Proposal Components

Cover Page

Proposals are submitted with a general cover sheet that includes most of the following:

  • Federal Domestic Assistance Catalog (CFDA) number (or other identifying number of the program)
  • Title of the proposed research
  • Solicitation name and number
  • Name and address of the sponsor
  • Name and address of Kentucky State University
  • Name and Title of the Principal Investigator and Co-PIs

Additionally, KSU requires completion and submission of a Transmittal Form for institutional approval.


The abstract summarizes the key features of the proposal. It should include a statement of the objective, methods, and significance condensed to a page or less. The main points of the text should be covered; it should be informative to others and understandable to a lay person.

The reviewers usually read the abstract first to gain a perspective on the study; use it later to remind themselves of the nature of the study when the project is discussed. The abstract may be used as the basis for assignment by the sponsor to a specific review group.

Problem Statement / Needs Assessment

Define the problem in specific and realistic terms. Why has this problem been chosen for study? What are the causes of the problem? Why does the study need to be conducted? Provide documentation and relevant, thorough, carefully selected statistics from credible research.

Literature Review / Bibliography

The problem statement, the need for the study, and the methodology must have their foundation in the literature.

This section of the proposal is not usually isolated. Two points should be kept in mind. First, the proposal can’t be written before the literature search done. Second, the reviewers will probably be some of the leading authorities in the field and will be looking for particular references; demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the state-of-the-art is critical. All citations in the text should be compiled in a Selected Bibliography or Reference List. If there is no literature related to the problem, indicate what sources were consulted; also offer reasons why there is a vacuum. Cite those works which come closest to the problem and explain why they may fall short.

Objectives / Questions / Hypotheses

These are precise, measurable statements of the expected outcome of the project. They can be phrased as objectives, questions to be answered, or hypotheses to be tested. They present the terms of the study by establishing its parameters.

Carefully selected, they create the specific focus for a manageable project.  Number and list them so that anyone reading the proposal knows exactly what you seek to achieve. Ask yourself if the objectives lend themselves to operational definitions and if the hypotheses and questions are testable. If they do not, redefine them until they do.

Methodology / Design

This section gives evidence of your ability to plan and conduct the study. What activities are proposed to carry out the objectives, to test the questions and hypotheses? What is the rationale for the approach?

The procedures should be carefully detailed. In a research proposal, discussion of the methodology should include what data will be collected, accessibility of data, who will collect the data and how, how the data will be analyzed, sampling procedures, controls, and subjects. Justify where necessary the appropriateness of the study design and research methods. Address sample size, selection, and application of statistical methodologies.

Explain existing sources to be used and why selected, what form it will take, content, field testing, how it will be used, who will use it, and how it will be made available to others.

A training program should explain what material will be used, who the participants will be, how many, how they will be selected, where the training will take place, how long, and who the trainers will be. Let the reader know you have developed a complete plan of action.


Carefully consider if an explicit evaluation plan should be included in your proposal and decide what factors will have to be assessed. Clarify for the reviewer who will conduct the evaluation, their qualifications to do so, and their plan for doing it.

Results / Significance

Be sure you are clearly aware of what contribution the study will make. Can the process or the outcomes be duplicated, adapted, or generalized? Either as an advancement of fundamental knowledge or as an instrument of applied science, the impact of the study must be explicit. Will the results have local, regional, national, or international significance? What difference will your project make and to whom?


The results of any study must be made available to potential users for application or replication. How will this be done? Dissemination vehicles could include presentation at a professional meeting, publication of an article, holding a conference, and/or utilizing any existing networks for communication. Plans for this effort should be discussed when it is clear that an agency considers this activity a criterion of the evaluation.

Management Plan

Identify key staff members, including yourself, highlight their backgrounds, comment on the special contribution their expertise will enable them to make. Describe their specific responsibilities and show their relationships in an organizational chart. If other departments, institutions, or organizations will be participating in the project, discuss their input and what the lines of communication will be.

If consultants or an advisory board will be used, identify people or at least describe the backgrounds and capabilities which will be required. Explain the role, exactly what they do and when as well as why they are needed. Contact individuals before proposal submission to obtain agreement to participate.

Let the reader know you understand your own limitations as well as your strengths. Provide an activity chart, which lists tasks across the project time period. This can range from a simple bar chart to a critical path chart. The ordering of events, dates for completion, and staff responsibilities for implementation in a diagram help the reader visualize and summarize the work plan. Please refer to the Faculty Handbook for guidance on release time, faculty overloads, and supplemental pay.