UGRA Proposal Guidelines
Your UGRA proposal will be evaluated using one of the following rubrics provided to faculty reviewers: Research Project Rubric (.docx) or Creative Project Rubric (.docx) We recommend that you read over the appropriate rubric and use it while revising your proposal.
Your proposal should be no longer than 2,000 words (~4 pages). Your figures, images, image captions, references, footnotes, and appendices do not count towards this word count. Proposals exceeding the word count will be cut off at 2,000 words before being sent out to reviewers.
- Students working in groups: Students applying as part of a group need to each submit their own proposal. Proposals should not be written together and, therefore, should not share written content (ie, identical sentences or paragraphs). Reviewers must be able to see that each student has a full understanding of the project since each student will receive an individual scholarship.
- Students who have previously received a UGRA: If applying for a second award, students should submit a full proposal even when continuing on the same project. This proposal needs to include a brief update on their progress either in the Background and Introduction section or the Methods and Approach section. The Methods and Approach should then describe the next steps of the project. Much of your proposal may stay the same, but be sure to include any newly relevant background information if the project has shifted directions or new information was published.
Your UGRA proposal is required to include the following sections:
Purpose: In one paragraph, summarize your proposal. Give the reader a general sense of the field, the problem or idea your work will address, and how you will accomplish this project.
- Why will you do this work?
- What will you do (think broadly for this section)?
- And how will you do it?
- This is your chance to make a good first impression on your readers; it should clearly convey what your project is and why it is important enough to fund.
- Connect your project to the big picture.
- This section is a summary of your entire proposal, so write it last.
- For tips on writing research proposals, see The Professor Is In blog's "Foolproof Research Grant Template," as well as posts on how to talk about the big issue in your project and the contribution to the literature.
- Visit the KU Writing Center’s webpage.
2. Background and Introduction
Purpose: This section has two goals: 1) summarize the work that’s been done in your area and 2) explain how your work will contribute to this field of study. In many fields, this section is referred to as the literature review. It must include citations of previous research or creative work related to your topic.
- What is already known or has been done in this area?
- For creative projects: Which artists have done similar work or explored similar themes?
- How will this project add to what is already known or has been done?
- For creative projects: What is your creative vision for the project? What is the inspiration for your project?
- This section is commonly referred to as a literature review. The purpose is to position your project within the academic conversation about your topic.
- You must cite the published work that you review in this section and list it in the References section. Proposals that do not cite other works in this section and include them in the References section will not be funded.
- Focus on the key publications needed to outline the current state of the field; typical UGRA proposals include 5-10 sources.
- Be sure to synthesize your sources; this section should read more like a story than a list. Avoid direct quotes; they make it harder for you to synthesize multiple works into a story. Show how your project continues the story by explaining your contribution.
- Watch this video about the B.E.A.M. system for organizing sources for some tips.
3. Methods and Approach
Purpose: Describe what you will actually do for your project and why you will take this approach. You need to include a timeline that clearly details the work that you will complete during the semester of the award.
- What will you actually do? What data will you be using? How will you collect it? How will you analyze it? What materials or resources will you need?
- What are the major steps to complete this project?
- How will the results of these methods allow you to address your original question?
- Is the project that you’ve outlined feasible in one semester?
- Will you work with human subjects? If so, how will you meet the requirements of the KU Human Subjects Committee (HSCL)? Consult your mentor for help with this process.
- For creative projects: How will you approach and get feedback on your work?
- Why did you select the particular methods/techniques you’ve described?
- Be specific to show the reviewer that you have thought through the process and are prepared to begin your project.
- Relevant details you might mention (depending on project type) include: descriptions of methods and rationale for choosing them, any software or equipment you’ll use and why, a description of your creative process, and/or controls for proposed experiments.
- Explain the choices you have made in designing your project. Why are you choosing this method over another? Are there other studies that have used a similar approach? Show the reviewer that you understand not just what you are doing for your project, but why you are doing it.
- Use the timeline to help you and the reviewers ensure that you are proposing a feasible project for one semester. A chart or table is an easy way to provide the timeline.
- If the project is part of a larger research program or a long-term interest, make clear what part of the larger project will be completed during the one semester term of the grant.
- Cite your method's origin paper or other work using this technique to show that your approach is standard in the field.
- Use a first person narrative here, especially when you are working as part of a research group. Reviewers will have a better idea of what you are doing versus what others will do.
- Don't forget to describe your data analysis plan, especially any statistical methods you plan to use, and how this analysis will tie back to the original question you set out to address. This is a common mistake that reviewers catch.
- If you are working on a multi-semester project, be sure to provide the most details about the award period that you are applying for. The reviewer will want to see what work would be funded if you had the award.
4. Applicant's Preparation
Purpose: Describe your preparation and qualifications to complete this project.
- What experiences, coursework, or training have you done that will give you the needed background knowledge and skills to undertake the project?
- Did you complete coursework that is relevant? What specific skills or background information did you learn in these classes that prepared you for your project?
- Did you learn a language, technique, or laboratory skill that you’ll use?
- Or have you already been doing faculty mentored research or independent study on this topic?
- Do not skimp on this section; be sure to write at least one paragraph here to make the case that you can complete this project. The reviewer needs to be able to see whether you have the skills and background knowledge needed to complete the project.
- Rather than telling the reviewer that you are qualified, show them. Saying "I am prepared to do this research project" is not as convincing as saying "I used X technique in my BIOL 123 class, earned an A in my BIOL 456 course, and have already begun preparations to do Y procedure in my work in Prof. Z's lab this semester."
- Keep in mind that UGRA reviewers will not be viewing your transcripts as part of your UGRA application, so if you have taken relevant courses you should mention them, what grade you received in those classes, and how they will help you complete the proposed project.
- If you do not already have a skill that you will need to complete the project, be sure to address how you will get that knowledge or training.
Purpose: Show a clear connection between the different parts of your proposal. Summarize key points of your proposal for one final reminder of what you’re doing, how you’ll do it, and why. This is your final sales pitch to the reviewer and a good time to return to how your project relates to the big picture.
- How will the results and outcomes of your proposed work tie back to your original intent? In other words, explain how and why your proposed approach will help you achieve your goal.
- How will you disseminate your work?
- What criteria will you use to evaluate your success?
- Clearly show the reviewer the connections between your initial intent, proposed work, and anticipated outcomes. You want to convince your reviewer that the overall goals of your project are important, and that the plan you’ve outlined will move you toward those goals.
Purpose: List the materials you are citing in your proposal.
- Did you list every source you cited in the text?
- Did you include the most important and relevant sources for your project?
- Use the citation style most commonly used in your discipline for both the in-text citations and the reference list.
- Your references do not count towards your 2,000 word limit.
- You should not include any references that are not cited in the text of the proposal.
7. (Optional) Figures, Charts, and Images
Purpose: You may include any figures, charts, images, etc. that are helpful in explaining your work, either as an appendix or within the body of your work.
- Is there an idea you’re trying to communicate in words that would be easier to understand in picture form?
- Do you have portfolio pieces that will demonstrate the type of artwork or product you are proposing to create?
- Do you have a survey or interview tool you’d like to reference as an appendix?
- Do you have preliminary data showing that a new technique works?
- Keep it simple. Only include information that is needed to understand the proposal. Don’t include a figure or image just to have one.
- Any figures, charts, images, and examples of artwork need to be referred to within the text of the proposal. Without explanation, the reader does not know why you are including them.
- Label any figures, charts, and images with a descriptive title, caption, and/or legend for easy reference.