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writing reseach proposals to the national science foundation

What follows is a collection of advice for writing research grants to the National Science Foundation. It
includes some guidelines on how to write an NSF proposal and how to get the latest version of the NSF
forms. There are some NSF forms, such as the Disclosure of Lobbying Activities, that your grants office
will provide for you.
This document focuses on writing proposals to NSF, but the following general advice can be applied to
writing any proposal.
General Advice
Always read the RFP (request for proposal) to find out what the funders want. They will give you money
only if you can help them reach their goals. The goals of funding agencies (public and private) vary
dramatically. A successful proposal to NSF looks nothing like a successful proposal to NASA. Even
within an agency, the style of proposals can be different among internal divisions. Find out about the
agency, its goals, and its review system.
All proposals should answer the following questions in one form or another.
· What is the problem being addressed? (What is the goal of the research being proposed?
What is the hypothesis being tested?)
· Why is the problem important and interesting?
· What will you DO to address the problem? If you complete the plan, will that bring us closer
to an answer to the problem?
· Do you have the resources (equipment, grad students, access to industry ...) necessary to
complete the research?

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