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Paragraph 1: Introduction

Opening Sentence: Open with one sentence that immediately introduces the reviewer to the general topic your proposal addresses. Be sure that it is not overly general – it should provide some information that is not common knowledge.
Current Knowledge: Follow the opening sentence with 3-4 sentences that summarize what is known in the field. This should also set up the gap in knowledge that your research will address.
Critical Problem, Need or Gap in Knowledge: Specifically state the gap in knowledge that your research will address. What needs to be determined to move the field forward?
Gap as an important problem: End the first paragraph by stating why the gap in knowledge is a problem. What vertical leap in the field does it prevent?

Paragraph 2: Goal and Central Hypothesis

Long-term Goal: State the long-term goal (10 years) of your research. Your long-term goal should clearly encompass the research that you are proposing.
Objective of this Proposal: State the objective of this application. The objective should directly address the knowledge gap or need stated in Paragraph 1.
Central Hypothesis: State your central hypothesis simply and clearly. Your hypothesis is your proposed explanation—your best guess—for the expected outcome of this proposal, based on limited evidence. Italicize this sentence.
Rationale for Hypothesis: 1-2 sentences describing how hypothesis was formulated (mention preliminary data if applicable).
Closing the Gap: What will the results of your proposed work make possible that is not possible now? This should refer back to the last sentence of Paragraph 1 (Why is the gap in knowledge a problem? What vertical leap does it prevent?)
Qualifications: It is a good idea to state why you (or your team or collaborators) are particularly well-prepared to carry out this work. This works well here or in the opening of the final (“payoff”) paragraph.
Note: A need-driven proposal (such as a construction grant) does not need a central hypothesis or rationale for hypothesis.

Paragraph 3: Specific Aims Statements

State each aim clearly and simply. Follow each Aim statement with ~3 sentences stating your working hypothesis for that aim, what that hypothesis is based on, and a brief summary of your approach. Make sure the Aims are conceptual rather than procedural (i.e., they focus on the desired knowledge or outcome (why you will do it), not the process (what you will do).
Specific Aim 1: Determine …
Working hypothesis:
Approach:
Note: A need-driven proposal may have procedural aims.

Paragraph 4: Innovation, Outcomes, Impact

Innovation: “The proposed work is innovative because …”
Expected Outcomes: Summarize the expected outcomes of the work. There should be at least one outcome per Aim. Use a strong verb here: “We expect that….” (not hope or believe or think.)
Impact: End with a general statement about the positive impact of your work. This should address the funding agency’s mission and, if applicable, the purpose of the specific request for proposals.