Review below for a list of common types of contracts and their descriptions to see which one best applies to your needs and how to proceed.

These transactions can almost always be accomplished through the Purchasing system.

Contact Purchasing Services for assistance.

The acquisition of personal services for the university—whether it is physical labor, consulting, equipment maintenance or any other kind of service to be rendered by another party—requires a written agreement with the service provider to detail the description of the work to be performed.

Many times, these transactions can also be accomplished through the Purchasing system, however, occasionally other forms may be used.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU), memorandum of agreement (MOA), or other type of cooperative agreement is a document written between parties to cooperatively work together on an agreed-upon project or meet an agreed-upon objective.

The purpose of an MOA is to have a written understanding of the agreement between parties. These forms are used when creating or renewing a cooperative agreement with another government agency, educational institution, or other organization.

This type of service agreement results in revenue accruing to the university for services provided by university resources.

In general, the appropriate activity must be determined before the appropriate form of the agreement can be selected.

Standard, non-research related services require a different form of service agreement than a sponsored research activity.

Research activities performed for a public or private sponsor must follow the procedures set by the Sponsored Projects Administration.

Please contact the office before initiating a contract or sub-grant.

There are occasions when a transaction involves the use of a form contract or agreement supplied by an outside vendor or other party.

If the transaction is basically a purchase of goods or services, it is best to start with Purchasing Services to help you understand the vendor’s form and to determine if it needs further review.

Vendor agreements are almost always written to favor the vendor, and the review and approval process is therefore longer and more complicated than when using the purchase order system.

Contracts that require multiple projects or work scopes to be performed over a period of time by or for a single vendor are usually not appropriate for a purchase order alone.

In this situation, a general or "master" agreement defines the purposes of the contract, the relationship of the parties and the parameters for delivery of the services or products.

The specific details of the scope of the work to be done and the price to be paid are then provided in one or more "task" or "work" orders in which the purchaser delineates those items and the seller agrees to perform the task and submit an invoice that conforms to the agreement.

Goods vs. Services

Determining if a contract is primarily one for the purchase of goods or services can be difficult when both are involved in the transaction.

When the services are incidental to the transaction, then a purchase order may be appropriate, particularly if the service/maintenance contract is provided as a pre-printed form from the vendor.

Services are incidental to the transaction only when the primary purpose of the contract is to acquire goods or commodities and the services associated with the transaction are intended to facilitate the acquisition or provide necessary support such as delivery, installation, maintenance or upgrade.


A contract is for the purchase of a computer workstation that includes a one-year on-site maintenance agreement, the services are probably incidental to the purchase.

However, if the contract is for $100,000 to employ the services of a computer networking consultant firm that includes the purchase of computer hardware, three years of on-site network administration and support, and user training, then it is more likely to be a contract for goods and services that requires a detailed agreement to adequately protect the University’s rights in the transaction.