How to write a research proposal for funding

How to write a research proposal for funding - image  on

In order to succeed in academia, you need funding. And in order to get funding, you need to be able to write a killer research proposal. Today I am going to share with you a brief overview of key aspects you need for a winning research proposal, as well as a few tips and tricks that have helped me in my proposal writing.

Before you even begin:

Get clear on the who, what, where and why about your research. Spend some time thinking about these questions before even writing your proposal. A good exercise is to jot down the first words that come to your mind when you ask yourself these questions:  what is my research about? Who is involved? Where will it take place? Why is it needed?

Who is the audience?

Who is the funding agency and who will be reviewing the application? You need to strategically think about who will be reviewing the application, what they want to hear and what type of experience they may have when assessing your proposal. When you write about something, ask yourself: will the people who are reading it know what you are talking about? There is a fine line between it being too complex and too simple.


Find a peer who is also writing the application and be each other’s champion. Writing proposals is a  lengthy and challenging process, having someone to talk to, who understands these challenges, is important. 



Include an Impact Sentence:

Including one clear sentence about your research will be helpful to an outside reader whose is reading your proposal for the first time. Can you say what you said in 3 sentences in one? Probably.

What is your research? What theory does it use? What framework does it work from? What does it respond to? Include all of these answers in one impactful sentence.

For example, here is mine:

My doctoral research seeks to understand university educated young women’s experiences of precarious work positions in the Greater Toronto Area through a feminist political economy framework.

Some more examples:

  • My thesis research employs _ theory and _ framework to investigate ___ as a response to ___.
  • My doctoral research use __theory to investigate ___ from the standpoint of ___.
  • Motivated by my 5 year’s experience _ working with _ my research uses qualitative research methods to explore how __ and __.


Get as many people as you can to review your application. This is part of the process, you are going to need to start reviewing other peoples proposals as well. Getting others eyes on it will give you an outside perspective. 


Some key elements:

Here are a few key elements that a winning research proposal should include:

  • Clear opening sentence with the goal of research (impact sentence – see above)
  • Research Objectives/Question(s) – and why is it important
  • Context – current literature and gaps
  • Theoretical framework
  • Methodology for research – design, sample, analysis etc.
  • What contribution will you research bring?
  • Your suitability for conducted research
  • Why/how your university will support you in this research (mention your supervisor, program etc.)


Using an active voice. It shows you are currently contributing to research, for instance: my research explores versus my research will explore.



A fun way to look at a proposal is to find out the word limit (typically 2 pages) and how much funding is available. Divide the funding number into the words.

For example: $80,000/ 1300 words =  $61.50

Now you know how much each word you write costs. It’s a good reminder that every word is important!


Everyone’s research is going to be different and the funding agency in which they are applying will be different. These are only general suggestions for research funding proposals.

Let me know if there are any particular areas where you are struggling and I can write future blog posts on these areas.

Until next time,

Christine xo




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