Common Elements of a Proposal

Proposal elements.

Most sponsors specify proposal forms or formats and provide guidance about content, page limitations and numbers of copies that should be submitted. To ensure the best chance for a successful proposal, follow the sponsor's guidelines when preparing and submitting a proposal.

Proposals typically contain the following basic elements:

Electronic Campus Approval Form

The electronic Campus Approval Form (eCAF) is an internal campus document that must be prepared when submitting a proposal for new, renewal, continuation or supplemental extramural funding. The eCAF contains critical information presented in an efficient review format needed by several UCR constituents such as PIs, Co-PIs, Chairs, Deans, and Research and Economic Development staff. It also documents certain mandatory PI certifications and assurances.

The eCAF is electronically routed to everyone who needs to provide review or approval. Having logged in with your NetID and password, you are able to affix your electronic signature when you submit an eCAF to the next person.  Approvals on the eCAF certify that the proposed work is consistent with University objectives, and that all faculty involved in the proposal have agreed to participate, to accept the obligations and commitments described in the proposal, and to perform the work in accordance with University and sponsor policies.

The information collected through the eCAF is used for UCR internal purposes and is not submitted to extramural sponsors.

For more information regarding the eCAF process, including detailed user guides, please go to

Financial Disclosure Forms, if applicable

The appropriate Financial Disclosure form(s) must be completed and signed by the Principal Investigator and/or personnel responsible for the design, conduct and reporting of the scope of work. For more information about the financial disclosure process and its related forms, please visit the Promoting Research Objectivity (PRO) Committee webpage.

Application Cover Page

The application cover page is an integral part of the proposal -- first because of the information it captures, and second because it bears the signatures that are required to make the proposal a formal, certified document. Most sponsors still issue printed forms for proposal submission; these should be used whenever they are required. However, a large number of sponsors now require that proposals be submitted in electronic form, usually using the sponsor's electronic proposal submission system. Use of such systems are usually mandatory. However, some sponsors require both electronic and paper submissions of the same proposal.

The original application pages that require institutional endorsement need to be completed and submitted to Sponsored Programs Administration (SPA). If the sponsor does not issue a printed form or require a specific format for providing institutional information, SPA will issue and sign a cover letter to include with the application.


The abstract, which describes the major objectives of the proposed research and the research strategy to meet the objectives, is used for a variety of purposes. Sponsors often use the abstract to assign the proposal to the appropriate study section for review. Reviewers 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 is the most important part of any proposal. Simply put, the Statement of Work should include sufficient information needed for evaluation of the project, independent of any other document.

The Statement of Work 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 needed to conduct the research must be prepared in compliance with the sponsor's guidelines, applicable cost principles and UCR policies.

A budget justification is one of the most important sections of the proposal. A budget justification identifies the need for a particular cost and how the cost was estimated. The need for a particular piece of equipment, for instance, may be implied in the project description, but the implication is not necessarily apparent to a non-specialist reviewer or a contract and grant specialist. The need must be made explicit. The place to do this is in the budget justification.

Biographical Sketch

A Biographical Sketch is a brief summary of a researcher's CV, or curriculum vitae (resume) and is typically 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

Virtually all sponsors require information on the Principal Investigator's present support and pending proposals, inclusive of all extramural funding sources. The same type of information must be supplied both for active awards and for pending proposals and 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 applies not only to the Principal Investigator, but to all other key personnel formally committing effort to a 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 - describing capacities, relative proximity and the extent of availability to the project. Information can also be provided on university-wide 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.