Writing a winning grant proposal involves coordinating several activities, including planning, searching for data and resources, writing and packaging a complete proposal, submitting the proposal to a funding agency, and follow-up.

Major Components


The narrative is the central component of the proposal. The narrative is the section for making the case as to why the proposal should be supported. A narrative can be broken down into general sections (descriptions below), but each sponsor has their own needs and requirements, so be sure to adhere to the guidelines. 

A narrative - generally - answers these questions:

  • Who are we, and how do we qualify to meet this need?
  • What do we want?
  • How does this funding request relate to the funder's purpose, objectives, and priorities?
  • What concern will be addressed?
  • Why it is important?
  • Who will benefit and how?
  • What specific objectives can be accomplished and how?
  • How will results be measured?
  • What are plans for continuation beyond project funding?

The introduction establishes credibility by describing who is applying for funds, links with sponsor priorities, and leads logically to the problem statement.

The introduction is brief, engaging, and free of jargon.

This section addresses why the sponsor should fund your project.

This section identifies the concern, gap, need, or problem, that would be shared by the sponsor agency. It communicates “fire in the belly,” and everything stated must be supported by evidence.

This would be a good time to display a unique take on your project. Once again, the needs/problem statement is brief, yet interesting reading, and free of jargon.

Goals and objectives state what you plan on doing in your research. It lists outcomes, end products, deliverables, but not methods.

This section must be clear, simple, specific, and measurable. Your goals and objectives relate to the problems identified in your problem statement.

The significance section addresses the impact or result of having accomplished the objectives.

It relates to the why of the problem statement and answers: "What changes, is better, is implemented, is advanced by the project?”

The methods describe how you are going to carry out the project.

Typically the lengthiest section, the methodology describes tasks related to objectives.

This is the section that contains graphical material, time frames, the total scope of activities conducted.

The evaluation presents a plan for measuring the degree to which objectives will be accomplished and the methods followed, that is, how well your project did what it set out to do.

This section explains test instruments and data analyses, along with the criteria of success.

Dissemination identifies the means of informing others of your project outcomes.

How broadly do you plan on distributing your results? This part describes specific avenues for publication or presentation.

This section presents a plan for maintenance of the program beyond grant funding. What are the availability of resources for continuation of the project?

The grant budget is your best estimate of what it will take to carry out your project.

Ranging from hundreds to millions of dollars, a well-prepared budget is a clear and detailed presentation of your project and connects requested items back to your goals and objectives. As such, the budget can lend just as much credibility to your proposal as the narrative.

Common line items include faculty academic year and supplemental time, student wages, fringe benefits, travel, supplies, vendor agreements, equipment, and indirect costs.

After you've identified a proposal opportunity and its budget limitations, you're ready to begin working on your budget.

Additional information on travel at Ball State can be found here.

For detailed information about how to create your budget, contact your Proposal Manager.


For general information about travel, please reference the BSU travel policy

If you are traveling internationally for your project, note that your proposal will need additional review and requires SPA notice at least four (4) weeks prior to the deadline.

Review current travel advisories at the Department of State website

Indirect costs, commonly known as facilities and administrative costs (F&A), are general support expenses that cannot be specifically assigned to a single project.

Ball State University negotiates this rate every few years through detailed space and facility analyses with a representative from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Indirect cost recovery provides reimbursement to the University for, among other things, utilities, equipment use, and administrative services.

Any recovered indirect costs on a funded project are returned to the PI, the PI’s department, and Ball State’s general fund.

Ball State University collects indirect costs as allowable by the federal government under the OMB’s Uniform Guidance 2 CFR Part 200.

Per the most recently negotiated rate, Ball State is entitled to receive 49.0% of Modified Total Direct Costs (MTDC) for on-campus programs, or 27.0% MTDC for off-campus programs.

MTDC is calculated as the Total Direct Costs minus equipment, tuition, and sub-award amounts over $25K. All proposals will include the full allowable rate of indirect costs, regardless of sponsor type (Federal, Non-Federal, Industry, Foundation, etc.). That is, proposal budgets will include sponsor's published indirect cost rate.

Adjusted IDC recovery will be distributed as outlined below. Projects involving multiple PIs, Departments and Colleges will be divided equally among the units represented in Cayuse SP:

  • Principal Investigator: 5%
  • Department/Unit: 10%
  • College/VP Unit: 85%

More Information

If you have questions about indirect costs or can’t find what you’re looking for, see our Indirect Cost Distribution Policy, or contact Jackie Davis or Maria Bumbalough.

The Biosketch – another form of a resume or CV – is a grant proposal component that gives the investigators the opportunity to highlight their expertise and experience related to the proposal work. The format and length will be outlined (usually) in the guidelines. Personnel can use this space to outline education, professional positions & appointments, relevant publications, research contributions, and/or synergistic activities. There is limited space to include all the relevant items so be sure to compose this component thoughtfully.


Science Experts Network Curriculum Vitae (SciENcv) is an electronic system that helps researchers assemble the professional information needed for participation in federally funded research. SciENcv allows researchers to gather and compile information on expertise, employment, education and professional accomplishments and use SciENcv to create and maintain biosketches that are submitted with grant applications and annual reports. 


  • Eliminates the need to repeatedly enter biosketch information
  • Reduces the administrative burden associated with federal grant submission and reporting requirements
  • Provides access to a researcher-claimed data repository with information on expertise, employment, education, and professional accomplishments
  • Allows researchers to describe their scientific contributions in their own language

Principles of SciENcv:

  • Any researcher may register
  • Leverages data from existing systems
  • Data are owned by the researcher
  • Researcher controls what data are public
  • Researcher edits and maintains information
  • Researcher provides own data to describe research outcomes
  • Researcher has ultimate control over data in biosketch

Create your SciENcv profile: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sciencv/  

NSF Biographical Sketch: 

NIH Biographical Sketch:  


“Current and pending support" is a term generally used by sponsors to request the submission of information about key personnel's research funding that is currently active, pending review, or recently awarded. This information is typically requested at the time of proposal submission but is sometimes requested prior to receiving funding (Just In Time) or when submitting annual reporting, and the format varies by sponsor. The information assists sponsors (and applicants) in identifying potential activity, commitment, and budgetary overlap on projects for senior project personnel. 

For details on sponsor specific policies and requirements for current and pending support documents, contact your Proposal Manager

Scholarly work is increasingly required to engage in a range of data management activities to comply with institutional policies, or as a precondition for publication or grant funding. Data management plans (DMP) are now a standard component of grant proposals for most funding agencies. A good DMP will ensure the availability and accessibility of your research results after your project is complete and that you have published the results, increasing the value of your research and possible reuse by other researchers.   

It's crucial to plan early to comply with your funder's data management expectations and public access requirements for data and publications. Most funders allow you to request funding in your budget proposal to cover expenses related to data management.

Regardless of the sponsor, there are five major questions any DMP should answer (adapted from the NSF General Guidelines for data management plans): 

  • What type of data will be produced?
  • How will it be organized and what standards will be used for documentation and metadata?
  • What steps will be taken to protect privacy, security, confidentiality, intellectual property or other rights?
  • If you allow others to reuse your data, how, where and when will the data be accessed and shared?
  • Where will the data be archived and preserved? 


DMPTool provides templates based on funder policy documents that help researchers and institutions create high-quality data management plans that meet funder requirements. Ball State University is a participating partner of this open-source, nationwide collaboration. 

Sign in with your BSU credentials and create your plan today!

Read more about Data Management & Sharing via University Libraries

For details on sponsor-specific policies and requirements for the Data Management Plan, contact your Proposal Manager


Broader Impacts (BI) are a required part of any National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal. However, the considerations of the broader impacts of your scholarship and research are foundational to any grant proposal! 

Definition: Broader Impacts refers to the potential for a research project to benefit society or advance desired societal outcomes. 

While BI are a priority area for NSF, it is not the only funding agency with a BI requirement. Many funders are asking their reviewers to assess the quality of a project's outreach and educational activities, public engagement, or cross-institutional collaborations. 

Get started with this BI Toolkit from the Center of Advancing Research Impacts in Society (ARIS) and Rutgers University


Broader Impacts Review Document for National Science Foundation Proposals (PDF)*

*This document is designed to assist National Science Foundation (NSF) program managers, proposal reviewers, and review panels, in evaluating the broader impacts (BI) component of NSF proposals and to assist proposers with developing their BI plans. This document also creates an opportunity for proposers to think critically about how their BI activities will incorporate into their research portfolio over time and begin to develop their "impact identity." – Source: Advancing Research Impacts in Society (ARIS)

For details on sponsor specific review criteria or requirements for BI, contact your Proposal Manager.