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Graduate Student Guides

Writing Effective Grant Proposals

One of the main funding sources for graduate researchers in Canada is the federal Tri-Agency, which includes SSHRCNSERCand CIHRWhile the requirements for each grant proposal differ slightly based on discipline and the specific funding opportunity, all have many of the same components:

  • Title: catchy enough to grab reviewer attention and specific enough to make the focus of the proposed project clear. Think about key words/concepts, and how they relate to each other in the context of the project. 
  • Summary: includes key information from each section of the application, written in plain, non-technical language.
  • Hypothesis/Research Questions: often included in a detailed description or proposal section and should identify the overall goal or main questions that guide the proposed research.
  • Literature Review: shows what existing research the project is based on, describes how project will engage with this research, and identifies gaps/issues that project will fill/respond to. 
  • Methods: explains how the research questions/hypothesis will be tested, describes in detail how data will be collected and analyzed, and why these methods were chosen. 
  • Timeline: gives reviewers an idea of how the project will progress, usually by separating research activities and outputs (reports, publications, conference presentations, etc.) into phases. 
  • Bibliography/References: lists texts and gives an idea of the research fields the project fits into. Check entries for typos, proper formatting, and consistent style (APA, MLA, etc.)
  • Budget: breakdown of how funds awarded will be spent, explains why funds are required and how prices for each item were determined (ex. quoting prices for required equipment from a website). 
  • Impact/Expected Outcomes: describes potential contributions to research fields to show reviewers that the project will have a meaningful and positive impact on the academic community and/or society more broadly. 
  • Letters of Appraisal/Support: may be from a supervisor, department, or community/industry partner. Shows reviewers that the project already has support, and that the researcher is a good candidate to lead the project. 


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Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Government of Canada, 2021,

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Government of Canada, 2021,

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Government of Canada, 2021,

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