Adapted from the University of Washington Researcher's Guide. Used with permission.

Does the Abstract:

  • State the overall objective of the research?
  • Succinctly state the specific aims?
  • Briefly describe the methods?
  • Indicate the long-term goal of the research?

Do the Specific Aims:

  • Address the research goals in specific terms (defined objectives that can be reached rather than generalizations)?
  • Avoid vague terms such as "describe the process of...", "characterize the phenomenon of...", or "elucidate the mechanism for..."?
  • State hypotheses where appropriate?
  • Begin with an introductory statement that provides a mini-background?
  • Seem clearly related to each other?
  • Avoid being a fishing expedition (collecting data with no clear indication of how it will be used)?
  • Present a do-able body of work rather than being too broad or ambitious?

Does the Background:

  • Begin with a clear statement of the general problem to be addressed?
  • Compare, contrast, and critique what others have done (not just catalog it)?
  • Show how existing work (literature and/or preliminary data) lays the groundwork for the proposal?
  • Cite original literature rather than reviews whenever possible?
  • Avoid citing so many papers that the PI comes across as unselective?
  • Explain how the studies will fill a gap or solve a problem?
  • Raise questions that the reviewers might pose, then answer them immediately?
  • End with a summary of the main points?

Does the Preliminary Data section:

  • Include only data pertinent to the proposal?
  • Demonstrate the PI's expertise with the techniques and methods to be used?
  • Use clear, readable graphs or charts instead of tables or text whenever possible?
  • Avoid putting too many curves on one graph?
  • Assure that curves on graphs are distinguishable from each other after photocopying?
  • Provide graphs with legends and labels that make them understandable, separate from adjacent text?
  • Use appropriate statistics?
  • Summarize findings at the end of each section and state their importance?
  • End with an overall summary?

Does the Experimental Design/Methods section:

  • First give an overview of the experimental design, then give details of the methods?
  • Relate the design and methods back to each specific aim?
  • Use diagrams and flowcharts to explain complex protocols?
  • Give enough detail to demonstrate adequate knowledge without crowding page limits?
  • Make good use of space by referring to standard methods papers or protocol books where appropriate?
  • Make good use of space by referring to the preliminary data section when methods are described there?
  • Give examples of expected results and how they will interpreted?
  • Anticipate pitfalls and explain how they will be dealt with?
  • Provide a time line that proves that the project is not overly ambitious?