Skip to main content

Developing your proposal

The development of a competitive research proposal is a process involving a wide range of staff and departments. These can include:

The strongest proposals are often those that have drawn on the unique knowledge and expertise that each can offer. Successful PIs ensure that they have planned enough time to refine the proposal at each stage.

When developing your proposal it is important to remember who will end up assessing it. Typically it will be read by academics with an interest in and knowledge of your field, but this is not always the case, and many reviewers act as generalists.

It is therefore important to get your message across clearly and concisely, with minimum technical jargon.

Funder requirements can differ, but a typical research proposal would usually contain:

  • an introduction to the proposal, identifying the subject for research in terms of theoretical issues and relevant real-world applications
  • a review of relevant literature and theories relating to your proposed research area outlining the major lines of argument and the ideas and findings of key researchers working on the topic
  • an outline of the research methods you will use and the form and location of any empirical work you plan to undertake. Where and for how long might you collect any relevant data?
  • an indication of how you envisage your research will contribute to debates and discussions in your subject area. Will it make an original contribution? How might it fill gaps in existing work or extend understanding of particular topics?
  • how you feel the project will enable impact – that is, have a measurable effect in the ‘real world’ beyond academia. Impact could take several forms including economic, societal, medical and technological

Many UK funders now expect to see a statement on equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in funding applications, and questions on ED&I are regularly included in panel interviews. We have compiled a range of questions and advice that researchers can consider, depending on the nature of their research and funder requirements.

Checklist for developing your proposal