicited sponsor. The narrative typically includes:

  • Statement of Problem -- A brief argument for why research needs to be done in this area (and why funding is necessary)
  • Research Claim -- The end result of your research in measurable and quantifiable terms (Research Claims
  • Literature Review -- A survey of the current state of research in this area (Literature Reviews)
  • Proposed Methodology -- A detailed explanation of how each component of the research claim will be studied, investigated, and verified
    • Timeline -- Steps of the research process delineated in terms of deadlines 
    • Budgets -- A thorough projection of estimated costs of every aspect of the research
    • Outcomes -- Description of particular evidential benchmarks that will determine the comprehensive answer to the research claim (Evidence)
  • Appendixes -- Any ancillary documents that outline further different aspects of the research project (particularly ones that have bearing on estimated costs)


Usually, research proposals have three types of costs: direct costs, indirect costs, and cost sharing

  • Direct Costs -- These costs are the usual and obvious costs associated with a particular activity or aspect of the research project (e.g., salary for personnel, travel fees, equipment fees)
  • Indirect Costs -- (overhead) These costs are common expenses of any large-scale project but cannot be assigned to one specific activity or component of research (e.g., facilities maintenance)
  • Cost Sharing -- These costs are not expected to be covered by the sponsoring agency (e.g., matched funds)


Timelines must be detailed with precise deadlines. Usually, timelines are presented in both list and graphic formats. View the examples here.


Appendixes include a wide range of relevant data and information that are referenced (but not contained) in the narrative of the proposal. 

  • Sample materials and reports
  • Letters of support
  • Ethical consent forms
  • Interview schedules
  • Survey/Questionnaire forms
  • Bibliographic information (e.g., non-profit organizations in a research area)