Skip to main content

The solicitation will contain the sponsor's instructions for what components to include in the proposal, as well as their required format. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) both have general formats for research grant applications. The general guidelines for these sponosors can be found to the right.

When reviewing the sponsor's solicitation, keep in mind some of the ideas and questions below. These will help you to be optimally prepared when you begin to write your proposal.

Initial Questions

  • When is the submission deadline to the sponsor? What are the internal deadlines? Do the due dates allow sufficient time to develop a competitive proposal?
  • Is there a pre-propsal or letter of intent that must be submitted in advance?
  • Is there a limit on the amount of proposal that can come from one university?
  • Are you eligible to serve as PI? Have you or your research office registered to submit the application (eRA Commons, FastLane, etc)?

Program Description

  • Does your research fit the funding agency's research objectives?
  • Are there help documents (outlines, templates, etc.) linked in the solicitation?

Document Specifications

  • What are the page limits?
  • What are the allowable fonts and sizes? Margins? Spacing?
  • Are headers and footers required?
  • Does the agency require hard copies or can it all be sent electronically?


  • Can your research be completed within the maximum budget that the sponsor allows?
  • Is there a cost-sharing requirement?
  • How many awards will they be giving out?
  • Is there a minimum time commitment? A minimum amount of release time?
  • Is there a cap on amount of indirect costs that can be charged?
  • Does the agency require certain costs to be included/excluded?


  • Are there required sections of the proposal narrative that are standard to this agency? If so, refer to the agency's proposal guidelines for detailed information.
  • Are there required headings to use?
  • Make sure to organize the propsal in the same format described in the solicitation.
  • Reflect the same type of language that the funding agency uses to describe their program and their mission. 

Review Criteria

  • What is the timeline for reviewing proposals and announcing recipients?
  • Is there any special type of review criteria used?

Questions About Solicitation

  • The best way to get clarification on any solicitation is to reach out to the program officer. It is a great idea to make contact with them early and establish a relationship in case you need any additional information regarding the program or your proposal.