Researcher Portal
Proposal Development

This section provides guidelines, tips and examples for developing research funding proposals

A research proposal is an exercise in persuasion. At the core of any competitive proposal is a great idea, one based on strong scholarship and/or excellent science, and one that is novel, innovative, and significant. However, the research funding environment is fiercely competitive and the majority of applicants will have good ideas. It’s not enough to know you have a great idea – the proposal has to persuade the rest of the world (i.e. the reviewers) of it. The reviewers have to be convinced to fund your idea above all of the other great ideas being considered. And this has to happen in an environment where reviewers are busy, impatient, and skeptical people, who are often trying to review more proposals than they actually have time to review.

To make a proposal as competitive as possible, it is essential to combine a great idea with a good proposal writing technique. This involves utilising a system/approach that makes it easy for reviewers to score the proposal highly. This guide outlines some best practices for proposal planning and proposal development that can help to craft a more persuasive and compelling case for funding.

Good proposal writing will not save a bad idea, but bad proposal writing can kill a good one.

This guide can be read in its entirety, or specific sections can be consulted on an as-needed basis, e.g. as a reference while drafting an individual proposal section. Use the listing on the right side of this page to find the relevant sections. The guide covers some of the most common features of proposals. However, it is not exhaustive, and does not cover every proposal type. In particular, it focuses on proposals for research projects, rather than other types (e.g. infrastructure, commercialisation, tender responses, etc) although many of the principles in this guide will apply to all proposal types. This guide should not be considered a substitute for detailed instructions or guidelines provided by funding agencies, or for discipline-specific requirements.

We welcome your comments and inputs on the content provided in this guide, including suggestions for additional information that you would like to see covered here. Please let us know at rss@ul.ie.