1. Cover Letter
  2. Cover Page
  3. Title & Abstract
  4. Table of Contents
  5. Introduction
  6. References Cited
  7. Biographical Information
  8. Budget & Justification
  9. Collaborative Agreements
  10. Other

Cover Letter

The cover letter, printed on Drake University letterhead and signed by the Principal Investigator, should briefly describe the contents of the proposal package. If submitting the proposal to a large agency, include information to facilitate the appropriate assignment and review of the proposal within the agency.

Cover Page

If the sponsor has a designated form for the cover page, use it and make sure you fill in all the requested information. Otherwise, create your own. The cover page includes information such as the title of the project, names of investigators, contact information, Drake University identifying information, proposed project dates, amount of funding requested, record of any special approvals and appropriate authorized signatures.

Title & Abstract

The title and abstract are essential to the success of your proposal and your proposal and should be written after you have completed the project narrative. At large agencies, the title and abstract are used to determine which study group will review the proposal. Choose words to direct your proposal to the study group you want to review the proposal. Write a clear, concise and descriptive title--but do not make it too restrictive. Certain types of supplemental grant applications require you to use the same title as your initial proposal. If your research develops in unexpected directions through supplemental funding on the same grant, you may be forced to write a new proposal instead. Some agencies set a limit on the number of characters allowed in a title; check sponsor guidelines for such limits.

The abstract is a brief description of the proposed project, usually limited to one page. It will be read more often than any other piece of your proposal. When reviewers confer about which proposal they fund, they will refer often to your abstract. The abstract will be the reference source for other researchers, graduate students and the general public. Use language that is clear, concise and descriptive. Include information on the primary objectives, methods and potential significance of the proposed project. Again, choose your words carefully; well-chosen key words can direct your proposal to the appropriate study group. In addition, the abstract is often made public. It should be informative to others in your field and understandable to an informed lay audience. It should not contain any personal or proprietary information.

Table of Contents

A table of contents may be appropriate if your project narrative is more than ten pages long. Some sponsors may have specific requirements regarding what should be included in the table of contents. Read all guidelines carefully.


Depending on the length and complexity of your proposal and sponsor guidelines, you may need to include an introduction. Briefly explain the basic elements of the project and its significance. If you are submitting a revised proposal, use the introduction to explain how the project has been modified in response to comments from the initial review.

References Cited

Provide a list of relevant references. Be sure to follow standard scholarly practices and provide references for source material used in developing any section of the proposal. Limit your references to relevant and current work.

Biographical Information

Provide detailed relevant biographical information for key personnel. Use the biographical information to provide evidence that you and other key personnel are qualified to conduct the proposal work. Include information on any special training or certification required for proposed methodologies. Do not be modest, but do be concise. If you are an experieinced investigator with a long list of publications, include only those publications that are relevant to the proposed work or important to establishing your credibility. Follow the sponsor's guidelines and page limitations.


Depending on the type of proposal you are submitting and the guidelines of the sponsor, you may have other proposal elements to prepare. For example, you may be allowed to include copies of recent relevant manuscripts in an appendix or may be required to include resumes of key personnel. If the proposed research includes human subjects or animals, you will probably need to provide a separate narrative describing the use of human subjects or animals in detail. Read and follow sponsor guidelines.

Sponsored Programs
Administration (SPA)

324 Old Main
2507 University Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50311
Fax: 515-271-4067
Contact us