Rutgers - School of Graduate Studies

Office of Graduate Student External Grants and Fellowships | GradFund

Proposal Writing 101

Welcome to the GradFund Proposal Writing 101 Resource Page. We have developed this page to provide you with general assistance with the development of a proposal for a funding application. By using these resources, you will learn the mechanics of proposal writing and best practices in grantsmanship while you develop an outline of your funding application, including the research proposal, supporting materials, and the application form(s).

We encourage you to complement your work here with individual meetings with a GradFund fellowship advisor. We are able to provide individual consultations to graduate students who are applying for external funding. While we are unable to offer individual consultations for internal awards, feel free to use the resources on this page as you develop your Graduate School-New Brunswick pre-dissertation, special opportunity, or Bevier Fellowship applications.

Understanding Your Funder


What are they looking for?

What is the mission of the funding agency? What is the goal of this award competition? Considering the funder’s goals for this fellowship or grant, in what ways are you a competitive fit for this award?

What does this fellowship include?

What impact would this award have on your graduate career? How would these resources shape your trajectory in a way that is a fit with the goals of the funder?

Who is eligible to apply?

Carefully research your eligibility to apply before you craft your application materials. If the award’s website and other documents don’t bring you clarity, contact the program officer.


When should I apply?

Many awards target a specific stage of study, and you may need to apply up to a year in advance of funds being disbursed to you, should you win. Work with your advisor to decide when it makes sense to begin working on your application.

Ready to write your application? Scroll down for GradFund Resources.

If you need to look for other funding opportunities, use our award search.

GradFund Resources for your Funding Application

Keep in Touch

Sign up for the GradFund newsletter for important news about funding opportunities and new resources to help you apply for them. Our blog is also a great source for fresh advice and news about graduate funding.

Step-By-Step Workbook

The GradFund Proposal Writing 101 tutorial will take you step-by-step through the process of writing your fellowship or grant application. From getting to know your funder to completing the last piece of the application, this guide will get you there.

Forums & Chat

Use our forums to exchange ideas with your peers and GradFund staff about applying for external fellowships and grants. We also offer an online chat service called ‘Ask a Fellowship Advisor,’ where you can ask quick questions about our services, your scheduled meetings, or application procedures.

Meet with Us

Meet with a GradFund Fellowship Advisor for a Help with a Funder or Application Essay Conference meeting. Learn more about our meeting types and other services here.

Proposal Writing 101 Tutorial

We have developed the Proposal Writing 101 tutorial to assist you in the development of any merit-based fellowship, grant, or scholarship. Our tutorial is designed to teach you best practices in proposal development, to understand how to get to know your funder, and to help you with the task of writing a competitive application.

Proposal Writing 101

Articles & Advice

Bringing Your Previous Research Experience into Your Current Application

Many of us have had several research experiences prior to graduate school. These experiences may have been within or outside of the discipline in which we have chosen to pursue our dissertation research. For some lucky few, all of these research experiences connect to...
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What to Expect: Application Review Meeting

I’ve had this experience often: At the end of an exhaustive meeting with a fellowship applicant—after we’ve gone over specific points of structure and tone in minute detail; after we’ve reviewed broader issues of purpose and audience; after we’ve discussed background...
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Unpacking Jargon—Part Two

Part One of this post [link] described reasons to limit jargon in your proposal, and two strategies to help you minimize your use of jargon. Part Two offers more specific advice for addressing jargon in your writing. Define for yourself each term you or your readers...
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Unpacking Jargon—Part One

Jargon serves important functions in any field of activity. It lends accuracy and efficiency to communication within a subfield, and terms that begin as jargon may eventually enter into common use: consider the current popularization of specialized terms like...
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4 Things to Do Before Applying for Funding

If you’re thinking about applying for external funding (and you should be!), it’s important to prepare yourself for the application process. Here are four things to do before diving into your proposal. 1. Schedule an appointment with GradFund– Whether you’re still...
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A Visit from the SSRC- Part II

Looking to apply for the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship (SSRC IDRF)? Recently, GradFund hosted an information session on the IDRF presented by its Program Director Daniella Sarnoff. The presentation provided a wealth...
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A Visit from the SSRC-Part I

At Rutgers, we recently had a visit from the program officer of one of the most prestigious fellowship awards for which we help graduate students apply: the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship. The IDRF supports 9-12 months...
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Alternative grants for STEM graduate students

Although the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) F31 grants are two of the most well-known research fellowships for STEM graduate students, they are not the only sources of substantial...
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“But What If It’s Just a Waste of Time?”: How the Process of Grant Writing Can Advance Your Career—Part Two

Part One of this post described ways to use the application process to expand and strengthen your professional network. Part Two describes how attention to detail in the grant writing process offers benefits beyond increasing your application’s chance of success....
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“But What If It’s Just a Waste of Time?”: How the Process of Grant Writing Can Advance Your Career—Part One

Grant writing might seem like a distraction or an extra burden in a workload already heavy with research, teaching, coursework, and other responsibilities. Since success isn’t guaranteed, it may feel like the time spent on a proposal could easily turn out to be...
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Proposal Writing Workbook

Once you’ve watched Proposal Writing 101, dive into our Proposal Writing Workbook. The workbook will take you step-by-step through the development of a funding application.

Login for Access!

In order to access the step-by-step guidance found in our Proposal Writing 101 Workbook, please log in to our website using your Rutgers Scarletmail credentials.

GradFund Forums

Use our forums to ask questions about your application and exchange application tips!

Join the Discussion

Stay in Touch!

Sign up for the GradFund Newsletter to get up-to-date news and advice on fellowship and grant competitions.

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Meet with Us!

Introducing A New Booking System!

We look forward to meeting with you!  Effective May 2017, we are using a new meeting booking system to manage GradFund appointments.

Whether you are a new or returning user, if you have not yet used our new meeting platform WCOnline, please click on the first time user link to set up an account so you can log into the system.

First visit? Click here to register. Returning? Log in below to book a meeting.

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