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You are here: ROADS at McMaster > ROADS FAQs > What are Elements of a Successful Proposal?

ROADS FAQs

What are Elements of a Successful Proposal?

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General Considerations

  • Relates to the purposes and goals of applicant agency
  • Strictly adheres to the content and format guidelines of the applicant agency
  • Is directed toward the appropriate audience (i.e. those who will review the proposal)
  • Clearly addresses the review criteria of the funding source
  • Is interesting to read
  • Uses a clear, concise, coherent writing style, free of jargon, superfluous information, and undefined acronyms (i.e. it's easy to read)
  • Is organized in a logical manner that is easy to follow
  • Uses headings so that information can be found easily
  • Calls attention to the most significant points in the proposal through the use of underlining, differences in type, spacing, titles, and appropriate summaries
  • Is paginated from beginning to end, including appendix when directly appended to the proposal
  • Makes appropriate use of figures, graphs, charts, and other visual materials
  • Is so meticulously proofread that it has few (if any) grammatical errors, misspellings, or typos

The Proposal

  • Has title that is appropriate, descriptive, and (perhaps) imaginative
  • Unless it is brief, has a table of contents that is straight-forward and accurate
  • Has a clear, concise, informative abstract/executive summary that can stand alone
  • Has clearly stated goals and objectives that are not buried in a morass of narrative
  • Follows naturally from previous/current programs or research
  • Documents the needs to be met or problems to be solved by the proposed project
  • Indicates that the project's hypotheses rest on sufficient evidence and are conceptually sound
  • Clearly describes who will do the work (who), the methods that will be employed (what), which facilities or location will be used (where), and a timetable of events (when)
  • Justifies the significance and/or contribution of the project on current scientific knowledge or a given population of people or a body of writing/art and socio economic benefit when appropriate
  • Includes appropriate and sufficient citations to prior work, ongoing studies, and related literature
  • Establishes the competence and scholarship of the individual(s) involved
  • Doesn't assume that reviewers "know what you mean"
  • Makes no unsupported assumptions
  • Discusses potential pitfalls and alternative approaches
  • Presents a plan for evaluating data or the success of project
  • Is of reasonable dimensions (i.e. not trying to answer all of the questions at once)
  • Proposes work which can be accomplished in the time allotted
  • Demonstrates the individual(s) and/or organization are qualified to perform the proposed project; doesn't assume that the applicant agency "knows all about you"
  • Documents facilities necessary for the success of the project
  • Includes necessary letters of support and other supporting documentation
  • Includes vitae which demonstrate the credentials required (e.g., Don't use a promotion and tenure vitae replete with institutional committee assignments for a research proposal)
  • Includes a bibliography of cited references

The Budget

  • Has a budget which corresponds to the narrative: all major elements detailed in the budget are described in the narrative and vice versa
  • Has a budget sufficient to perform the tasks described in the narrative
  • Has a budget which corresponds to the applicant's agency's guidelines with respect to content and detail


PROPOSAL TITLES

Weak: Genetic Diversity in Luidia clathrada
Better: Genetic Diversity in the Starfish Luidia clathrada

Weak: Three Plays by Eugene O'Neill
Better: A Comparison of Female Characters in Three Eugene O'Neill Plays

Weak: Improving Math Education in Elementary Schools
Better: Innovative Instructional Materials to Improve Math Education in Elementary Schools

Weak: Preparing a New Agenda for Minority Education at the University of Iowa (What's at the University...the agenda or minority education?)
Better: Minority Education: Preparing a New Agenda for the University of Iowa

Weak: Special Studies Directed at the Simplification of Analytical Procedures Concerned with Identification of Blood Proteins
Better: Methods to Simplify Analytical Procedures Used to Identify Blood Proteins

Weak: Uses of Marine Plant Species in Food Production to Bring About Reductions in Food Costs
Better: Uses of Marine Plant Species in Food Production to Reduce Food Costs

Weak: New Perspectives in Learning
Better: New Perspectives in Learning: A Program to Facilitate the Retention and Graduation of Minority Students

Weak: Regulation of K Secretion by the CCD
Better: Regulation of Potassium Secretion by the Cortical Collecting Duct

Weak: CT Versus MR in the Diagnosis of Brain Disorders
Better: Computer Tomography (CT) Versus Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR) in the Diagnosis of Brain Disorders