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OSP | FAQ | Proposal Development

Does OSP write proposals?

OSP does not write proposals, but can meet with faculty and staff to edit and brainstorm on proposal narratives. Generally speaking, sponsors are interested in the thoughts and credentials of the individual applying for funding. The proposal is the best way to outline your ideas and abilities in a particular area.

Where can I get help writing proposals?

Proposal writing workshops are offered during the academic year. Please check our website for the next session. In addition, there are several excellent web sites that provide tutorials and general information on proposal writing. These include:

The Office of the Provost, Vice Provost of Research and Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Office of Merit Awards offer the following onsite proposal development/proposal editing services:
  • Wrapping it Up: Writing Abstracts and Grant Proposals
Presented by Graduate Consultants from the Writing Center
This session addresses key tasks for graduate student writers. Writing Center consultants will walk you through some of the most important steps in wrapping up a paper or grant proposal, including writing an abstract and revising for an audience.
  • Framing a Research Question
Presented by Career Center, Office of Merit Awards
Successful applications for nationally competitive grants have one element in common: a clear and compelling central question or research problem. Developing such a question usually requires many drafts and a process of trial and error. This session addresses some of the challenges associated with framing a research question, such as determining the appropriate breadth versus narrowness of the topic achieving the right level of conclusion and punch, and anticipating the needs and expectations of national screening committees. This session is intended for students who expect to apply for awards to fund field research or an international internship.
  • Graduate Writing Process: Professional Development (Abstracts, Cover Letters, Grant Proposals)

The Writing Center's graduate consultants will offer techniques, examples, and a chance to ask questions about abstracts, cover letters, and grant proposals in this interactive presentation.

  • An Overview of Grant Writing

This interactive workshop will look at the fundamentals of proposal writing in the context of a successful funding strategy. It will examine the process of matching a project to a potential funder's interests and present it in the most effective way.

  • Faculty Grant Writing Workshop - Provost Office
Presented by Dr. Ralph Pollack, former AVP for Research at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).
This grant writing workshop, offered in both the Spring and Fall semesters, focus on the fundamentals of proposal writing, how to effectively target specific funding opportunities and strategies for enhancing proposal writing skills.

It is sometimes possible with federal programs to make an appointment to see copies of previously funded proposals for a particular program. Your OSP staff member can help you ascertain whether this service is offered and can make the appointment for you. It may also be useful to have a colleague review your proposal and offer a critique.

How can OSP help me if I am interested in developing a proposal for external funding?

OSP staff can meet with university faculty and staff to discuss opportunities and strategies in external funding. In addition, OSP can provide institutional information that is frequently requested by sponsors. This information can include: general university capability statements, lists of past awards and examples of similar projects. OSP also completes all the business forms necessary for a proposal submission and assists with sponsor requests for university financial information including: financial statements, the tax exempt letter, and the AU annual report.

Once I know that I will do a proposal, how soon should I come to OSP?

You should notify OSP of any planned proposal as soon as possible. Please provide a link to or copy of the guidelines and the due date. This early notification will provide time to read the guidelines and assist with the development of a comprehensive budget. It will also provide time for the internal approval process at the university.

What can I expect from my assigned OSP Staff member?

Assuming a reasonable length of time between proposal development and submission, you can expect that your grant and contract manager will:

  • Review the guidelines and make you aware of any special or unusual requirements
  • Put forward any internal pre-approval necessary
  • Complete all business forms and provide general university information
  • Coordinate and work with you to verify any unusual requirements or institutional commitments, like space or cost-share
  • Assist with budget development
  • Route the completed proposal package through the university
  • Submit the proposal to the sponsor
  • Check on the status of the proposal both internally (with you) and externally (upon request)
  • Maintain the complete proposal file until the proposal is either accepted or declined

To find our which OSP staff member represents your unit/department, please click here

Is there a difference between applying for a federal/state grant and a private foundation?

The terms and conditions of a federal project are governed by the rules and regulations of the federal government. Programs are generally announced and have legal due dates. Proposals or letters of inquiry to Foundations are governed by the terms listed in the Foundation information. Your OSP staff member can help you with the review of the guidelines for either type of organization to determine specific requirements.

To view the advantages and disadvantages of public vs. private funding, please click here.

What is a letter of inquiry (LOI)?

a Letter of Inquiry is a general presentation of a project idea designed to elicit feedback from a potential sponsor. As in telephone inquiries or agency visits, no formal commitments should be made without institutional approval. Letters of Inquiry do not review of OSP, and no formal routing is required necessary, unless required by the individual's academic or business unit head or Dean. Individuals are encouraged however, to forward a copy of such correspondence to their assigned OSP staff member so that OSP may be prepared for proposal development resulting from such inquiries. Many organizations provide a letter of inquiry template which must be followed. If there is no template, a letter of inquiry generally includes:

  • Summary of the request for funding (including the amount)
  • Statement of need for the project or research
  • General overview of the activities associated with the project
  • Specific outcomes
  • Credentials that highlight your ability to carry out the project

Sponsor guidelines should be reviewed to determine if the sponsor requires specific information in the letter of inquiry. For reference, links to sample letters of inquiry can be viewed here:

If the sponsor has no guidelines about the structure of a proposal, do you have a sample outline I can use?

No, however, a generic checklist below is provided for cases in which such guidelines do not exist.

To ensure the quality of the technical proposal, Principal Investigators should prepare answers to the following:

  • What title or project name will reflect the essence of the proposed research?
  • What is the research problem or need for this activity? Have you reviewed current literature to determine the need for such a project or conducted a needs assessment?
  • What do you hope to accomplish specifically as a result of this project?
  • How will you accomplish the project goal? Why is your approach particularly suited to the problem? Discuss the activity concept, project structure, and/or formal methodology.
  • How will you prove your results? An evaluation plan, complete with measures of efficiency, effectiveness, or outcomes as appropriate to the project design and methodology should be described.
  • What special compliance issues and risks are associated with the project?
  • Where will the project be conducted? Have space needs been evaluated?
  • When will work on the project begin? When will it conclude?
  • What are the qualifications for serving as the Principal Investigator on this particular project? Identify other skills and qualifications necessary to the activity and where/how you will provide that expertise.
  • How much will it cost for you to perform this work? (This question can be fully answered only after the cost has been prepared with the assistance of the OSP staff. Effective technical proposals, however, should indicate bottom-line costs, along with the levels of effort to be invested by the Principal Investigator and other key project personnel.)

What does it mean if my OSP Grant and Contract Manager advises me he/she has to "coordinate with development" before I can apply to a foundation?

The university is a large organization and has many on-going initiatives to seek external funding. Submissions to private foundation are coordinated with the Office of Development so that the university is aware of all requests going into a particular foundation at a given time. Some private foundations also restrict the number of inquiries that can be submitted by the same organization. Please refer to AU's limited submission policy here.

My proposal application requires proof of 501(c)(3) status, the audited financial statement, the EIN number or other kinds of information. Where can I get these?

Requests for this type of information is very common in grant applications. Your assigned OSP staff member will be able to provide information.

What is an RFP?

A Request for Proposal (RFP), also known as an RFP, RFO and RFA is issued by either a private or government organization. Typically, the RFP provides specific information about a program or type of research or program/project that the sponsor wishes to fund. The RFP also provides information about budget parameters, mandatory forms, additional information required, any restrictions, the legal due date, and submission format. Your assigned OSP staff member can review the RFP with you to ensure that the administrative requirements are met.

PI's intending to submit a proposal via an RFP or other similar proposal should contact their assigned OSP staff member as soon as possible. This is because these proposals often contain voluminous terms and conditions, and certifications that must be reviewed well in advance before developing the proposal.

What is an IPA, and how do I get University approval for it?

An IPA is an Intergovernmental Personnel Assignment. It allows an AU employee to work at a federal site and have their salary and benefits be provided by the agency, but paid through the university. The agency will require a proposal and budget to execute this type of agreement. The proposal should be budgeted and routed through OSP before agreeing with the agency on firm figures. IPAs do not incur indirect costs. Some academic units consider any type of assignment to another organization an IPA and request that it be budgeted and routed through OSP. Consult your Dean's office for the process if the IPA is for an organization other than a federal agency.

The costs of my project are primarily for tuition because I am presenting a course or a program. How do I get the costs and university approval for that?

If the program is for a specific group of individuals and any part of the tuition is paid by the sponsor for the cohort, contact your OSP staff member.This is considered an Instructional Revenue Center (IRC) which is a program contracted by and outside agency to offer credit or noncredit training that is closely related to the academic mission of the sponsoring teaching unit, and is designed primarily for an audience external to the existing student population. The Office of Sponsored Programs will assist with the proposal and coordinate with the Dean's office as outlined on page five of the Budget Office's IRC Manual (PDF). The pricing of these programs is a joint effort between your Dean's office and the Budget Office. For further information on the guidelines for these programs, please see the IRC Guidelines on the Budget Office's website.

What is a limited submission?

Sponsors vary on how they impost such a limitation, for example, limiting an institution to 1-3 applications for the entire institution. Due to the variations in sponsors' specification of limited submission requirements, OSP coordinates all limited submissions processes for all academic units at AU.

  • OSP will provide an announcement summarizing the program and disseminate to all academic units. The announcement will outline the internal deadline and submission of required materials
  • Interested faculty or staff will be required to submit an abstract of the proposal to OSP
  • After the internal deadline has passed, OSP will submit all abstracts to the Vice Provost for Research/Dean of Graduate Studies so that an internal faculty review can be held to determine which proposal or proposals will be submitted to the sponso5r
  • Members on the internal review group will go over the submitted materials and rate them using criteria that ensures the abstract's overall quality of the proposal is feasible, innovative, likely to be selected by the sponsor, and has the potential to leverage additional external funding. There is also a consideration of applicants' histories of past proposal submissions and awards
  • Once final selections are made, OSP will notify all candidates of the outcome of the internal review

View AU's Limited Submission Policy here.

The proposal guidelines require that I submit a data management plan - what is that?

Some sponsors require proposals to include plans for managing data and sharing of the results of research that it funds. The Data Management Plan should detail how the proposal will conform to the sponsor's policy on the dissemination and sharing of research results. If no data are involved in a particular proposed project, the Data Management Plan can be very short and simply state this fact. The Plan should reflect best practices in the area of research, and it should be appropriate to the data produced. The processed of preparing a Data Management Plan gives the PI/PD and collaborators an opportunity to address matters prior to the starting of the project. View more information regarding guidelines for developing Data Management Plans here.




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