Research Grant Proposals

Writing a Research Proposal

All successful research grant proposals answer three basic questions.

  1. What is the problem or question? (research question)
    The research question should seek to contribute to a gap or understudied area within a given field. The proposal should detail what has been done or said on the issue to date, and how this new research will add to the existing work on the subject. Most importantly, the research question should be precise and answerable.
  2. How will you answer it? (method)
    The proposal should carefully detail how the research question will be answered and why travel to Europe is essential for its completion. The more precise the research method, the more likely the project will be to receive funding. Students should avoid vague language such as “visit” or “experience.” Students should provide names of contacts they plan to meet or work with and any relevant archives or other research sites they intend to visit. This section should provide evidence that the student has done the necessary background research and pre-trip planning to make the project a success.
  3. Why you and why now? (credentials)
    Students must articulate why they are uniquely qualified to undertake the research as proposed. Students should detail relevant coursework, language skills, and relevant professional and/or research experience. Students should also indicate if the research will contribute to a senior thesis or capstone, or if it will serve as an exploratory project to determine a thesis topic.

A good proposal is one that makes a compelling case for having the opportunity to explore a research topic in-depth, in the best way, with a view toward increasing one’s level of knowledge in a field. If you are writing a senior thesis or a capstone essay and conducting research abroad will demonstrably and significantly increase its quality, the Institute welcomes your application for funding. Proposals from students who have serious intellectual and practical aspirations are always a pleasure to read and support.

Tone and Structure

First and foremost, know the audience. The Nanovic Institute, like any granting body, has specific research priorities and intentions. Whenever possible, incorporate the specific language the Institute uses to describe its priorities or that of the particular grant you are applying to. Student grant proposals are reviewed by a committee of Nanovic faculty fellows. While not all of these fellows will be experts in the proposed area of research, they are intelligent and thoughtful scholars. The grant proposal should be clear, thorough, and concise and should strike a professional and competent tone. Avoid aspirational language such as “I hope to” or “I wish”—the reader should feel as though the author of the proposal is determined to and capable of completing the project proposed. When requesting funding, use the language of need, not the language of want. The reader should feel as though the project is “essential” to the student’s academic or professional goals.

The proposal should be visually clean and simple. Proposals must be 2-3 pages in length and can include up to three appendices. Please number the pages and include a first and last name in the header.

Sample Research Grant Proposals