Know Your Audience.

Assume that the grant reviewers are peers who are generally familiar with your field, but not with the specifics of your research topic and problem.

Style and Format are Important.

In a grant application, the proposed idea must be strong, the research must be well planned, and good style and format will make your proposal easy to understand. 

  • Avoid jargon, which may confuse the reader.
  • Define acronyms.
  • Use simple sentences.
  • Write clearly and persuasively. 
  • Bold or underline a key phrase for emphasis.

Write a Complete Proposal.

You should summarize the issue your study addresses, background about the problem, what you want to do (specific aims), the idea that you want to test (your hypothesis or goals), preliminary data to support the hypothesis (if applicable), a practical experimental design and methods to test the hypothesis or meet the goals, possible immediate outcomes that you predict from your approach, your plan to manage potential pitfalls, and the long term outcomes (significance) that you predict will impact the field.

Sell your proposal by stating its significance and the feasibility of your approach, including realistic time/budget constraints.


Think like a reviewer. A reviewer must read approximately 20 applications and form an opinion about each one. Organize the proposal logically and clearly. Your thought process of the application should be easy to follow. Make your points as directly as possible.

If new to grant writing, find a mentor to get feedback on your proposal before submitting your application. Check whether more experienced colleagues will allow you to look at grant proposals they have submitted in the past. This may help you structure your proposal in the clearest way possible.

Write in plain language so a non-expert may understand your proposed work. Prepare early. Proofread and remove any editorial editing and tracking from the document.

Place your work in perspective. Show the importance to the field and not in just solving a problem at your institution.

Include enough background information to enable a reviewer to understand your proposed work, but keep it succinct so you don't exceed the page limits.

Note that page and word limits are firm maximums; fewer pages are encouraged if the necessary information can be provided in less space. Please observe the formatting requirements on page 2 of the application and the page limits for each section. Applications that exceed these limits will be disqualified.