Skip to main content

Proposal Help

Develop an Idea
Prepare a Proposal
Writing A Proposal
Submitting A Proposal

Identify a Fundable Research Topic

  1. Clearly describe the problem, need, or area of research you want to get funded.
  2. Collect and analyze background information - (journal articles, results of preliminary research, etc.) to ensure your idea is novel, relevant, and compelling.
  3. Draft a short, well-crafted description of the problem/need/idea and present it to colleagues for a critical review.
  4. Do you have the ability, capability and resources to pursue your idea?
  5. Identify any preliminary research in the area you are pursuing or in a related area. Will your idea build upon this research?
  6. Identify your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses. Do you know if they will submit a proposal? Have you considered collaborating with a potential competitor?

Writing a Biosketch

The NSF and NIH require a biographical sketch (limited to two pages) for each individual identified as senior personnel. The NSF now requires an approved format for preparation of the biographical sketch. Approved formats for creating biographical sketches are found below.

Marketing Your Proposal

Reviewers will quickly determine whether or not they like a proposal. Therefore, it is critical that your proposal catch reviewers’ interests as soon as the review process begins. The resources provided below describe techniques to make your proposal interesting and compelling so it will stand out in the minds of reviewers.

Crafting a Winning Title - A paper that describes how to create an attention-grabbing and effective title for a proposal.

Crafting a Sales Pitch - A paper that outlines how to create an efficient and convincing sales pitch for a proposal.

Toot Your Own Horn - A paper that discusses ways that scientists can recognize and improve the things they already do to market ideas and proposals.


Can We Talk- A paper by Robert Porter that provides guidance for initiating and conducting conversations with program officers and program managers from funding organizations.

Giving Presentations - A presentation by David Long and Randy Beard describing an effective process for preparing technical presentations.

Just because you’re eligible doesn’t mean you’re competitive - A presentation from In4Grants for developing and writing competitive proposals. The presentation uses an NIH proposal as an example, but the principles described – know your competition, what the agency is looking for, etc. – apply to any funding organization.

Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae

The NSF has partnered with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to use SciENcv as an NSF-approved format for use in preparation of the biographical sketch section of an NSF proposal. Adoption of a single, common researcher profile system for Federal grants reduces administrative burden for researchers. SciENcv will produce an NSF-compliant PDF version of the biographical sketch. Proposers must save these documents and submit them as part of their proposals via FastLane, or

Research Development can help with every step of the Proposal Development Process. The chart below explains the application steps for external funding.

Proposal Writing Process Chart

Fundable Ideas

A grant seeker must fully understand and appreciate that all ideas must help a funding agency ACHIEVE ITS MISSION. Your proposal must:

  • Resonate with a funder’s mission
  • Be a step along the continuum of professional activities leading to your long-term career goal
  • Be accomplished in a realistic amount of time
  • Position you as an acknowledged expert or leader or “first” in my area
  • Address a knowledge gap

Research Development can help you by providing constructive criticism of your idea and research questions and by identifying others to review your ideas. We can also create panels with BYU faculty (or even faculty at other institutions) to review your project. We can research funders’ award histories and help you target the right directorate for your proposal. We can also help you prepare for program officer meetings.

Identify Funding

Research Development can help you use funding search tools like Pivot. We can also provide targeted information about specific funders and complete an analysis of current funding trends and competitors in your field. For more information about identifying funding see our Tools for Finding Funding page.

Research Development also manages the largest internal grant program at BYU—the Interdisciplinary Research Origination Awards. These awards are seed funding to help faculty write and capture external funding. For more information go to our Interdisciplinary Research Origination Award page.

Pre-Proposal Activities

Talking to a program officer prior to submitting a proposal can greatly increase your chances for success. Before you engage with a program officer you should identify the funder’s mission and priorities from their website. You should prepare a short written “elevator pitch” that describes your research in a couple of paragraphs which you will then email to the program officer. Ask the program officer to discuss the relevance of your idea to the funder’s mission. Research Development can help you to:

  • Make initial contact and help prepare for program officer conversations
  • Help write tailored and compelling “white papers”
  • Provide information about awards made by the funder
  • Arrange program officer visits to campus and schedule individual visits
  • Connect with BYU faculty resources


Before you begin writing your proposal, you need to thoroughly address the funder’s solicitation. Look for deadlines, proposal requirements (like font size), see what proposal components should be included (budgets, data management plans, project summary, etc.). You should also look for unusual requirements as well as any procedures for submittal that your institution wants you to follow. Don’t forget to look closely at the review criteria so that your proposal aligns with what the reviewers will prioritize. The reviewers’ ultimate objective is to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your ideas versus the strengths and weaknesses of competing ideas. Your job will be to convince reviewers of the significance of an impactful project that supports their interests. Research Development can:

  • Help dissect the funder’s solicitation and review criteria
  • Align idea descriptions with the funder's mission statement
  • Provide templates and samples
  • Help manage proposal components and deadlines


Writing a proposal for external funding is different than most types of academic writing. It is much more persuasive and result-driven than the average scholarly journal article. Each section of your proposal should demonstrate that your project is worthy of funding. Your proposal should:

  • State a clear project goal
  • Contain measurable objectives that support the project goal
  • Illustrate measures and tasks that will help you obtain the measurable objectives
  • Demonstrate that you have the right personnel, equipment and support to accomplish the methods and tasks
  • Show that your budget supports the tasks and is justifiable
  • Articulate that your project will result in substantial benefits

Research Development can edit and review all of the written proposal components. We also offer a variety of proposal writing workshops throughout the academic year. Our two-day December Grant Proposal Writing Workshop is a partnership with the Faculty Center and is offered each December. Participants learn to hone a fundable idea, identify possible funders, and develop the logic of their proposals. In the spring, Research Development runs a four-day Intensive Grant-Writing Bootcamp where participants learn how to write a persuasive proposal that is edited and reviewed by peer mentors. Participants can continue to work throughout the summer on a full proposal that is submitted to an external funder. Participants in the spring Intensive Grant-Writing Bootcamp receive a monetary incentive; they receive an additional monetary incentive for submitting a full proposal at the end of the summer.

Research Development can help you at any stage of your proposal! Request a meeting with us!

Research Administration Office

The Research Administration Office supports faculty, students, staff, and university administration in encouragement and enabling of research, creative activities, and other expressions of academic scholarship.

Sponsored Projects Administrators help faculty with getting research proposals through internal approvals (via Kuali Research) and submitted to the sponsor. This process is required for all proposals; please submit your proposal for review five business days before the due date.

Upon award, they represent the university in research contract negotiations and facilitate award set up. They coordinate any contractual needs during the course of each project and ensure close-out requirements are met.

Who To Contact

Each Sponsored Projects Administrator is assigned a portion of the university. Contact info and assignments are found in the Research Administration Office Directory.

Samples of Winning Proposals