Writing a Project Proposal

A Good Proposal Will Describe:

  • what you hope to accomplish
  • why those objectives are important to your academic or artistic field
  • how you intend to achieve your objectives

Your original project proposal is the core of your grant application. The ideal format and language for your proposal will vary with the kind of project you envision, and with the discipline in which your project is situated. Read on for tips on how to write a grant proposal, or you can download our VPUE Grant Proposal Writing Guidelines handout.

2020-2021 UPDATE: For tips on developing a remote project plan, visit our Remote Project Guidelines.

While we encourage you to craft your proposal specifically for the type of project you wish to work on (e.g. an arts, research, or senior synthesis project), all good proposals will address the following questions concisely, in a manner clear to both specialists and non-specialists.

Goals and Objectives: What precisely are you hoping to accomplish?

Literature Review/Critical Dialogue: What kinds of previous work do you use to justify your goals and objectives? What scholars or artists will be most interested in what you do? Be sure to provide a literature review (for research projects) or a critical dialogue (for arts projects) that demonstrate your knowledge of what’s already been done on the subject, and what new contribution this project will make to the field.

Methodology/Project Plan: How will you accomplish these goals? How does your project design lead to the outcomes you envision (logically and logistically)? Will experts in your discipline agree that your plan is a good one? What is your timeline? What final product(s) do you envision will result from your project? For immersive summer projects (Major Grant and Chappell Lougee Scholarship), what specifically will you do during each of the ten weeks of your project.

Resources: How will you draw on your mentors’ expertise? Do you have letters of support from contacts (at field sites or other institutions) who will be critical to your project’s success? Are you seeking or do you have any other sources of funding? Are there additional sources of information, supplies, or equipment that you will rely on?

Preparation: What specific steps have you taken to prepare for this project? Where did you get the skills you will need? What other project requirements have you completed (e.g., human subjects approval, travel and safety plans)? If you were previously awarded a VPUE grant, include a reflection on your prior project experience (for those who have declined a VPUE grant, discuss opportunities pursued instead.)

Budget: How much money do you need, and what will it be used for? How does each line-item in your budget support a step in your project plan?

A good grant proposal will be concise:

  • Major Grant and Chappell Lougee Scholarship proposals should be 2500 words or less
  • Small Grant proposals should be 1500 words or less

Seek feedback on your proposal:

Check out a few sample grant proposals below. We suggest you read the ones annotated with reviewer notes (even if the topic is outside your area of interest) to learn what reviewers look for. You can also see also how resubmitted proposals respond to reviewer comments.

Please note that these proposals serve as exemplars for students applying for VPUE Student Grants. They may not be retained or distributed, and their use is subject to the Stanford Honor Code.

**To view the following samples, you will be required to login with your SUNET ID**

  • Arts, Creative Project, Visual Arts, Major Grant (S. Bedford)
  • Arts, Creative Writing, Chappell Lougee Scholarship (J. Kim)
  • Arts, Creative Writing, Chappell Lougee Scholarship, annotated (w/ remote plan) (L. Laniyan)
  • Arts, Music, Theater, Small Grant, annotated (T. Pauly)
  • Humanities, English, Major Grant (J. Schaffer)
  • Humanities, History, Chappell Lougee Scholarship, annotated (w/ remote plan) (A. Kassam)
  • Humanities, History, Major Grant, annotated (J. Sonnenberg)
  • Humanities, Religious Studies, Small Grant, annotated (L. Funk)
  • Humanities, Classics, Chappell Lougee Scholarship (S. Beller)
  • STEM, Biology, Major Grant, annotated (J. Bui)
  • STEM, Biology, Major Grant, annotated (w/ remote plan) (S. Kong)
  • STEM, Biology, Small Grant (J. McGregor)
  • STEM, Chemical Engineering, Major Grant (J. O'Leary)
  • STEM, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Major Grant, annotated (V. Rosen)
  • STEM, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Small Grant, annotated (C. Kremer)
  • STEM, Mathematics, Major Grant, annotated (w/ remote plan) (M. Stevens)
  • STEM, Physics, Major Grant (J. Chaves)
  • Senior Synthesis Project, Small Grant, annotated (J. O'Leary)
  • Social Science, Anthropology, Chappell Lougee Scholarship (N. Follmann)
  • Social Science, CDDRL, Small Grant (A. Schickele)
  • Social Science, Psychology, Major Grant, annotated (C. Eggleston)
  • Social Science, Sociology, Chappell Lougee Scholarship, annotated (w/ remote plan) (A. Gomez)
  • Social Science, Urban Studies, Major Grant, annotated (K. Parish)


Detailed Proposal Guidelines

photo of student conducting research in a lab

Research is an original analysis or inquiry situated within a scholarly discipline. 

Photo of students dancing

An arts project will apply your artistic vision to new work in a specific medium or to reinterpret existing work in a new production.

Photo of student typing on computer

A Senior Synthesis project is capstone project driven by an intellectual synthesis of your curricular foundations with a new experience, reflection or critical point of view.

Connect with your Faculty Mentor & Academic Advising Director!