Office of Sponsored Research & Programs
Develop the Proposal
Services provided by OSRP include access to professional grant writing teams, assistance with research, electronic applications, internal authorizations, required registrations and forms, and budget and proposal development.
Contact OSRP Early
Proposals to federal and state funding sources must be submitted by OSRP. OSRP will complete the application forms, ensure compliance with university and agency policies, and provide required assurances and certifications. We recommend the principal investigator/development team contact the office as soon as you decide to pursue a proposal. OSRP will help review the funding announcement or Request for Proposals (RFP), set timelines, and establish roles and expectations. It is important to closely follow the guidance included in the RFP when developing the proposal. In every case, the principal investigator/development team is the subject matter expert and the primary person(s) responsible for generating the core content of Who, What, When, Where, Why and How.
Institutional Review Board (IRB)/Human Subjects Protection Program (HSPP)
Contact HSPP (http://www.msudenver.edu/irb/) as soon as possible when drafting your proposal to obtain IRB designation and approval if necessary. Mike Heathcote, Human Subject Protection Program Manager, can be reached at 303-605-5282 or email@example.com
OSRP has several staff members able to assist with your proposal development needs. OSRP provides technical assistance in the development of proposals including, but not limited to, the following:
- Assisting in program planning to meet requirements of the RFP
- Reviewing proposal drafts for proofreading and editing needs as well as alignment with RFP requirements
- Assisting in interpreting agency guidelines, including contacting the program officer on the PI’s behalf
- Recommending and acting as a liaison with an external evaluator, as needed
- Drafting letters of support/commitment
- Creating a checklist to help the PI ensure they are including all proposal components
- Uploading proposal components into the submission portal (Grants.gov, Fastlane, Research.gov, etc.)
For high priority proposals with quick turn-around times and funding awards over $25,000, OSRP offers the option to contract with Joining Vision and Action, LLC (JVA) for grant writing services. Contact OSRP for further information.
In addition to assistance locating appropriate funding opportunities, OSRP also assists during the proposal development stage with conducting research for grant proposals, including:
- Compiling demographic/statistical information
- Assisting the PI in conducting literature reviews
- Creating graphics such as Gantt charts or organizational charts
- Providing institutional or boilerplate information and statistics
Fitting the Pieces Together
Most proposals will require some common elements that work together to make the case for funding. The following chart represents the components necessary to develop a cohesive grant proposal. Without any one element fully developed, the grant proposal will have holes and the reviewers will be left with questions. When grant reviewers have a lot of questions about a proposal, it will not likely be selected for funding.
Common Elements of a Cohesive Grant Proposal
Introduction to Applicant
Describes the applicant agency and documents its credibility.
Describes the applicant's credentials to address the problem, implement the methods, and achieve the objectives.
1) The Problem - describes the current condition that is causing concern in the community
2) Why It Matters
3) Causes of the Problem - describes what led to the current problem or condition; how did we get here?
Define specific changes in the problem expected to result from these methods. Program outcomes relate to the problem that has been described.
Describe the activities the applicant will undertake to address the problem. Methods relate to the causes of the problem.
1) Outcome Evaluation - describes a plan to measure the degree to which the expected outcomes are achieved
2) Process Evaluation -describes a plan to determine the degree to which the methods are implemented as planned.
Shows resources that will support this project after grant funds end.
Provides detailed cost estimates for implementing the Methods and the Evaluation.
Reproduced from The Grantsmanship Center, Los Angeles, CA
"A good research project is a creative, important idea, well grounded in theory, clearly expressed and convincingly justified, and with appropriate methods and expertise for pursuing the idea, evaluating the findings, and making them known to all."
-National Science Foundation
Guidance on Common Proposal Narrative Elements
Abstract or Executive Summary
Depending on the funder, this is either a brief overview of the project, or a summary of the end results you expect to report to the funder. It is often the first item program officers and reviewers see. For example, National Science Foundation program officers are provided with all the project summaries received for a particular grant competition so they may review them and select peer reviewers as appropriate. Your abstract is also informatation that funders post on their websites after awards are made. This section should always be written last.
Introduction to Applicant or Background Statement
This section describes MSU Denver and documents the university's credibility. It should describe MSU Denver's credentials to address the problem, implement the methods, and achieve the outcomes. This section should be tailored to the specific project being proposed. It is a good place to discuss previously awarded grant-funded projects that are similar in nature to the proposed project.
Problem Discussion or Statement of Need
There are three parts to the statement of need:
- The problem or opportunity - describes the current condition that is causing concern in MSU Denver's community or that is an opportunity to make an impact. Do not focus only on the "lack of something". Also provide well documented statistics that describe what does exist.
- The significance - why does this problem or opportunity matter? How does this issue impact MSU Denver's ability to fulfill our mission? Consider and document the regional and national impacts and how the project addresses the funder's requirements and priorities. Give the reviewers a sense of urgency in addressing the problem.
- The causes - what led to the current problem or condition? Again, this section can be supported by a literature review and relevant statistics where appropriate.
This section should be written first. It is the thesis for the grant proposal.
Project Description/Research Plan
This proposal section is the area in which you will describe the activities that MSU Denver will undertake to address the problem. Typical sections within the project description (aka, research plan) include Project Objectives and Activities, Anticipated Results, Proposed Approach, and Rationale. The Project Description should logically flow from the Statement of Need. Logic models are often useful both for planning purposes and as a way to present the information within this section of the proposal.
Program Outcomes or Impact
Defines specific changes in the problem expected to result from the methods. Program outcomes relate to the problem that has been described.
Process and Outcome Evaluation
Process evaluation determines the degree to which the methods are implemented as planned. Outcome evaluation measures the degree to which the expected outcomes are achieved. The evaluation plan should be clearly connected to the methods and activities. One way to represent this in a proposal is to create an evaluation plan table that extends naturally from the logic model.
The Question of External Evaluators
The purpose of the external evaluator is to draw objective conclusions regarding the project's impact from the outcomes achieved and the data gathered throughout a grant project. In many cases, the grant-making agency stipulates in the RFP that an external evaluator is required. When this is the case, the grant-making agency expects that a reasonable proportion of the direct costs (10 - 15%) will be allocated to the external evaluation. If the RFP does not stipulate that an external evaluator is required, a close reading of the scoring rubric/evaluation criteria is critical to determine if one should be brought in.
During the proposal preparation process, OSRP and the principal investigator will agree upon the need for an external evaluator. If an external evaluator is deemed necessary, OSRP can assist the PI in identifying an appropriate individual.
Frequently, a federal RFP will ask for a management plan. This is the place to describe key personnel and their roles and qualifications, as well as the qualifications and expectations of the external evaluator, if appropriate.
Future Support or Sustainability
This section documents the resources that will support this project after grant funds end. Grant-making agencies expect a reasonable assurance that the project will become institutionalized after external funding ends, or in other words, that the university will carry the burden of the cost for continuing the project. If there is not an expectation that the project will be sustained, be sure to explain and justify that.
Other Proposal Components
The format required for references cited varies from agency to agency. Often, the applicant is asked to cite references in whatever format is standard in that field (APA, MLA, CSE, etc.) and other times the funder requires a specific format. OSRP can assist with the formatting and final presentation of the references cited.
Description of Facilities, Equipment, and Resources
Provide the funder and the proposal reviewers with an understanding of the institutional resources including facilities, equipment, and relevant ongoing programs available at the university or a partner institution for this project. Some funders have specific formats for this section.
Data Management Plan or Data Archiving Plan
Agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Justice require a separate statement regarding how the investigators will manage, disseminate, and share data resulting from the project. See the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) 2019 for more information.
Please refer to the link below for guidance with writing this section:
Most sponsors have specified formats for provision of this information. Current and pending support details are usually needed for all key personnel, not just the principal investigator, so you will want to request this information from your collaborators early in the proposal process, if required. Some agencies collect information about your current and pending projects when they are contemplating an award, rather than at the time of proposal. Read the RFP carefully to determine whether this is the case.
Funders rarely want to see a full-version CV of every PI, Co-PI and Senior Personnel. NSF and NIH have specific formats for a biosketch. The Department of Education often requests a condensed 2-4 page CV. This is generally needed for all PIs, Senior Personnel, and Subawards.
Letters of Commitment
If the proposed project requires evidence of institutional support or there are outside partners or collaborators involved, you may need to provide documentation of commitment in the form of letters. Request these types of documents early in the proposal development process to ensure you have them well before the deadline.
Human Subjects and Responsible Conduct of Research
Funders often request information verifying that the investigator has at least started the human subjects review process at the time of submission or ask for a statement regarding exemption from human subjects. See the Institutional Review Board Website for more information.
Research at Undergraduate Institutions (RUI) Impact Statement
Some funders (notably, NSF) encourage equal footing for primarily undergraduate non-research focused institutions like MSU Denver by allowing an RUI designation on any proposal involving research, whether or not students will be involved in the research. Applicants with an RUI designation have an opportunity to submit an additional five pages wherein they describe how the grant would strengthen the research infrastructure at the institution. Most of the RUI Impact Statement will be tailored to the specific proposal, although some general information about MSU Denver should be included. Contact OSRP for assistance with this.