The abstract should provide a summary of the information that is detailed in the proposal. Abstracts areimportant to reviewers, who use them as an introduction to a proposal before they begin reviewing and as a reminder when the project is discussed at a later time. The abstract should contain a synopsis of the project’s goals and objectives and the activities that will be used to meet them. It should be a self-contained ready-forpublication document that is written for a nonscientific audience. Generally, the abstract is limited to one page or less, and many sponsors provide additional word limitations. It should be concise, yet comprehensive. The abstract is the most widely read component of the proposal; therefore, a great deal of attention should be given to its creation.
Abstracts of funded projects are often published on sponsor websites or otherwise made available to potential grantees and the general public. Abstracts may also be used to assign proposals to review panels and may be circulated as a separate item to key funding officials. Abstracts are also used internally for information sharing purposes.
The background and literature review section should establish the current status of the field by referencing and discussing various experts on the subject. It should demonstrate a clear understanding of the subject area and should be written in a manner that is easily understood by an outsider to the field. This section should indicate how the proposed project will advance the knowledge in the relevant field and fill a gap in existing knowledge. A discussion of the investigator’s prior work in the field, if any, should also be included in this section. The background and literature review section is a beneficial section because it helps the proposal writer:
This section is sometimes referred to as Specific Aims and is important because it is where investigators describe specifically what will be accomplished as a result of the project they are proposing.
Goals provide an overall purpose and clarify the mission of the project. They should identify what will be accomplished through the project and be clearly connected to the needs statement. The project goal should always be obviously in line with the sponsor’s overall mission and the goals of the relevant funding opportunity.
Objectives state how success will be measured and should be goal-focused rather than budget-oriented. Objectives are closely associated with goals, but are more specific; they focus on outcomes and reflect quantitative or qualitative accomplishments. Objectives should be Simple, Immediate, Measurable, Practical, Logical, and Evaluable (SIMPLE!). Process objectives measure process accomplishments, but are not always an indication for measuring whether the need has been addressed. Outcome objectives reflect quantitative orqualitative accomplishments and give more credibility to the project.
The following questions can be used as a guide to writing outcome objectives:
The goal of the evaluation section is to demonstrate a thorough plan for monitoring project activities and progress toward meeting clearly defined goals and objectives. In the formative phase, the evaluation should address the questions of how well the project is doing and what needs to be corrected or modified. The evaluation should also include a summative phase that addresses the question of whether the project was successful.
Evaluations should be clearly related to the project’s goals and objectives and include both quantitative and qualitative measures. The evaluation should include a description of the sources of data and the method of collection and analysis. A description or samples of test instruments, forms, or questionnaires that will be used to collect data in the project should be included.
If an external evaluator will be conduct the evaluation, his or her credentials, experiences, and roles in the project should be clearly defined in this section. If the project will be evaluated externally, the external evaluator should have substantial input in the design of the evaluation plan because he or she will be responsible for fulfilling the evaluation requirements as they have been outlined in the proposal and because he or she will have substantial experience and expertise in designing and implementing evaluations.
The following are some questions that should be considered in the process of designing a project evaluation:
1. What will be evaluated?
2. What information is needed?
3. How will it be collected?
4. How will data be analyzed?
5. How will results be reported?
6. What resources are needed?