Resources

Research Resources




Our team has curated the following resources for use in research and proposal development. We are constantly updating our resources, so if you have any recommendations, please email our team.



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Proposal Development Guidance



Click on any of the accordions below to expand them and access guidance, examples, and resources. We're always looking for ways to improve, so please let us know if you have any feedback or suggestions for new resources.

  • Biographical Sketches

    Biographical Sketches (Biosketches) are used to describe an individual's qualifications and experiences for a specific role in the project. Each sketch should include information sufficient to demonstrate that key personnel possess training and expertise commensurate with their specified duties on the proposed project (e.g., publications, sponsored projects, and relevant research experience).

    The following links provide examples of Biographical Sketches for the major federal funders. We recommend reviewing the distinct templates and sponsor guidelines when completing this section of the proposal.

    National Institutes of Health (NIH)



    United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)


    National Science Foundation (NSF)

  • Broader Impacts

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other granting agencies ask reviewers to consider how their research will benefit society. This should extend beyond the academic audience and the contribution to a specific field.

    Identify potential broader impacts. For example, how does this research:

    • Solve a societal problem (economic, social, educational, etc.)?
    • Benefit your community?
    • Improve well-being?

    Make a plan
    • How will you achieve this?
    • What strategies will you use?
    • How will you disseminate the findings?
    • Engage your community and stakeholders.
    • Promote scientific inquiry and literacy?

    Provide how you will evaluate the broader impacts
    • How will you know that you are effective?
    • What will the value of your research be for each stakeholder (community, students, public, funders, etc.)


    Utilizing The Broader Impacts Impact Framework (BIIF; Skrip 2015)
    BroaderImpactsSkrip2015

    NSF Specific Criteria
    The broader impacts will be reflected in both the Project Description as well as the Project Narrative.

    Examples of Outcomes:
    • Increased participation of underrepresented groups.
    • Increased public engagement.
    • Improved research infrastructure (Equipment, facilities, technology, etc.).
    • Improved environmental sustainability.
    • Strengthened partnerships.
    • Influenced policy and development.

    Example Activities:
    • Development of outreach programs.
    • Development of educational resources.
    • New industry partnerships.
    • Creating mentorship and training programs.
    • Engaging with the community.
    • Dissemination of your research findings through a diverse network (such as Social media, journalists, public lectures, public engagement programs).
    • Designing a museum exhibit.
    • Contributing to open-source knowledge.


    Example Statement:
    The proposed research has the potential to make significant contributions to our understanding of global species conservation and have broader impacts on society. The research team plans to engage in activities that will support underrepresented groups, promote scientific literacy in global conservation, and foster translational applications to address critical issues facing conservation. To achieve these goals, the team will develop a comprehensive training program that engages various stakeholders in the community. This program will include students, K-12 educators, industry partners, local businesses, and the local community in Huntsville, Texas. By involving diverse stakeholders, the team hopes to increase awareness and support for sustainable practices and development in the state of Texas. The research team plans to broadly disseminate their findings through various channels, including conferences, social media outlets, local and national reporting entities, and guest lectures. These efforts will aim to increase public awareness of the importance of sustainable practices and conservation efforts, both in Texas and beyond. Overall, this research has the potential to make a meaningful impact on the future of global species conservation and promote more sustainable practices in society.

  • Budget

    All budgets, along with other proposal documents and details, must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Sponsored Programs (ORSP) prior to submission to the sponsor. Grant submissions must be routed through ORSP and almost all grant submissions must be submitted by ORSP and signed/approved by SHSU's Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR). SHSU’s delegation of authority policy (PRE-05) outlines the signature authority’s capable of entering SHSU into sponsored research agreements; the Provost & Sr VP for Academic Affairs, CFO and Sr VP Operations, VP Research/AVP Research and Sponsored Programs. 

     

    What is a budget? 

    The budget is the financial plan for the project or program. It includes both the sponsor and non-sponsor share of the total project cost. Proposed project costs are comprised of allowable direct costs, facilities and administrative (F&A) costs, and cost sharing. Proposed costs must be: 

    • Allowable: Costs must not be expressly prohibited by the sponsored program regulations, the sponsored agreement, the University's own policies, or the Federal Cost Principles. Costs must be treated consistently by applying the generally accepted accounting principles appropriate to the circumstances (such as the Federal Cost Principles). 
    • Allocable: Costs are incurred solely to support or advance the work of a specific sponsored research award (and only during the sponsor-approved project period). 
    • Reasonable: Costs must be able to withstand public scrutiny, i.e., objective individuals not affiliated with the institution would agree that a cost is reasonable and appropriate. 

     

    Why is the budget important? 

    • It shows how you calculated costs.  
    • It provides a financial "blueprint" for your project if you are funded making practical implementation of the project smoother 
    • It shows that you—and the University—will manage the sponsor's funds, which are usually public money, responsibly. 
    • Reassures the funder that you have a realistic sense of the expenses required to complete the work proposed. 

     

    Who builds the budget? 

    Parties Involved:  

    • Office of Research and Sponsored Programs’ Proposal Administrator 
    • Principal Investigator/Researcher  
    • Chairs and Deans 
    • Subcontractors (if applicable) 

     

    What budget format should be used? 

    Sponsors may have specific budget formats that must be followed. These are usually included in the proposal guidelines. Review proposal guidelines thoroughly for budget requirements. Proposal guidelines often contain budget restrictions and funding caps. Following these restrictions and caps help ensure your proposal is successfully submitted. 

    The Office of Research and Sponsored Programs (ORSP) requires project budgets to first be prepared using an internal budget template to allow for consistency in review and preparation as well as to promote efficient award setup. Once the Principal Investigator and ORSP Proposal Administrator (PA) have finalized the internal budget template the PA will transform the internal budget template into the sponsor’s required budget template for submission.  

  • Budget Justification

    What is a Budget Justification?  

    Sometimes referred to as a budget explanation or narrative, a budget justification is a narrative explanation of the budget providing a categorical description of the proposed costs. A strong budget justification demonstrates that your project is well conceived and minimizes the chances that sponsors will arbitrarily reduce or eliminate budget categories.   

    The budget justification should address each of the major cost categories (salaries, fringe benefits, equipment, travel, supplies, other direct costs, participant support costs, and indirect costs), as well as any additional categories required by the sponsor. 

    • Organize the section headers in the budget justification mirroring the order and format of the sponsor’s budget categories. 
    • Budget narrative must match the budget in terms of dollar amounts and language. 
    • Explain why items are essential in relation to the aims and methodology of the project as well as meeting the goals of the project. 
    • Explain the line items and justify the rationale.  Do not merely restate the proposed expenditure. 

     

    Example Budget Justifications 

    • National Science Foundation, simple 
    • National Science Foundation, detailed 

     

    Typical Budget Justification Sections and Guidance 

    Please keep in mind that the below headings are as generic as possible. The solicitation for the program you are writing for will take precedent over everything below. 

     

    • Key/Senior Personnel 

    List all personnel and positions to be paid with project funds and briefly describe their role in the project. Be sure to only list paid personnel unless cost-sharing is mandated by the sponsor. 
     

    In addition to how the sponsor requires effort to be shown, also always list effort in person months for faculty and staff.  For Graduate Research Assistants, list number of months and hours per week. When listing effort, do not use approximations.  Show effort out to two decimal points (e.g. 1.52 months) as applicable. Include a COLA of 3%.  Verify any sponsor-driven limitations on COLAs.  

     

    • Other Personnel 

    This section includes research technicians, postdoctoral fellows, graduate, and undergraduate research assistants, etc. When known, list the name, title, amount of time to be spent on the project, and what they will accomplish. When not known, describe the skill set you are looking for. 

     

    In addition to how the sponsor requires effort to be shown, for Graduate Research Assistants, list number of months and hours per week. For undergraduate students, list the number of weeks, hours per week, and hourly pay rate.  

     

    • Fringe Benefits 

    The rates for faculty, research associates, and graduate students are according to institutional guidelines. It varies from 7.65% (undergraduates) to 32.4% (for full time faculty and staff). 

     

    • Travel 

    There is increased scrutiny for travel categories, so the more you can describe, the better. Explain the purpose of each trip and how it supports your project’s objectives. Explain how many individuals will go on each trip, where, how long, state exactly which relevant meeting/conference you plan to attend.  If not known, provide examples, and why their participation is important. 

     

    Break down the travel budget as much as you can. If this information isn’t known ahead of time, give examples of past conferences and costs. This category should include airfare, hotel, ground transportation, per diem, and registration fees. Ask for reasonable amounts and avoid partial financing of travel requirements. 

     

    • Equipment 

    In order to qualify as an equipment purchase, the item must be over $5,000 and have a useful life of more than one year. You will need to explain why equipment is essential to your project’s success and if the equipment will be only used for your project. Confirm prices with vendors. You most likely will need to provide quotes to back up costs. 

     

    • Materials and Supplies 

    Only request supplies directly relevant (allocable) to the research plan. A nice round number is questionable to a sponsor. Put thought into what your needs really are and how you arrived at the actual needed dollar amount. 

     

    Also, sponsors like to see itemized lists or at least a basis for the amount you are requesting (based on historical costs of $1,000 per student, per month for cleanroom fees). Remember to list all types of supplies you will need to do the project (including glassware, chemicals, etc.) 

     
    It is better to explain strange costs rather than lump it in and hope for the best. For large projects, you can often lump categories for $1000 or less. Do not request general office supplies if federal (allowability). 

     

    • Other Direct Costs 

    This is a catch-all, but if you have something in this category then you need to show your work and explain why it is important to your project. 

     

    • Consultants 

    This is a hot button category that needs as much explanation as possible and, although not in the personnel section, should be written in the same vein as what you wrote for personnel section. In other words – should be handled as personnel. Provide a short summary of each individual’s most relevant qualifications and the relationship of those qualifications to the tasks the individual will be assigned in your project. For example: Who is the consultant? What are their qualifications? What is their organizational affiliation? What is their role? Number of days they will work on project? Normal daily rate? Travel costs included? 
     
    Keep in mind that internal consultants are employees who work for a company or organization and provide consulting services to other departments within the same organization. External consultants, on the other hand, are independent contractors or consulting firms that are hired by organizations to provide expertise on specific projects or issues. 

     

    • Sub-contractors 

    Clearly identify subcontracting organizations and their key personnel. Briefly explain their scope of work and the need to contract with a particular organization, expertise of subcontractor PI, institutional facilities. Keep in mind that subcontractors will provide their own detailed budgets and corresponding budget justifications. These should be separate and distinct from the SHSU budget and budget justification and follow the SHSU budget and budget justification. 

     

  • Current and Pending Support

    Current and Pending Support is a disclosure to a funding agency of an investigator’s active, pending, or previous sources of support for research and other sponsored activities to be true, complete, and accurate to the best of the investigator’s knowledge. This requirement applies regardless of the source of support, including internal funding received from Sam Houston State University. All collaborations and affiliations that provide funding/resources or require a commitment of time must be reported, whether foreign or domestic.

    It is the investigator’s responsibility to ensure the accuracy and completeness of Other/Current and Pending Support documents, in accordance with the application guidelines or the sponsor’s instructions. By providing a final current and pending to ORSP for a proposal, the investigator is certifying that their current and pending is accurate and complete.

    Templates for common sponsors:



    Webinars:

  • Data Management Plan & Resource Sharing

    A Data Management Plan (DMP) is a written document or standard operating procedure (typically no more than 2 pages) outlining what you will do with acquired or generated research data over the course of the project and afterwards. Your DMP should include how you plan to collect, organize, document, describe, share, and preserve your data to make it findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR). It will help you manage your data, meet funder requirements, and help others use your data, if shared. A DMP should be a living document which is created before research begins and updated as research progresses. DMPs are often required for sponsored research proposals; however, are beneficial to researchers regardless of whether they are required or not.

    Most often DMPs will address the following:

    1. What type of data will be produced?
    2. How will it be organized and what standards will be used for documentation and metadata describing the data?
    3. What steps will be taken to protect privacy, security, confidentiality, intellectual property, or other rights?
    4. If others are allowed to reuse the data - how, where, and when will the data be accessed and shared?
    5. Where will the data be archived and preserved and for how long?


    Resources for Development
    • SHSU’s Resources on Data Management – Erin Owens from SHSU’s Newton Gresham Library has curated a number of pages on data management, data management plans, data ethics, and several others
    • DMPTool - The DMPTool is a free, open-source, online application that helps researchers create data management plans. DMPs can be built within the DMPTool with step-by-step instructions and output in sponsor-specific formatting.

    National Institutes of Health (NIH)
    • In October 2020, NIH issued a new Policy for Data Management and Sharing, effective January 25, 2023. This new policy requires a Data Management and Sharing Plan (DMS Plan) for ALL NIH-funded projects.
    • The templates below are pilots from the NIH to test the effectiveness and usability of two DMS Plan templates developed in collaboration with representatives from participating ICs:
  • Evaluation Plan 

    Below is the recommended outline for each section of your evaluation plan. Purpose and scope
    The first section of your project evaluation plan should define the purpose and scope of your evaluation. Why are you evaluating your project? What are the main questions you want to answer? How will the evaluation results be used and by whom? This section should also specify the boundaries and limitations of your evaluation, such as the time frame, the budget, the data sources, and the ethical considerations.

    Evaluation criteria and indicators
    The second section of your project evaluation plan should identify the evaluation criteria and indicators that will measure the performance and impact of your project. Evaluation criteria are the standards or principles that you will use to judge the quality and success of your project, such as relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and sustainability. Evaluation indicators are the specific and measurable variables that will show the extent to which your project meets the criteria, such as outputs, outcomes, benefits, and risks.

    Evaluation methods and tools
    The third section of your project evaluation plan should describe the evaluation methods and tools that you will use to collect and analyze the data for your indicators. Evaluation methods are the approaches or techniques that you will use to gather and interpret the data, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, observations, case studies, and experiments. Evaluation tools are the instruments or materials that you will use to implement the methods, such as questionnaires, checklists, guides, forms, and software.

    Evaluation roles and responsibilities
    The fourth section of your project evaluation plan should define the evaluation roles and responsibilities of the different stakeholders involved in your project. Who will conduct the evaluation? Who will provide the data? Who will review and validate the findings? Who will disseminate and act on the recommendations? This section should also clarify the expectations and communication channels among the evaluation team and the project team, as well as the external partners and beneficiaries.

    Evaluation timeline and budget
    The fifth section of your project evaluation plan should outline the evaluation timeline and budget. When will the evaluation activities take place? How long will they take? How will they align with the project milestones and deliverables? How much will the evaluation cost? How will the evaluation resources be allocated and managed? This section should also include any contingencies or risks that might affect the evaluation schedule and cost.

    Evaluation reporting and learning
    The sixth and final section of your project evaluation plan should specify the evaluation reporting and learning process. How will the evaluation findings and recommendations be presented and communicated? What format and style will the evaluation report follow? Who will receive and review the report? How will the feedback and comments be incorporated and addressed? How will the evaluation results be used to inform and improve project coordination and management, as well as future projects and programs?

    Additional Resources (specific to federal funding sources)

  • Facilities, Equipment, & Other Resources 

    The Facilities, Equipment, & Other Resources section of the proposal should provide information on the resources available that will directly contribute to the success of the proposed project.

    SHSU Databases of Research Facilities and Equipment



    The below guidelines and examples are general, and you should always consult the most recent document the agency has provided regarding proposal preparation. When requested by the sponsor you must include these documents (for all below agencies) in your proposal, if you DO NOT have anything to report, you must submit a document in this place that states “Not Applicable”.

    Pro Tip: As you develop your documents, ensure you are following the appropriate guidelines for naming them. USDA requires headers for all documents in some programs and has specific formats that you must follow when saving and uploading (e.g., ProjectSummary.pdf, ProjectNarrative.pdf, FacilitiesOtherResources.pdf, etc.)

    NSF Guidelines
    NSF requires you to list all internal and external resources (including personnel and unfunded collaborators) that are available to the project if it is funded.



    NIH Guidelines
    NIH requires a Facilities and Other Resources AND an Equipment document; however, this can vary depending on the type of proposal you are submitting (e.g., Research (R), Career Development (K), Training (T), Fellowship (F), Multi-project (M), SBIR/SSTR (B)). We have provided General (G) instructions.



    The scientific environment can also be evaluated as part of the reviewers Standard Operating Procedures.

    If you will be working with potentially dangerous substances and/or biohazards, describe the facilities in which these will be housed. Note: Information about select agents must be described in the Research Plan, Select Agent Research.

    USDA Guidelines
    USDA requires both a Facilities and Other Resources AND an Equipment document; like the NIH, this can depend on which program you are submitting to. The examples below follow the NIFA guidelines.



    NOTE: If you plan to request funds to purchase items of nonexpendable equipment necessary to conduct and successfully complete the proposed project, refer to Field C. of the R&R Budget for information about including those items in the budget.

  • How to Build a 1-pager 

    A one-pager is a short single-page document that provides an in-depth overview of a given business, product, or service. It’s a powerful sales and marketing asset that communicates the main benefits and unique value proposition of your offering in a concise way to pitch it to potential clients. For grants and sponsored projects writing, a one-pager should make a compelling case for why the proposed project is deserving of funding. This document ensures the scope of the project is clearly communicated and easily understood by all team members and potential partners. Our team will often as researchers for a 1-pager early on in the process to kick off the development process.

    General Outline

    Problem Statement
    This is the opportunity for you to explain your project and propose your methods of research. This should be a short, clear, and concise statement that addresses the issues you would like to resolve.

    Objectives/Goals
    Research objectives are the outcomes that you aim to achieve by conducting research. The purpose of the research objectives is to drive the research project, including data collection, analysis, and conclusions. Research objectives also help you narrow in on the focus of your research and key variables, guiding you through the research process.

    Deliverables
    Project deliverables refer to all the outputs—tangible or intangible—that are submitted within the scope of a project. It refers to any project-related output submitted during any of the project phases. Project deliverables need to be agreed upon early during the planning stage to properly set expectations and allocate resources, and documented so they can be referenced throughout the duration of the project.

    Broader Impacts
    This section will highlight the potential for this project to benefit society or advance societal outcomes. It is important to remember that the broader impacts activities should complement your research activities and be scaled appropriately for the proposed project or program. In addition, linking your broader impacts to evidence-based models, best practices, literature, and theory provide context and support that your proposed broader impacts are achievable.

    Recommendations for a One Pager

    • Identify your audience and target the information towards them.
    • Lead with an interesting, understandable title that explains what will be covered.
    • Include headings with large font to help guide the reader and organize points.
    • Use bullets in lieu of paragraphs.
    • Avoid long sentences and too many citations.
    • Spell out acronyms, avoid jargon, and define “specialty” terms.
    • Share a draft with a colleague/department chair for their feedback.


    Resources:

  • How to Contact a Program Officer 

    Who are Program Officers (POs)?

    • Individuals who provide leadership and oversight of sponsored programs.
    • They ensure sponsored research awards are in line with the sponsor’s mission and objectives.
    • Often, they write the funding opportunity announcements, so they can monitor the programmatic, scientific, and/or technical aspect of a sponsored project.


    Why you should contact a PO:
    • Confirm if your project idea fits with the sponsor/ program objectives.
    • Clarify the program guidelines.
    • Discover underlying considerations or alternative opportunities that may not appear in published material (RFP, RFA, etc.)
    • Discuss ways to strengthen the project.
    • Build a relationship and grow your network.


    How to contact a PO:
    • PO’s contact information is typically found in the funding opportunity announcement. or the sponsor/ program website.
    • Look for explicit guidelines regarding how to (and how not to) establish contact. Most POs prefer to initiate contact via email. They may also list timelines around which to engage with POs (e.g., do not contact 2 days before the submission deadline)
    • Email the PO with ample time, to set up time for a conversation.
    • Include a high-level description or summary of your project and how you think it aligns to the program.
    • Include a short list of specific questions and offer times for a follow-up conversation (if desired).
    • Avoid questions already answered in the solicitation/ website.
    • Approach the communication with enthusiasm and openness to direction.


    After making contact:
    • Follow up with an email thanking the PO for their time and summarize the key points you took away from the conversation.
    • If your proposal isn’t funded, consider requesting a discussion of reviewer comments with the PO.


    Notes:
    PO roles vary across funder types, and so should your expectations.
    • Research-centered agencies like NSF and NIH tend to invite contact from funding seekers to confirm program fit and guide applicants.
    • Programmatic-focused agencies like ED are more likely to offer only clarifying answers regarding published guidelines.
    • Private funders and foundations rarely operate like their counterpart government agencies – very few of them invite contact prior to submission.


    Check out additional guidance and a template email here (access requires SHSU credentials). If you want to learn more, check out this webinar on contacting POs from our research partner, Hanover.

  • Letters of Support

    The goals of letters of support (LOS) are to:

    1. Specify what the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) will contribute to the research
    2. Convince the reviewer that the collaborator(s)/consultant(s) will fulfill the request
    3. Lend credibility and convey enthusiasm for your proposal


    Letters of support:
    • Be unique and written from the point of view of your collaborator(s)/consultant(s)
    • Be on letterhead and signed by the appropriate party (someone authorized to make the commitment of support)
    • Be addressed either to the PI of the proposal or to the funding agency (refer to sponsor guidelines)
    • Be focused on requested topics and not contain details that are expected to be in the research description section (this is required by NIH and a good idea for most agencies)
    • Address any specific guidelines (e.g., particular assurances) required by the funding agency or the university, as outlined in the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) or by ORSP
    • Meet all other requirements (e.g., page limits) of the funding agency


    Resources and Best Practices
    We recommend that you offer to draft the letter of support for your collaborator(s)/consultant(s) and allow up to three weeks to receive it back. Providing the initial draft is not only a decent gesture but will help ensure all the information needed is included, increase the response time, and set realistic expectations.

  • Logic Model

    Logic models are one-page graphic illustrations of how your project is supposed to work. It essentially shows or explains why your proposed research (or project) strategy is a good solution to the problem you are attempting to solve. A strong logic model is a series of IF-THEN relationships that demonstrates how program activities are linked to anticipated program results. When developing a logic model keep it simple, focus on cause-and-effect relationships, and remember that clarity is greater than confusion (detail is elsewhere in your proposal)!

    When are Logic Models required?
    Logic models are sometimes required in grant proposals, most often for the United States Department of Agriculture and training/evaluation programs. If not required, logic models are still valuable planning and management tools as it ensures the proposal team is on the same page. Even when not required in the RFP, logic models can be included in proposals as a visual aid for reviewers to understand your proposal activities and expected results.

    What are the common components of a Logic Model?
    A logic model is unidirectional in nature and should clearly present the “big picture” of change touching on the following components:

    1. Purpose, or mission. What motivates the need for change? This can also be expressed as the problems or opportunities that the program is addressing.
    2. Context, or conditions. What is the climate in which change will take place?
    3. Inputs, resources, or infrastructure. What materials will be used to conduct the effort or initiative? Inputs can also include constraints on the program, such as regulations or funding gaps, which are barriers to your objectives.
    4. Activities, or interventions. What will the initiative do with its resources to direct the course of change? Your intervention, and thus your logic model, should be guided by a clear analysis of risk and protective factors.
    5. Outputs. What evidence is there that the activities were performed as planned? (Indicators might include the number of mentors trained and youth referred, and the frequency, type, duration, and intensity of mentoring contacts.)
    6. Effects, or results, consequences, outcomes, or impacts. What kinds of changes came about as a direct or indirect effect of the activities?


    Putting these elements together graphically gives the following basic structure for a logic model. The arrows between the boxes indicate that review and adjustment are an ongoing process - both in enacting the initiative and developing the model.

    Image depicting the basic structure for a logic model. This image includes text boxes and relational arrows with the following phrases: “PURPOSE or MISSION of your program, effort, or initiative; INPUTS or RESOURCES: raw materials used the program; CONSTRAINTS or BARRIERS to program objectives; ACTIVITIES: what the program does with the resources to direct the course of change; OUTPUTS: direct evidence of having performed the activities; EFFECTS or results, consequences outcomes, impacts of having taken action (intended and unintended): short-term, mid-term, longer-term; CONTEXT or CONDITIONS of your work

    Resources for developing a Logic Model:

  • Post-Doctoral Mentoring Plan 

    Why is this important to NSF?

    • The number of postdocs landing tenure-track jobs in academia is small compared to the number of postdocs seeking full-time research positions. To address this concern, Congress passed the COMPETES Act to increase mentoring of postdocs in 2007 and it has now been addressed in the CHIPS and Science Act passed in 2022.
    • Comply with federal guidelines to increase the U.S. capacity for research and innovation.


    What is a Postdoctoral Mentoring Plan?
    The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires any proposals that include postdoc researchers on the projects to provide a one-page supplementary document individual development plan. This should not circumvent the Project Description.

    NOTE: If it is a collaborative proposal (multiple institutions/mentors), only 1 plan is to be submitted for the entire project.

    The training plan should address the NSFs broader impacts criteria.

    Example Activities:
    • Career exploration and education
    • Career counseling/advising
    • Training in preparation of grant proposals, publications, and presentations
    • Developing teaching and mentoring skills
    • Effective communication skills for diverse audiences/collaborators
    • Strategies to attain career goals


    Resources for Development:

  • Project Summary/Abstract 

    The Project Summary or Abstract describes the project, shows the importance and relevance of your research, is used as a guide to the document, and is used to decide where to assign your application. They should present an accurate description of the proposed work, be able to stand on their own (separate from the application), be informative to other people working in the same or related fields and be succinct and concise.

    Key elements of Abstracts/Project Summaries?

    • Background: a simple opening sentence or two placing the work in context.
    • Aims: one or two sentences giving the purpose of the work.
    • Methods one or two sentences explaining what was (or will be) done.
    • Results: one or two sentences indicating the main findings (or what you hope to accomplish with the project).
    • Conclusions: one sentence giving the most important consequence of the work – what do the results mean? How will they be used?


    Technical vs Lay Abstracts
    Technical Abstracts are written for federal agencies and contain shorter background sections and elaborate on preliminary results, research strategies, and specific aims. These abstracts assume background knowledge, provide few justifications, contain an extensive use of terminology, with few definitions and examples.

    Lay Abstracts are written for private foundations and corporations should be widely understandable and contain longer background and significance sections. These abstracts require background, frequent initial purpose clauses, with terminology being used with caution, and more definitions and examples.

    Funding Agency Specifics:
    The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires three explicitly named headings for this document: Overview, Intellectual Merit, and Broader Impacts. The NSF further clarifies that NSF award abstracts should:
    • Explain the project's significance and importance; and
    • Serve as a public justification for NSF funding by articulating how the project serves the national interest, as embodied by the NSF’s mission: to serve the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; or to secure the national defense.

    For more information regarding their guidelines on abstracts, visit their Clarity of Titles and Abstracts webpage.

    The National Institutes of Health (NIH) requires applicants to develop both a Project Summary/Abstract and a Project Narrative. For funded projects, the NIH makes both of those sections publicly available on RePORTER, a searchable database by state, institute/center, and other specifics. For example, you can find SHSU's Dr. Khalid Khan’s recently funded project summary and narrative here. For better understanding of NIH’s clarity on project summaries/abstracts and narrative, please visit this site detailing what to include and how the two sections compare.

    The US Department of Education (DoED) keeps their guidelines for grant applications on their website with specific abstract requirements and points for inclusion here.

    The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires templates that they make available for completion on their website as well as in grants.gov.

    The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) requires a Program Narrative that must include an abstract, table of contents, main body, and appendixes. NIJ uses abstracts for several purposes, including assigning proposals to an independent peer review panel. The abstract should serve as a succinct, stand-alone, and accurate description of the proposed work and should not exceed 600 words. For more information and sample applications, visit their Guidance for Applicants and Awardees website. You may view a full list of current and closed SHSU awards here.

    Dos & Don'ts:
    The abstract should include: Background > Problem > Objective(s) > Strategy > Significance

    Examples of their structure include:
    • Problem
      • “...has not been determined”
      • “...is unclear”
      • “XYZ is limited by...”
      • “The question remains if...”
    • Objective(s)
      • “Our objective is...”
      • “We propose to...”
      • “We will examine the hypothesis that...”
    • Strategy
      • “We will achieve this goal by...”
      • “Specifically, we will XYZ by XYZ”
      • “Our general strategy is to...”
    • Significance
      • “...is important for...”
      • “These results may play a role in...”
      • “XYZ can be used to...”
      • “...will provide insights into...”


    What to Avoid Including:
    • Descriptions of past accomplishments
    • Use of the first person
    • Any information not covered in your proposal
    • Any confidential information
    • Graphs or images
    • Citations
    • Less important information, such as: details on methods and exact data
    • Redundancies
    • Useless and emotional intensifiers, such as: really, very, clearly, etc.
    • Lengthy sentences (more than 20 words)