Developing Your Proposal

Proposal requirements vary depending on the funding sponsor, however most contain the following common elements.

Cover Page

The cover page or title page allows you to present your proposal in a standardized manner. 

  • Many agencies use a specific cover or title page; follow the instructions carefully. 
  • Be clear and concise.

Project Summary/Abstract

The project summary/abstract provides a general overview of the proposed work, including the need, the proposed methods and the expected outcomes of the work. Write it in the third person and address an educated lay audience. It's also helpful to highlight the broader impact of the work in terms of the funding source’s mission.

Limit the project summary/abstract to one page or less and don't include any proprietary information.

The Office of Research Advancement's technical editors can help you draft your abstract.


Your proposal specialist will guide you through the process of creating a budget. You will need the following information to get started:

  • Sponsor guidelines
  • Start date
  • Duration
  • PI and Co-I effort
  • Any additional costs (e.g. supplies, tuition, etc.)

The following links are helpful in developing your budget:

Project Description/Research Strategy

The project description/research strategy provides the most direct narrative of the research underpinning the proposal. Emphasize intellectual merit, contextual significance and innovation. Your synopsis should help a reviewer understand why the investigator and research team are uniquely qualified to lead the proposed project.

For hypothesis-driven proposals, a well-developed hypothesis should be tested through clearly defined objectives or specific aims. 

  • Make each aim independent, quantifiable and achievable within the funding period.
  • Include a strong rationale for each proposed experiment.
  • Describe the proposed methods.
  • Outline expected outcomes.
  • Identify potential problems and suggested solutions or alternative approaches.

For needs-driven proposals, clearly state the need for the product or service as well as who will benefit from the product or service. 

  • Describe the objectives or tasks that need to be accomplished to develop the product or service,
  • Include the benchmarks for success,
  • Identify any potential problems and proposed solutions.


UB faculty members frequently subcontract a portion of their research to other universities and research institutions.You create a subcontract when you make an agreeement with an entity outside the university to work on a specific proposal. The subcontractor provides SPS the following information and documents prior to proposal submission:

  • A statement of work
  • Budget and budget justification for the activity
  • Institutional signatures

Biographical Sketch/Vitae for Key Personnel

The biographical sketch briefly describes the professional life of the investigator as pertinent to the current submission.

A biographical sketch is required for all key personnel.  The funding source guidelines will define key personnel. 

Key information may include:

  • education
  • professional affiliation
  • publications
  • current and previous funding

Current and Pending/Other Support

This is a list of all current grants and contracts of the Principal Investigator (PI) and other key project personnel as well as any other proposals that are pending a funding decision.

We recommend a separate form for each person, including:

  • Sponsor
  • Title of the project
  • Awarded amount
  • Total time committed to the project
    • You may not allocate more than 100 percent of your time in a given period. 
    • Time committed does not always correlate to time budgeted.

Please note that NIH does not require current and pending/other support at proposal time. If after NIH's initial review, your award receives a Just-In-Time (JIT) request, you will need to list the information at that time.

Resources/Equipment and Facilities

When planning your research, consider the tools and technology needed to be successful. Some agencies require a specific form while others do not. In either case, thoroughly describe all needed equipment and facilities. Then clearly delineate between what's already available to you and what additional resources you need to implement your proposed project. Remember to list:

  • Special equipment
  • Services
  • Field resources
  • Animal care facilities
  • Controlled environments or special laboratory facilities

Equipment - Equipment is defined as all items of tangible property having an acquisition cost of $5,000 or more and a useful life expectancy of more than one year. Equipment is divided into two broad categories.

  • Special purpose equipment is useful only for scientific, medical, or other technical activities.
  • General purpose equipment may be used for scientific, medical or other technical activities, but is also useful for non-technical activities. Office furniture, motor vehicles, photocopiers, personal computers, and cameras are examples of general purpose equipment.

Most sponsors, and especially federal sponsors, are reluctant to fund the purchase of general purpose equipment. Funds requested for general purpose equipment must, therefore, be well justified. Each item of equipment should be identified in the proposed budget by type, number of units to be purchased, estimated cost, and the basis for the estimate (vendor quotation or catalog price).  In some cases manufacturer and model number is requested.  The cost estimate should be supported by written documentation which should be retained by the Project Director in the event of a pre-award audit

Data Management and Resource Sharing Plans

Many sponsors such as NSF require program-specific planning documents. They might include:

  • Data management plans
  • Resource or software sharing plans
  • Mentoring plans

References/Literature Cited

The references or literature cited should contain the complete citation for any source referenced within the project description/research strategy. For each source, you will need to list:

  • All authors
  • Year of publication
  • Paper title
  • Journal title
  • Volume
  • Pages (or DOI)

Also, be aware of the sponsor's preferred style for the documents, whether that's Chicago Manual, American Medical Association (AMA), Americal Psychological Association (APA), American Sociological Association (ASA),Associated Press (AP) or other.

Confidential Disclosure Agreement

Confidential Disclosure Agreements (CDA), also referred to as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA), are legal contracts between all participating entities and may be required in some circumstances. These agreements outline confidential material, knowledge or information to be shared within the agreement but with restricted access to third parties. Participants agree not to disclose confidential and proprietary materials or trade secrets, thus protecting nonpublic business information.

As needed, your SPS Administrator will facilitate this process between you and Technology Transfer.