Once you have completed a preliminary assessment and identified your potential sponsor(s), obtain a copy of the sponsor's proposal-preparation guidelines. Review the guidelines and follow them carefully. Proposals may be returned without review if the format fails to meet requirements or if required information is missing. Some guidelines, such as page limits or required electronic submittal, may influence how you prepare your proposal, so it is important to review the guidelines before you begin writing.
Reviewers evaluate proposals based on several key issues presented in the project narrative. The specific language used by sponsors may vary, but the key criteria for evaluation are usually similar to the following (based on National Institutes of Health (NIH) review criteria):
Significance--Does the work have intellectual merit and the potential for broader impact?
Investigator--Does the investigator demonstrate sufficient understanding and have sufficient experience to manage the project?
Approach--Is the proposed approach reasonable and sound? Can it be accomplished within the timeframe and budget proposed?
Innovation--Does the proposal include innovative methodology or innovative application of standard methodology?
Environment--Does the investigator have the appropriate facilities, staff and institutional support to execute the project successfully?
Monitoring & Evaluation--Is the proposed monitoring plan sufficient to effectively evaluate project results?
Do not make reviewers hunt for the important points. Some sponsors publish their review criteria. If review criteria are not included in the request for proposals, call the sponsor and find out if the review criteria are available and use the terminology of the review criteria in your proposal. For example, if "significance" is one of the criteria, clearly state in your proposal, "The significance of the proposed project is..."
If the sponsor provides a breakdown of points that will be assigned to the different review criteria, keep this in mind when preparing your proposal, paying particular attention to those areas that are worth the most points. If no proposal structure or review criteria are available, use the examples here as a guide and modify them to meet the needs of your project and academic discipline. Allow time for colleagues to review your proposal; if possible, provide them with the list of review criteria and ask them to give you feedback on those main points and the proposal as a whole.
Allow time for SPA to review and edit your proposal or contact SPA for assistance in preparing the proposal.