Example Outline: NSF Project Description (15 pages)
I. Introduction and Overview (1 – 2 pages)
Brief description of problem/challenge (1 paragraph)
Research hypothesis, goals, objectives and significance (1 paragraph)
Overview of approach and why it is innovative, novel (2 – 4 paragraphs)
Brief description of research team, their qualifications and any other important
infrastructure and collaborations. (1 – 3 paragraphs)
II. Background (2 – 4 pages)
Description of the state of knowledge in the field of the research topic, telling a cohesive
story that points to the need for the proposed research (be sure it is clear how the current
knowledge needs to be extended, what holes need to be filled in current knowledge, or
how an entirely new approach is needed to advance the state of knowledge). You will
then follow this in your next section with a description of how your research will
Include lots of specific references and be sure to include all seminal works. Do not be
dismissive of previous work, as the authors may be on your review panel! Include all
applicable publications by the PI and research team here or in the next section.
III. Preliminary Results (2 – 5 pages)
Description of research conducted and results obtained to date on the research topic by
the PI and research team.
Emphasis should be on: 1) how the preliminary results support the proposed approach
and indicate that it is likely to be successful and 2) how the preliminary work
demonstrates that the research team has the knowledge, skill and required resources to
conduct the research proposed (this is particularly important for less established
IV. Research Plan (5 – 7 pages)
Tasks and Methodology (connect each task clearly to research objective)
Schedules, milestone chart, etc.
Broader impacts (include numbers of students supported on the project – this can be
enhanced by including undergrad researchers)
Dissemination of results (include integration of research results into the curriculum)
V. Results of Prior NSF Support (this may also be put at the very beginning) (1 page or less
unless there is a strong connection to the current project requiring more discussion of results)
Describe results of NSF-funded projects funding the PI and co-PIs in the last 5 years. If
the PI or co-PI has received more then one award, choose one that is the most closely
related to the proposal.
Include NSF award number, amount, period of support; title of project; summar of
results; publications resulting from the award; number of students supported on the award
and any degrees granted based on the work.