Grant proposals

Grant proposals, i.e. texts written by researchers requesting funding for research projects, can be seen as a genre of its own. 

Naturally, there is variation in the structure of a grant proposal since funding agencies and bodies have different requirements for what information must be included. However, in terms of prototypical parts of a grant proposal, Swales (1990: 186) suggests the following:

1. Front Matter

a) Title or cover page

b) Abstract

c) Table of contents

2. Introduction

3. Background (typically a literature survey)

4. Description of proposed research (including methods, approaches, and evaluation instruments)

5. Back Matter

a) Description of relevant institutional resources

b) References

c) Personnel

d) Budget


Commenting on some of the parts, Swales singles out the abstract as the potentially biggest hurdle of them all. What makes a grant proposal abstract special, Swales argues, is that it is "promissory" in that it does not strictly have to reflect the content of the full proposal (1990: 187).

This makes it different from a traditional research article (RA) abstract. The result is that a grant proposal abstract often starts off with the objective or purpose of the study, followed by methodology, and concluded by a part that argues for the significance of the project.

Another part which Swales comments on is the introduction. According to him, "the introduction will often be written in such a way that administrative and program officers can easily obtain a general idea of what the proposal is about" (1990: 187).

This means that presumptions of specialised knowledge and use of very technical vocabulary ought to be avoided here. Instead, this will come in the part called 3 and 4 ('Background' and 'Description of proposed research', respectively), where a more specialised expert readership can be assumed.