Checklist for Writing the Proposal
Does the Abstract:
- State the overall objective of the research?
- Succinctly state the specific aims?
- Briefly describe the methods?
- Indicate the long-term goal of the research?
Do the Specific Aims:
- Address the research goals in specific terms (defined objectives that can be reached rather than generalizations)?
- Avoid vague terms such as "describe the process of...", "characterize the phenomenon of...", or "elucidate the mechanism for..."?
- State hypotheses where appropriate?
- Begin with an introductory statement that provides a mini-background?
- Seem clearly related to each other?
- Avoid being a fishing expedition (collecting data with no clear indication of how it will be used)?
- Present a do-able body of work rather than being too broad or ambitious?
Does the Background:
- Begin with a clear statement of the general problem to be addressed?
- Compare, contrast, and critique what others have done (not just catalog it)?
- Show how existing work (literature and/or preliminary data) lays the groundwork for the proposal?
- Cite original literature rather than reviews whenever possible?
- Avoid citing so many papers that the PI comes across as unselective?
- Explain how the studies will fill a gap or solve a problem?
- Raise questions that the reviewers might pose, then answer them immediately?
- End with a summary of the main points?
Does the Preliminary Data section:
- Include only data pertinent to the proposal?
- Demonstrate the PI's expertise with the techniques and methods to be used?
- Use clear, readable graphs or charts instead of tables or text whenever possible?
- Avoid putting too many curves on one graph?
- Assure that curves on graphs are distinguishable from each other after photocopying?
- Provide graphs with legends and labels that make them understandable, separate from adjacent text?
- Use appropriate statistics?
- Summarize findings at the end of each section and state their importance?
- End with an overall summary?
Does the Experimental Design/Methods section:
- First give an overview of the experimental design, then give details of the methods?
- Relate the design and methods back to each specific aim?
- Use diagrams and flowcharts to explain complex protocols?
- Give enough detail to demonstrate adequate knowledge without crowding page limits?
- Make good use of space by referring to standard methods papers or protocol books where appropriate?
- Make good use of space by referring to the preliminary data section when methods are described there?
- Give examples of expected results and how they will interpreted?
- Anticipate pitfalls and explain how they will be dealt with?
- Provide a time line that proves that the project is not overly ambitious?