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  • Writer's pictureIsabelle Johnsen

So You Want to Write a Grant Proposal?

Hello grant newbie!

As many of us archeologists are approaching this year's field season, I figured I would write a post about prepping for grant applications! As I am in the middle of writing my grant applications myself, I thought I would share my research on how to write a solid grant proposal.


What is a grant, you ask?

A grant is a sum of money that is meant to support studies and researchers so that they are able to conduct fieldwork, pay for travel and expenses associated with conferences, or general travel costs/tools/software you might need in order to complete your research. In this post, we will be discussing things you need to think about when applying to smaller grants, which are usually geared towards younger students who wish to conduct fieldwork or attend a conference. Other types of grants/funding, like a fellowship, are short-term funding opportunities for graduate study (typically Post Doctorate Students), scholarly research, or professional development. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be paid back. I have previously received grants to conduct field research with my mentor as well as travel grants in order to attend conferences and awards ceremonies… so yes, I am telling you it is actually possible to get money to help fund your research!

Yes, that’s right, I am giving you useful tips and tricks to get that $$$$! I have included useful notes and diagrams in which to help you with your application process!

If you are an undergraduate or a first-year graduate student, keep reading! If you are an experienced researcher and have written grants before, you might find this post less helpful, however, there still might be some tips and tricks you may need to remind yourself of!


So you want to go to field school? As you know, field school costs a ton of money. However, there are possibilities in which to get funding so that you don’t have to pay out of pocket.

Where to start looking for Grants as an Archeology student:

  1. Your university

  2. Organizations advertised or associated with your university

  3. Public or Private Professional Organizations. They usually have various funding opportunities you may or may not qualify for, I have included a list of several websites to check out if you don’t know where to start below!

Start looking at Archeological Organizations such as:


“Writing successful grant applications is a long process that begins with an idea. Although many people think of grant writing as a linear process (from idea to proposal to award), it is a circular process. Many people start by defining their research question or questions. What knowledge or information will be gained as a direct result of your project? Why is undertaking your research important in a broader sense? You will need to explicitly communicate this purpose to the committee reviewing your application. This is easier when you know what you plan to achieve before you begin the writing process.” (UNC)


Grant Writing Process (UNC)


Izzy's Timeline of Writing a Proposal:

Steps of a Proposal (Blanco and Lee 2012)

  1. Identify funding agencies and resources

  2. Understand the funding agency's mission and goals

  3. Contact program offers to ask for advice and determine where your project needs to be adjusted to fit the agency’s interests, goals, and mission

  4. Read the directions (and then follow them… duh)

  5. Write clearly

  6. Make a case for WHY this project is necessary for the field

    1. Why is your project important to the finder?

    2. Why should the funder care?

    3. Was a case made for the project need?

    4. What's different, new, or better about your approach?

    5. Does your hypothesis or purpose address the gap in the research?

    6. What track record do you have to prove you can accomplish your aims and goals?

  7. Talk about the relevance to the lit and the degree of innovation of the project

  8. Design an appropriate methodology

  9. Planning a feasible project development and implementation timeline

  10. Allocating funds appropriately in the budget proposal


Organizing Your Proposal:

Keep in mind, that each proposal will have its own requirements, so check the directions before you even begin to think about applying!

Most proposals include some following (UNC Writing Center):

  1. Title

    1. “The title page usually includes a brief yet explicit title for the research project, the names of the principal investigator(s), the institutional affiliation of the applicants (the department and university), name and address of the granting agency, project dates, amount of funding requested, and signatures of university personnel authorizing the proposal (when necessary). Most funding agencies have specific requirements for the title page; make sure to follow them.” (UNC)

  2. Abstract

    1. Remember, this is most likely the thing the readers will be reading more than once… originally, it will be read in the context of your whole application, but after that, they may glance at it to remind themselves of the details of your project. Make sure your abstract is clear as well as informative.

    2. should explain the key elements of your research project in the future tense (UNC)

    3. Most abstracts include (UNC):

      1. The general purpose of your research

      2. Your specific goals

      3. Your research design

      4. Your methodology

      5. The significance of your research

  3. Introduction

    1. Statement of the problem

    2. Purpose of research or goals

    3. Significance of research

  4. Lit review

    1. Who has written about this topic before you? What have they theorized? Where is the gap in the research?

  5. Project narrative

    1. Methodology (IndeedEditorialTeam 2022)

      1. “A methodology is a detailed description of a research process that you choose to conduct your research as a scientist or a researcher. In other words, it's a contextual framework that presents a logical path for answering questions that you raise at the beginning of your thesis or paper.” (IndeedEditorialTeam 2022)

      2. Restate your thesis or research problem

      3. Explain the approach you chose to collect your data

        1. Your unique viewpoint of the problem

        2. Type of data you collected: Quantitative (numbers) versus qualitative (descriptive observations) versus other analytical methods

      4. Explain the approach you chose to analyze the data you collected

        1. What tools did you use to process the information?

        2. What steps did you take?

        3. Do you use any software?

      5. What are the strengths and limitations of your approach?

      6. Justify your approach:

        1. How did you overcome those limitations? Despite the limitations, what does this approach provide?

      7. Cite all sources you used to determine your choice of methodology

    2. Procedures

    3. Objectives

    4. Outcomes or deliverables

    5. Evaluation

    6. Dissemination

  6. Personnel

    1. Who will be conducting the research?

    2. Who will be your supervisor?

    3. Who will be included in your project?

  7. Budget

    1. How much money will you need to conduct the research? What areas of the project are the most expensive? Why do you need funding?


      1. Travel costs

        1. Remember to include cabs v transportation!

      2. Cost of field school (if applicable)

      3. Costs of equipment required

    3. Your budget should be clear and be able to be understood by a general academic audience

    4. Make sure to include:

      1. Item

      2. Quantity of item

      3. Cost

      4. Subtotal

      5. Total

    5. Sometimes organizations require you to pay administrative fees in order to conduct research with their materials or use their databases, make sure to include these into your budget proposal

  8. Time Frame

    1. When will you begin and complete each step?

    2. What dates will you be traveling?

    3. When do you expect the final project?

    4. “help reviewers understand and evaluate the planning and feasibility” (UNC)

  9. Works consulted

    1. Use the formatting that the proposal is requesting or, if they do not clarify, use the typically accepted formatting for your field


General Tips for Proposals:

  1. Assume that you are addressing a colleague who is knowledgeable in the general area, but who does not necessarily know the details about your research questions” (UNC)

  2. Make sure your proposal is really well organized… even if you have the best idea if it is presented in an unorganized fashion then people aren’t going to want to invest in it

  3. Make sure you are applying to grants that fit the size of your project

    1. Also, make sure you are applying to more than one grant

      1. Sometimes grants require you to list other sources of funding you are applying to

  4. “Final decisions about which proposals are funded often come down to whether the proposal convinces the reviewer that the research project is well planned and feasible and whether the investigators are well qualified to execute it.” (UNC)

  5. Przeworski and Salomon (1995) note that reviewers read with three questions in mind (UNC):

    1. What are we going to learn from the project?

      1. Goals, aims, outcomes

    2. Why is it worth knowing?

      1. AKA what is the significance of your research?

    3. Are you likely to get valid conclusions?

      1. AKA can you realistically finish the project in the time allotted? Do you think that your methodology will perform soundly?

  6. Make sure the abstract, the sections on research design and methodology, the vitae, and the budget are all VERY CLEAR and that they also flow together

    1. make sure to use the same tense (this project or my project), use the same writing style, and use the same formatting

  7. Write in your own voice

    1. Make sure the style you have selected highlights your personality

    2. Clarify your project’s theoretical orientation

    3. “From reading your proposal, the reviewers will form an idea of who you are as a scholar, a researcher, and a person. They will decide whether you are creative, logical, analytical, up-to-date in the relevant literature of the field, and, most importantly, capable of executing the proposed project.” (UNC)

  8. If you get rejected, get back up and try and try again my friend:

    1. “Less than 10 percent of proposals are funded, both in the public and private sectors and an initial rejection can be a learning process to improve your proposal and place your organization in a position for success. Ask for specific feedback from the source about why your proposal was rejected and learn from the charitable institutions that were funded.” (Schroeder 2019).

Extra Resources:

  1. UNC’s Writing Center has amazing tips and tricks. Here is the Link to the list of resources they have available:


  2. Differences between Grants and Fellowships:


I wish you good luck with your grant application processes and hope these tips and tricks help! <3



Blanco, M. A., & Lee, M. Y. (2012). Twelve tips for writing educational research grant proposals. Medical Teacher, 34(6), 450–453.

Editorial Team. (2022, March 1). How to write a methodology in 8 steps (definition and types) [Career Guides]. How to Write a Methodology in 8 Steps (Definition and Types).

Schroeder, T. (2019). Useful Tips for Writing a Winning Grant Proposal. Successful Fundraising, 27(1), 3–3.

UNC, W. C. (n.d.). Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!). The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

What Is the Difference Between a Fellowship and a Grant? (n.d.). Practical Adult Insights. Retrieved April 22, 2022, from

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