Research Funding Basics: What Should a Grant Proposal Include?

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how to write a grant proposal

A grant proposal for research is like a formal request sent to an organization, asking for money to support a research project. It is a document or a group of papers that explains what the research is about and why it is important. Writing a grant proposal can be tough, especially for someone new to research. Because many funding agencies have less money to give out, and lots of researchers are asking for it, it’s crucial to write a perfect grant proposal to stand out and increase the chances of getting the needed funding.[1][2]  

Elements of a grant proposal  

A grant proposal has several essential elements or sections. These may go by different names depending on the guidelines of varying grant agencies, but they serve similar purposes. The cover letter acts as a polite introduction, while the executive summary provides a quick overview of the project. Organizational qualifications focus on why the applying group is suitable for the project, and a short overview offers a summary.   

The statement of need explains why the project is vital by outlining the problem it addresses. The project narrative is the main part, detailing the project’s plans and methods. Finally, the budget section breaks down the requested funds, demonstrating how they will be used for the project.[1][2]   

Let us examine how to write a grant proposal by taking up each of these elements.  

How to Write a Grant Proposal for Research[1][4][7]  

  1. Cover Letter: In a grant proposal, a cover letter is like a friendly introduction before the main request. It introduces you and your organization and aims to show that you are serious and professional about your project. The cover letter briefly talks about your project and expresses your excitement for it and gratitude for the people considering your funding request.  
  2. Executive Summary: The executive summary is a brief, condensed overview of your proposal, addressing critical questions about the project’s purpose, need, expected outcomes, methods, success measurement, and significance. It’s usually written last, serving as a concise introduction.  
  3. Problem Statement: The significance of your project lies in addressing a notable gap in resources, knowledge, or opportunities that genuinely requires attention. To establish the value of your project, it is crucial to define the need or problem it seeks to resolve clearly. Early in your proposal, provide background information to set the context of this problem. Importantly, emphasize how your project will have a broader, positive impact beyond simply answering an academic question. 
  4. Project Goals and Objectives: Once you have highlighted the need for your project, it is time to detail the project itself by answering critical questions. Clearly define the goals or research questions, articulate the outcomes your project aims for, and explain the methods to achieve these objectives. Emphasize how you will measure and recognize project achievements, ensuring they align with the identified need. Establishing a realistic timeline is essential. Focusing on the impact your project will have is critical, as funders want to see clear benefits and a robust plan for verifying and assessing the project’s success.  
  5. Budget: When seeking funding or support, it is crucial to specify exactly what you are requesting for and why you are asking for specific amounts. Budgets are often presented in tables and figures, clearly labelling each amount. Following the budget, you may need a justification statement explaining why each cost, material, and equipment is valid, reasonable, and essential for your project.  
  6. Organizational Information: This section focuses on the organization or individual requesting the grant. When an individual is seeking a grant, all relevant personal details can be included here. This part provides essential information about the key people involved in the project, including their names, backgrounds, and positions.
    Additionally, it offers a comprehensive history of the organization, detailing its mission and highlighting previous projects. This section helps the grant provider understand who is behind the proposal, their qualifications, and the organization’s track record, fostering trust and confidence in the project’s potential success.
  7. Supporting Documents: At the end of your grant proposal, you should include various supporting materials, often in the form of appendices. These could consist of extra records, endorsements, tax status information, bios of personnel in your organization, and letters of support from allied organizations or groups involved in your project. All these documents should directly relate to your proposal and may be requested explicitly by the granting institution. Including relevant and explicit supporting materials enhances the credibility and completeness of your proposal.  


  1. Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!) – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  
  2. How to write a grant proposal – PubMed Central   
  3. Grant Writing – Purdue University  
  4. Planning and Writing a Grant Proposal: The Basics – University of Wisconsin – Madison  
  5. How to Begin Developing a Statement of Need – Funding for Good – Funding for Good  
  6. What are the critical elements of a successful grant proposal, and how do you write one? – LinkedIn  
  7. Writing a Research Grant Proposal – University of Winnipeg  

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