Programmatic Narrative Preparation

The PI/PD is responsible for the appropriate technical or programmatic content of the proposal. ORSP will provide editorial assistance if time permits, and will review content for clarity, consistency, and accuracy in references to the institution. The Office of Institutional Research provides institutional data that may be accessed on their intranet site. ORSP reviews the proposal narrative or contract scope of work for adherence to university policies and procedures, and identifies deficiencies in response to sponsor guidelines.

General Rules: A reviewer looks at many proposals competing for a limited amount of funds. You want your proposal to stand out in a positive way. This means making it interesting to read, free from grammatical errors, and extremely clear in content. There are several ways of ensuring your proposal catches the reviewer's attention.

First of all, follow the guidelines explicitly. The funding source is usually very specific on what it wants to see and not see. Failure to provide enough information in the expected manner will cause your proposal being rejected or returned without being reviewed. As you read, notice that the guidelines have an order to them. Headings occur in a specific order. Your proposal should mimic that order and the language that is used in the guidelines. Seeing similar language reflected back helps the reviewer notice how tightly your proposal fits to their priorities. While writing the narrative, reference the guidelines often. Make sure that you are answering all the questions they are asking, even if it means being repetitive in your text.

Secondly, there are a few things to avoid too. Write your text in an active, declarative voice and avoid the passive voice. This looks more assertive and knowledgeable. Avoid using jargon even if it is commonly known in your field of expertise. The reviewer may not have your background or expertise. Jargon will make your text unclear and difficult to get through. The same is true with acronyms. If you must use an an acronym, write the full name out the first time, put the acronym in parenthesis immediately afterwards, and then use the acronym throughout. Again, this avoids confusion and frustration for the reviewer.

The link below leads to some general writing advice for all proposals but the best advice is to have someone impartial read your proposal after you write it. They can point out errors and holes in your narrative that you may miss. Advice on Creating a Proposal

 Sections of the Narrative: Although different funding agencies require different parts of a proposal, there are minimum sections required in all proposals.

  • A Needs Statement: Why is this work important or necessary? Write this statement in terms of advancing knowledge or helping the public.

  • Goals and Objectives: What do you hope to accomplish with this work? How to you hope to advance knowledge in this subject? Be specific.

  • Scope of Work: Exactly what work to you hope to perform and how will you go about it? This is the meat of your proposal.

  • Key Personnel: Including yourself, who is going to work on their project and what special knowledge or talent do they contribute? Each person must be justified as absolutely crucial to the success of the project.

  • Budget: How much is each section going to cost? Part of this section is writing a justification on why personnel might be needed or specific equipment must be purchased.

Abstract/Introduction: This part of the proposal can be one paragraph in small proposals or one page for large proposals. It should reflect the original one-page idea you created to describe your project, not your proposal narrative. It should quickly and succinctly describe your project, and it needs to grab the reviewer's attention. If they are not interested after reading this section, they will not be interested in the proposal.

The first sentence needs to be about the focus of the project. This can be a stating of the problem you intend to work on. The second and third sentences should describe what your solution is and what you propose to do. The last paragraph of this section should describe what you have done in the past that is a building block to this proposal. and why this work or knowledge is important.

Narrative Section: The rest of the narrative should be expanding on the ideas and statements in the Introduction. First state the problem, including any factual evidence or report that clearly indicates this problem. Next, describe your solution or proposed work. How does your idea help alleviate the problem?  Describe all the benefits that you hope to achieve. Next, state what are the funding requirements you need to do the work. Include a description of the personnel you need and their expected level of expertise. From this point, it is easy to write next on why the University is a good place to perform the work. Include any kind of extra facilities or equipment that might show a strong support base. Finally, end the narrative with a discussion of the future plans and sustainability of the project.  Funding sources want to know that the work will continue in some form after their contribution has ended. It is okay to state that you will be seeking funding from other sources as long as you show an indication of the work continuing.

Budget: There are three parts to the budget of a proposal. The first part is the numbers portion of the budget: a listing of what each part costs. The second part is the budget justification which describes how the numbers are calculated and why certain expenses are important. Both of these sections are straightforward and usually not complicated. the Third part is where most problems develop. This part of the budget is actually the discussion of money and needs in the narrative. The numbers in the budget section must clearly reflect the same information discussed in the narrative. If there is a difference, then the narrative must provide an explanation of why the difference such as some funding is provided from another sources or that a portion of the budget is considered cost share. In writing the narrative section of the budget, keep both the amount of funding needed and the time frame realistic.

This page was last updated on: January 30, 2017