Developing a Proposal

The Grants Facilitators in ORIS are a great resource in the development of a grant proposal. 

Normally, a researcher develops the project concept and initiates the grant development process. Grants Facilitators will work with the applicant throughout the development and application submission process. 

It is important to start by reading the funding opportunity description and ask yourself the following questions:

Am I eligible to apply to the funding opportunity?

In each funding opportunity, there is a section which refers to who is eligible to apply to that funding opportunity.  Eligibility criteria can include the career level of the applicant, the area of research or creative focus or type of institutional affiliation.  If you have any questions regarding your eligibility for a funding opportunity, please contact the relevant Grants Facilitator well in advance of the agency deadline. 


Have I followed the guidelines?

Be sure to read the instructions and application form carefully.  Some things to pay attention to include:

  • Page limits – extra pages can be removed and committee members are often instructed to ignore extra materials.
  • Include allowable information only; for example, avoid including publications outside the allowable period.
  • Do what the application form asks you to do and in that order. Committee members who have to spend a substantial amount of time sorting out an application tend to get annoyed and suspicious.
  • Address all questions and/or points indicated in the application instructions.
  • Do your objectives match those of the agency? State explicitly how the proposal relates to the objectives/priorities of the agency.


Have I used all available resources?

It is important use all available resources in order to submit the best application possible.  Some resources you may consider taking advantage of include:

  • Grants Facilitators – give enough time, the Grants Facilitators will read and comment on multiple reiterations of proposals.
  • Colleagues who have served on review committees for or received grants from the agency of interest can give you “insider” information on that agency or funding opportunity.
  • Successful funding proposals can be accessed through the ORIS or your colleagues.
  • Funding agency program officers can be very helpful if funding descriptions or instructions are not clear.


Is my application easy to read and understand?

Package your application material well.  Consider the following:

  • Style and formatting – make sure your application is organized, complete and uses appropriate headings and sub-headings. If there are heading sections in the guidelines and/or instructions, consider using them in your proposal to match the requirements of the funding opportunity.
  • Readability – make you proposal easy to read. Do not use reduced font to fit your text into the space provided.
  • Write clearly and succinctly - Reviewers should be able to understand your research purpose and judge its relevance and importance without having to work to do so. Regardless of your project’s intellectual merits, a proposal that puzzles reviewers with complex syntax, ill-defined terms, or inelegant prose is not likely to win a favourable rating. Use short simple sentences and paragraphs that focus on a single topic.
  • Be brief – Present a well-written and carefully crafted proposal, using the limited space to maximum advantage. The clarity is enhanced if you convey the maximum amount of information with the minimum number of words.
  • Avoid jargon and trendy terms. If you must use a technical term repeatedly, define the term or elaborate the phrase where it is first used.
  • The tone in which you express yourself is likely to influence the reviewer’s estimation of you and your capabilities. An inappropriate tone –one of arrogance or apology – can condemn a substantially sound proposal.
  • Write persuasively – you’re selling a concept. You’re not writing a term paper.
  • Present your application in such a way as to inspire confidence and convince your peers that the likelihood of your success is high.
  • Be mindful of international reviewers - Use language that will be easily understood by those for whom the language is foreign and/or not their first language. Avoid using clichés.


Have I invested enough time in the proposal?

It is important to start writing well in advance of the application deadline.  More time will allow for more of the preparatory work to be completed.  Consider the following:

  • Has all the groundwork been done (e.g. literature review, letters of support, verification of availability of resources, etc)?
  • Submit your recent works for publication for peer review. Most granting agencies do not accept manuscripts “in preparation”. Your track record, as judged by publications, is an important criterion in the assessment.
  • Complete preliminary or pilot studies so that results can be included in your application.


Are my methodologies clear?

A grant proposal is essentially a work plan.  Focus on what you are going to do.  This section “makes or breaks” your proposal.  Explain and justify the choice of methodology.  Is the methodology appropriate?  Does it correspond with the objectives?  The importance of this section cannot be overemphasized: write this part of your proposal as rigorously as you would a refereed article.  Be sure to explain the role of co-investigators and students.  If they student has been identified, refer to them by name.  It will show the committee that you have the necessary personnel in place to conduct the work.  Outline objectives and the precise steps taken to achieve each objective.  What will be done?  When will it be completed?


Does the budget make sense?

It is important that the budget line items address the activities proposed in the methods section.  Be sure that you have included items that are eligible under the funding guidelines and/or instructions.  Other things to consider include:

  • Is the budget easy to understand?
  • When developing a budget, think project budget first. List every penny it will take to run the entire project. Don’t forget about support staff, memberships, travel, etc. Then think, what part of this budget is appropriate to request from the funding agency (i.e., what expenses are ineligible?). Then put together an itemized list for the part of the overall budget you’re requesting from the funding agency.
  • Be sure to itemize your expenditures and explain sufficiently the need for these items. It can be helpful to refer back to your research plan or methodologies to justify the costs.
  • Be realistic. Reviewers conduct similar activities and so are aware of reasonable costs.
  • Avoid understating.Ensure you have requested enough funds to cover your costs. An underestimated budget may indicate to the Committee that you do not have the expertise to understand the effort required to accomplish your objectives.
  • Balance activities between you and your co-investigators/student assistants. The cost for all proposed staff must be fully justified and linked to the work plan.


Have I addressed indirect costs (overhead)?

Some funding agencies allow for the inclusion of indirect costs (overhead) in the budget.  These costs include those expenses which are real but not easily identifiable with a particular research project such as utilities; the provision of institutional facilities; space; accounting; payroll and personnel services; insurance coverage; janitorial services; and provision for equipment replacement.

It is important to include these items in eligible expenses. If you have questions, please refer to the Research Policy or consult with a Grants Facilitator.


Have I had my application reviewed?

It can be helpful to have others read applications in advance of the deadline.  Make sure your reviewers have enough time to provide constructive feedback and for you to incorporate the suggested changes before the application deadline.  Ask a wide range of individuals to read numerous drafts of your grant proposal and to provide honest feedback on areas they think could be improved.

ORIS and the Grants Facilitators will provide non-expert reviews of your application to ensure all items in the guidelines and/or instructions have been addressed.  To do this, they require a draft two weeks in advance of the application deadline. Where a high volume of proposals and applications are expected or if there are large institutional components, such as major tri-council funding opportunities, an internal deadline may be instituted.  Please consult with the Grants Facilitators to confirm internal deadlines.


Do I need a Letter of Support?

In the case of some applications, there is an opportunity to include letters from co-investigators, collaborators, institutions, partners, and others detailing their support and possible resources being dedicated to the project.  The ORIS requests two weeks in advance of the application deadline to assist in the development of Letters of Support being requested from the Vice President Research.

  • Some tips for soliciting Letters of Support include:
  • Provide the letter writer with a draft of your application and funding opportunity description.
  • Draft a letter including all of the relevant points which should be covered.
  • Provide examples if they are available.
  • Provide plenty of time for the writer to develop a strong letter of support.


Grant Writing Tips     

Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)

Recent agency webinar slide decks:

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

Tips on applying for an NSERC Discovery Grant


Budget Tips & Institutional Policies

Salaries and Benefits

View Table Here

For personnel (including students and trainees) paid out of grants funds administered in trust by the institution, please see the above table for minimum rates and requirements.

Any extramural grant $10,000 or more is subject to the University of Lethbridge Research Overhead Charging Policy. All such proposals must include a minimum request of 20% in the budget for indirect costs:

All equipment purchases $1,000 or greater must be ordered through Materials Management.

For institutional rates on travel and accommodation reimbursement, please see the Travel and Business Expense Policy:

Equipment, Materials & Supplies

Include the purchase cost (include GST@ 1.65%, warranty, freight charges and any exchange/duty) of equipment, materials and supplies.  Do not include the costs of basic services such as heat, light, water, standard telephone and internet costs, etc.

The departments of the Office of Research and Innovation Services and Materials Management would like to remind you of the procedures for obtaining equipment quotes.

To comply with the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions and University Purchasing Policy, all research grant/contract applications, which include equipment purchases greater than $1000, will require a formal quote before submission. The team in Materials Management can take care of the quote process for you. They can negotiate the best terms for a purchase including freight costs, insurance risk, discounts, and payment terms. Imported items are subject to stringent regulations and may require NAFTA certificates or other documentation. Materials Management can navigate the maze of paperwork for you so you can spend more time writing your grant application rather than hunting down quotes.

Obtaining formal quotes at the application stage will expedite how quickly equipment is obtained once the grant is awarded. This means we can get your equipment to you sooner and your research programs up and running in a more timely fashion.

Please ensure that you submit your requests to Materials Management at least ten days before the deadline for your grant/contract application.

Multimedia/computer equipment quotes................................. Laurie Martin

Scientific equipment quotes............................................ Randy Gettman

If the purchase of new equipment involves renovations, new space requirements, or any other restrictions (such as Laboratory Equipment), please contact Facilities (Campus Planning and Architecture).


Travel and Business Expense Policy and Procedures should be followed when developing a realistic travel budget.  This policy includes budget items such as meal reimbursement rates and mileage costs.

Financial Services has come up with a list of mileage distances from Lethbridge return to assist you with your estimates.


Indirect research charges will be deducted from all research funds received and administered by the University of Lethbridge, except in those instances when it is expressly prohibited by the granting organization.  No overhead will be charged on research projects with funding less than $10,000 per year. 

Overhead costs of research are calculated as a percentage of total direct costs of the research project funding.  The percentage of overhead recovery on externally funded research grants, contracts and technical service agreements is a minimum of 20%, unless specifically dictated by law or formal policy of various governments and/or granting agencies.

In exceptional cases, the Vice-President (Research) may consider written appeals for exceptions or variations concerning the minimum amount of overhead charged.  All exceptions require prior written approval from the Vice-President (Research), applicable Dean, and Vice-President (Finance and Administration).  A Research Overhead Charge Waiver form must be completed.

The amount of overhead subject to distribution will be the actual amount recovered in accordance with the terms of the research project and the Research Overhead Charging Policy.  Overhead will be distributed as follows:

Allocation to:


University Central Administration


Vice-President (Research)


Applicable Dean’s Office


Principal Investigator


The Research Overhead Charging Policy may be read in its entirety here.  


Application Review

ORIS has implemented the following deadlines for its review of research proposals, notices of intent, applications, and letters of support prior to specific granting agency deadlines. Please ensure that all information and documentation is provided so that the Office may provide an accurate and informed review.

  • Normally, provide 10 business days prior to agency deadline for review of proposals, applications and/or letters of intent. In the months of September and October, when a high volume of proposals and applications are received for various funding opportunities, please allow at least one additional week for quality review and feedback. Always consult with an ORIS grants facilitator to confirm deadlines.
  • Normally, provide 15 business days prior to agency deadline for Letters of Support from the Vice-President Research.
  • Please note: if your request for assistance is not received by ORIS within these deadlines, we cannot guarantee the full level of assistance.  

All extramural funding proposals requesting resources that the institution will administer must be reviewed and approved in advance of submission by authorized administrators. Normally this includes (in order) the department or area chair, faculty dean, and the Associate Vice-President (Research). A full version of the proposal should be attached and submitted for electronic approval via the Research Proposal Form (RPF) found under the Research Services tab on the Bridge.

Section A of the RPF is prepopulated with contact information. Any co-investigators you add here will be placed in the approval queue prior to the chair.

Section B requires a title, funding source and program name, proposed start and end dates for the project, indication of primary use, and necessary risk and safety, hazard, or ethics assessments.

Section C requires that you indicate space needs and equipment needs for the project. Personnel including graduate students typically require that researchers complete a space request form:

Section D asks you to summarize the budget year by year including indirect costs (overhead) plus any cash contributions from the University of Lethbridge. You must indicate whether contributions are from your faculty, the VPR, or from central administration. These offices will be asked to provide a FOAP to correspond with the proposed contributions.

Section E (forthcoming) asks you to summarize the number and level of students you are proposing to train on the project.

Finally, there is space to attach up to five electronic files. At minimum you should attach a copy of the proposal, budget, and timeline being submitted to the funder. We encourage you to combine documents into a single attachment where possibl