Common Elements of a Proposal

Application Cover Page

The application cover page is an integral part of the proposal. It documents the summary information and typically bears the institutional signatures required to make the proposal a formal, certified document. The cover page may be in paper form with original signatures or, more commonly, an electronically approved and submitted form via the sponsor’s electronic proposal submission system.

The original application pages that require institutional endorsement need to be completed and submitted to the OSP for review and signature/approval.


The abstract describes the major objectives of the proposed research and the research strategy to meet the objectives. Sponsors often use the abstract to assign the proposal to the appropriate study section for review. Reviewers may also use the abstract to gain an initial perspective of the key concepts of the study and its significance. After funding is secured, the abstract may be used for entry in national databases, and its keywords are picked up for quotation indexes.

Statement of Work

The statement of work (SOW) is the most important part of any proposal. Simply put, the SOW should include sufficient information needed for evaluation of the project, independent of any other document.

The SOW is a detailed program description, including an explanation of the objectives and a description of the research activities to be performed.

Budget and Budget Justification

A detailed budget identifying all proposed costs necessary to conduct the research must be prepared in compliance with the sponsor's guidelines, applicable cost principles, and UNLV policies.

A budget justification is one of the most important sections of the proposal. A budget justification identifies the need for the requested funds and how the costs were estimated. For instance, while the need for a particular piece of equipment may be implied in the project description, the budget justification provides explicit justification for the item and allows a nontechnical reviewer to understand the necessity for the equipment. All budget line items should be similarly justified in the budget justification.

Typical budget categories include:

  • Salaries
  • Fringe benefits
  • Equipment
  • Materials and supplies
  • Travel
  • Consultants
  • Sub-award recipients
  • Other direct costs
  • Facilities and administrative (F&A) costs

Biographical Sketch

A biographical sketch is a brief summary of a researcher's curriculum vitae and may be required for all key personnel. A biographical sketch highlights specific research experience, related publications, and other important biographical information with regard to professional personnel.

Other Support — Current and Pending

Many sponsors require information on the principal investigator's current support and pending proposals, inclusive of all extramural funding sources. Information typically includes the sponsor of the project, the title of the project, the project period, the total project costs, and the percentage of effort devoted by the investigator on the project. This requirement may also apply to all key personnel formally committing effort to the proposed project.

Facilities and Resources

This section of the proposal identifies and describes the facilities and resources that will be used in the proposed research. If unique facilities exist with regard to the proposed research, it is important to emphasize this in the proposal. Information can also be provided on universitywide facilities or support services, such as the library, computer centers, or specialized centers.

If there are multiple performance sites, then resources available at each site should be described.