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Full Proposal Outline

Many foundations will provide a clear description of the expectations for the content and structure of your proposal. If they do not provide this, the following elements should be included.


Open your proposal with a summary of the problem you seek to address in your research or project, a brief description of the approach you will take, and why the problem is significant. Make sure this is tailored to the particular foundation's mission and program focus. An early statement of the funding request is also appropriate in this section.


Clearly describe the problem and the current status of knowledge in the area. Rely on literature in the field, your previous work, and available datasets to define the problem and its relevance to society. Provide a convincing display of your expertise in the area that you will be contributing to.

Research questions or hypotheses

If you are planning a research project provide your research questions or hypotheses. These should clearly relate to the literature just reviewed, and the design and methodology that follow.

Design and methodology

This section should go in-depth on how you will go about doing your research or project work. The methodology will detail all of the strategies and activities you will undertake in order to address the problem. Be sure to include a description of the structure of the data, and how the data will be collected, if original data will be collected.

If secondary analyses are planned, describe the data in enough detail for reviewers to evaluate its appropriateness to answer your research questions. Describe your analysis plans, and make sure that your analysis plans align with all of the research questions or hypotheses introduced earlier in the proposal.


Most funders will have a budget template for you to complete. Make sure that you contact your research or business administrator early on in the budgeting process to be able to obtain Office of Sponsored Research (OSR) approval. OSR will approve the foundation's published indirect cost rate, which is likely to be much lower than the federal rate.

Budget justification

Your research administrator can also help put together this document, which will explain the various cost elements associated with the project.