Office of Research & Creative Scholarship
Top Ten Ways To Write a Good Proposal (That Won’t Get Funded)
1. Assume deadlines are not enforced.
- Work early with your Sponsored Research Officer (SRO).
- Test drive FastLane and make sure your SRO knows how to drive too!
- Set your own final deadline a day or so ahead of the formal deadline to allow time to solve problems.
- Grants.gov is in use now.
2. Assume page limits and font size restrictions are not enforced.
- Consult the program solicitation and the GPG (Grant Proposal Guide) carefully.
- Proposals that exceed page and/or font size limits are returned without review.
3. Substitute flowery rhetoric for good examples.
- Minimize complaints about students, other departments, the administration, etc., and describe what you will do and why.
- Ground your project in the context of related efforts.
- Provide detailed examples of learning materials, if relevant.
- Specify who you will work with and why.
- State how you plan to assess progress and student learning.
- Detail the tasks and timeline for completing activities.
- Specifically address intellectual merit and broader impacts and use the phrases explicitly in the project summary.
4. Don’t check your speeling, nor you’re grammer.
- Check and double check; first impressions are important to reviewers.
- State your good ideas clearly. Ignore the bad ones.
- Have a trusted colleague who is not involved in the project read your drafts and final proposal.
Note: Don’t use complimentary when you mean complementary or principle investigator when you mean principal investigator, etc.
5. Assume the program guidelines have not changed; better yet, ignore them!
- Read the solicitation completely and carefully.
- Address each area outlined in the solicitation that is relevant to your project.
- Check the program solicitation carefully for any additional criteria, e.g. the Integration of Research and Education, or integrating diversity into NSF Programs, Projects, and Activities
6. Assert: “Evaluation will be ongoing and consist of a variety of methods.”
- Plan for formative and summative evaluation.
- Include an evaluation plan with specific timelines and projected benchmarks.
- Engage an objective evaluator.
7. Assume a project website is sufficient for dissemination.
- A website may be necessary, but who will maintain it and how in the long run?
- Engage beta test sites. “Early adopters” can serve as natural dissemination channels.
- Plan workshops and mini-courses; identify similar projects and propose sessions at regional and national meetings.
- Learn about and use NSDL and other digital repositories.
8. Assume your past accomplishments are well known; after all, NSF may have funded them.
- Provide results from prior funding – this includes quantitative data and information on impact.
- Describe how new efforts build on this previous work, and how it has contributed to the broader knowledge base about educational improvement.
- Recognize that the review panelists are diverse and not all familiar with your institutional context.
9. Provide a template letter of commitment for your (genuine) supporters to use. (They will!)
- Ask for original letters of support that detail what your collaborators will do and why involvement in your project will help them.
- Letters from administrators are stronger if they demonstrate real commitment, e.g. release time, faculty development funds, new course approvals, etc.
10. Inflate the budget to allow for negotiations.
- Make the budget reflect the work plan directly.
- Provide a budget explanation that ties your budget request to project personnel and activities.
- Make it clear who is responsible for what.
- Provide biographical sketches for all key personnel.
External Funding Pre-Approval
Before starting an application for funding from an external institution, please fill out and submit the External Funding Pre-Approval Form.