GUIDE to PROPOSAL DEVELOPMENT
Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship
The mission of the Office for the Advancement of Research & Scholarship (OARS) is to encourage, facilitate, and support the Miami University community in its effort to obtain external funding for all forms of research, education, scholarly, creative, service, and outreach activities. External funding can provide resources such as release time during the academic year, support during summer months, student assistants, equipment, and travel.
In general, external funding is secured by submitting a proposal. Proposal writing can sometimes seem like a mysterious process and even academics who are perfectly comfortable writing articles for publication can be intimidated by the prospect of writing a proposal for external funding. Thankfully, experienced OARS staff are available to provide support and assistance with all aspects of proposal development, including: • Identification of potential funding sources • Development of proposal budgets and narratives • Editing of proposals • Navigation of the internal review and electronic submission processes • Cultivation of relationships with funding agencies, including follow-up on funded and nonfunded proposals
FINDING FUNDING While the internet is a good place to start your funding search, more targeted services may yield better results. Whether you are looking for funding for a specific project, the resources available in the “Finding Funding” section of the OARS website can help you find the funding you need.
CONCEPT PAPER A concept paper is a brief sketch of your project idea. In addition to helping you think through, refine, and organize ideas for a proposal, a concept paper may be used as a pre-proposal, an initial step in the application process required by some funding agencies. Even when a pre-proposal is not required, a concept paper can be used to solicit feedback about your ideas from colleagues and/or agency program staff. ABSTRACT Although the abstract is usually written last, it appears at the beginning of your proposal and reviewers form their first impressions about your project from reading it. In fact, reviewers often make decisions about whether to fund a project after reading the proposal abstract. The abstract should explain the purpose, goals, and methods of your research or project. It should include a clear, direct statement of the project goals and each sentence should communicate specific, valuable information.
PREPARE TO WRITE
GUIDELINES Once you’ve identified a funding opportunity that you think is a good fit for your work, download the request for proposals (RFP) or guidelines for the program and read them carefully. Your OARS consultant can help interpret the guidelines and answer any questions you might have.
As its name suggests, the project narrative tells the story of your project. This part of the proposal generally includes the following seven sections.
Questions to answer in this section: • What is the problem/need and why is it a problem/need? • How extensive is the problem or need? • Who is affected? • What has already been done to address this problem or need and why have these efforts been insufficient? 2. GOALS & OBJECTIVES Although the terms are commonly used interchangeably, when it comes to grants, there is a difference between a goal and an objective. A goal is broad statement about an ideal or hopedfor state, while an objective is a specific, achievable, measurable step taken toward accomplishing a goal. Goals are sometimes developed by the funding agency you’re targeting. Objectives specify what you expect to accomplish through your project. Objectives should be presented in a form that directly parallels your problem statement. Be clear and precise about what you plan to do, when you will do it, and how you expect to show you have accomplished your objectives. Questions to answer in this section: • What do you propose to do to solve the problem or meet the need and to what extent? • When, where, and with whom do you propose to do it? • In what order do you propose to perform various steps? • What resources do you plan to use?
Questions to answer in this section: • What is your specific plan of action? • How and why did you choose this particular plan? • Is it the only way to solve the problem? Did you consider other methods, and if so, why did you reject them? • Can you do what you propose? 4. PROJECT PERSONNEL This section usually consists of two parts: a list of personnel and biographical data sheets. In the list of personnel, indicate each project participant’s academic classification; define his/her role in the project, highlighting the particular area of expertise; and specify the percentage of his/her time that will be spent working on the project. If you propose to create a new position, discuss the required qualifications. 5. INSTITUTIONAL RESOURCES It’s important to show fit between institution and project and to explain why your institution is the ideal place to conduct your project. To that end, this section includes information about your institution’s background and resources. The OARS website contains some “boilerplate” descriptions of Miami University that you are welcome to use in your proposals. You will need to supplement the boilerplate with information relevant to your specific project, such as Miami’s demonstrated competency in the project area, special facilities or support services important to your project, or Miami’s associations with other institutions or agencies.
WRITE THE NARRATIVE (PART I)
1. PROBLEM STATEMENT Begin with a broad problem, and connect it to the smaller or contributing problem you plan to address in this specific project. Cite statistics and other specific, relevant data to establish that there is a problem or need. Draw on the literature to document the problem and to describe what has already been done. Explain why past solutions or actions are not sufficient.
3. METHODOLOGY This section details the methods you will use to reach your objectives. As the heart of the proposal, this section should contain the most information and detail. Each stated objective should be matched to a corresponding method statement, using a format that illustrates this connection. You must justify your choice of methods, drawing on the literature to show why alternative methods have not succeeded and how yours is best. Also be sure to discuss the credentials that enable you and other project personnel to carry out this project successfully.
Questions to answer in this section: • How will you know if your objectives have been reached? • How will you measure results? • What type of evaluation will you conduct? • When will the evaluation occur? • Who will perform the evaluation and what are their credentials? 7. DISSEMINATION Funding agencies are not only interested in the success of your project; they’re also interested in ensuring your results are shared broadly. Dissemination is the act of making the results of your project known to various audiences, including: • The funder • Project participants • Your institution • Other professionals in your field • The general public Because each audience may be interested in your results for different reasons, multiple methods of dissemination may be required. Common methods include journal articles, formal reports, presentations at professional meetings and conferences, media presentations, electronic databases, and websites. Questions to answer in this section: • How will the results of the project be disseminated? • To whom, when, and where will the results be disseminated?
WRITE THE NARRATIVE (PART II)
6. EVALUATION Funding agencies often require detailed evaluation plans that accurately measure the success of projects in meeting their stated objectives. In this section, you should draw a clear line between each stated objective and a method for evaluating its success. The type of evaluation you choose — formative, summative, impact, or process — will depend on your particular objectives. Some investigators choose to engage Miami’s Evaluation and Assessment Center or other expert to write and/or implement their evaluation plans.
PREPARATION OARS staff are available to provide assistance with budget preparation. Contact your OARS consultant early in the proposal development process to ensure all necessary items are reflected in both the proposal budget and the project narrative. Most funding agencies provide specific guidelines and formats for presenting your budget. COST SHARING Some agencies require cost sharing or matching contributions from other sources. In most cases, cash and in-kind contributions may count toward the specified cost share, which is often expressed as a percentage of the total request. Voluntary cost sharing — that which is not required by the sponsor — is prohibited by some Federal agencies and is only allowed by the University under special circumstances. When it is required by the sponsor, all proposed cost sharing must be documented with letters of commitment from relevant outside entities and/or department/college approvals. COSTS Costs are generally broken down into two categories: direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are those that can be specifically allocated to a particular project, including personnel, fringe benefits, equipment, materials and supplies, travel, publication costs, consultant services, and subcontracts. Specific information about these costs is available on the OARS website. Indirect costs, which are also referred to as overhead or facilities and administration (F & A) costs, are incurred by an organization for common objectives that cannot be associated with a particular project. These include utilities, physical plant operations and maintenance, department/college administrative support, research administration, and library services. At Miami, indirect costs are calculated at our Federallynegotiated rate, and recovered indirects are redistributed back to the PI, department, and college. More information is available on the OARS website. BUDGET NARRATIVE The budget narrative explains each of the budget components, justifying costs in terms of the proposed work and showing how each budget item helps meet the stated objectives.
DRAFT THE BUDGET & BUDGET NARRATIVE
Every budget item must be accounted for somewhere in the text and every expense-generating activity mentioned in the text must be reflected in the budget. The budget enumerates costs, and the funding agency will examine it to see if it’s large enough to cover the activities you propose, but not padded to buy extra things not directly related to the project. Too small is just as bad as too big!
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS PROPOSAL APPROVAL & SUBMISSION All solicitations for external funding are submitted by the University and must be approved prior to submission. Before a proposal can be signed by an authorized university representative or electronically submitted by OARS, it must receive approval from the proper individuals, including department chairs and deans. RESEARCH COMPLIANCE Federal and state regulations and university policies require that Miami assure the safe and ethical practice of research and scholarly activities. This involves local training and often review and approval of proposed activities by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Institutional Animal Care & Use Committee (IACUC), and other relevant university-wide committees. Contacting the Research Compliance Office early in the process helps avoid delays in beginning research. PROPRIETARY INFORMATION & COMMERCIALIZATION If you are preparing any proposal with a potential for commercialization, you should contact the Office of Technology Transfer & Business Partnerships (TTBP). This office will help you develop the relevant section(s) of your proposal and provide you with important information on patent and/or copyright processes. In addition, the Office of TTBP can help market your ideas to potential licensees for further development and assist with corporate research relationships. More information about these considerations is available on the OARS website.
Designed by OARS 07/2014
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This guide provides an overview of the information typically found in a proposal for external funding