Sponsored Programs Resources
A-Z Glossary of Terms

The following is a quick reference guide and glossary of typical components and subcomponents of full-length grant proposals. Some of these, such as the activities and evaluation, occur within the main, narrative portion of a grant proposal. Others, such as the abstract and biographical sketches, precede or follow the proposal narrative. Not all of these components are required by every funding agency, so be sure to follow the published guidelines and include all of the required components in the order specified by the sponsor.

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A brief summary of the proposed grant project, often one page or less in length, typically occurring just before the proposal narrative.


A section of the proposal narrative that describes in detail how the project goals and objectives will be accomplished over time.

Adequacy of Resources

A section of the proposal narrative that describes the range of available resources the proposed project will draw on to accomplish the goals and objectives. These typically include resources specific to the project, as well as those available in the broader university setting, such as library materials, laboratory facilities, and various university services.


Usually affixed to the end of the proposal narrative, the appendices may include certifications and assurances, resumes of key personnel and consultants, letters of support, documentation of tax-exempt status, and other types of addenda that support and augment the proposal narrative.


Another term for appendices.

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Biographical Sketches

Short descriptions of the professional training and experiences of the key personnel that qualify them to conduct the proposed project. Some agencies provide forms for this information or specify a particular format that must be followed.

Budget Detail or Budget Breakdown

A detailed, line-by-line presentation of the anticipated project costs grouped within broad categories such as "personnel" and "supplies". In addition to listing all anticipated expenses, the budget detail typically shows how they were calculated. In some cases, the funder provides a form for this purpose.

Budget Justification or Narrative

Typically appearing immediately after the budget detail, the budget justification explains, in narrative format, why the proposed expenses are necessary and reasonable, and how the requested funds will be used to conduct the project activities.

Budget Summary

A global view of the project budget that presents only the totals for the various cost categories (e.g. personnel, equipment) in tabular form, often with one column per project year and a final column for cumulative totals. Typically presented on a form provided by the funding agency, the budget summary gives a broad overview of project costs over time.

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Certifications and Assurances

A variety of forms attesting to the university's compliance with various state, federal, and/or municipal laws and regulations, as well as its eligibility to receive public grant funds. These forms, usually attached at the end of the proposal, must be signed by a senior executive or an authorized organizational representative such as the Director of Sponsored Programs and Research.

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A section of the proposal narrative that describes the strategies that will be used to determine whether or not the project goals and objectives are being met and who will implement those strategies. This section typically includes both formative (ongoing) and summative (final) evaluation strategies.

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Goals and Objectives

The goals and objectives succinctly present the intended purposes of the proposed project, indicating what the project will accomplish and by when. Goals are the broad purposes around which all of the project activities and resources will be organized. Goals are typically subdivided into objectives, which are more detailed, often including information such as target numbers and dates that will enable an evaluator to gauge the project's level of success.

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Key Personnel

This section of the proposal narrative describes the qualifications of those who will have primary responsibility for carrying out the proposed project, explaining how their training, experience, and unique qualifications will contribute to the success of the project.

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Letters of Support or Letters of Commitment

Signed statements, on letterhead, that document the readiness of agencies, community partners, consultants, and other entities, including the university itself, to participate in the proposed grant project and contribute the level of financial and programmatic support indicated in the proposal narrative and budget.


The anticipated completion point for a significant component of the proposed project (e.g., the point by which all data will be collected).

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See proposal narrative.


A section of the proposal narrative that draws on a combination of quantitative and qualitative indicators to convincingly establish the rationale for the proposed grant project. The needs section typically occurs at the beginning the proposal narrative.


Outcomes are the specific improvements that will result if the project's goals and objectives are achieved. Like objectives, outcomes are typically stated succinctly and in measurable terms. The anticipated project outcomes may be presented along with the goals and objectives or in the evaluation section.

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Past Performance

A description of the applicant's previous experience with similar grant projects. Past performance is especially important when seeking a competitive renewal of a grant project.

Proposal Narrative

A detailed, sometimes lengthy, presentation of the proposed grant project in its entirety. The proposal narrative usually begins by documenting the need for the project and concludes by explaining how the project will be evaluated.

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See outcomes.

Scope of Work

The scope of work, which typically appears in contract and subcontract proposals, performs the same function as the proposal narrative by mapping out what the applicant will do with the requested funds. A scope of work statement is typically shorter than a proposal narrative but contains some of the same key components, including goals and objectives, and activities.

Synergistic Activities

A required component of some research proposals. Synergistic activities involve professional and scholarly activities focusing on the integration and transfer of knowledge, as well as its creation, causing one's professional and scholarly work to have a broader impact. Examples could include innovations in teaching and training (i.e. the development of curricular materials and pedagogical methods); development and/or refinement of research tools; computation methodologies and algorithms for problem-solving; and development of databases to support both research and education.

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Time and Effort

The specific amount of time, usually expressed in terms of a percentage, that each of the key personnel will devote to the project.


A visual depiction of when the various activities advancing the goals and objectives of the project will be completed, with the name or title of the individual responsible for these activities often indicated.

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