Below are some tips we’ve compiled from years of reviewing and advising on research proposals submitted to our grants programs. We hope they’re helpful for you!

Study Design

Mix perspectives and methods: blend first-person and third-person measures whenever possible.

  • First-person measures can be more than a self-report questionnaire. Be creative about collecting subjective information. 
  • Use second-person measures when possible: surveying a friend, partner, teacher, or someone else close to the participant. This adds a great deal in terms of validation of outcomes outside the lab.
  • When possible, use a variety of third-person measures, including behavioral, cognitive, physiological, clinical, and/or social measures.

If you’re designing a brain study, correlate neural changes with something meaningful in daily life (e.g., clinical outcome, behavioral, social, etc.). This helps ground the research in terms of real-world impact.


Include only relevant, clear, and integrated information in the proposal. Add supplemental information (e.g., the forms used in your research such as questionnaires, instructions, etc.) in the Additional Materials.

In the methods section, be sure to clearly state the participant population (with N and power analysis if possible). If using an underserved population, state how you will be sensitive to particular needs, possible adaptations of intervention, etc.

If your project involves qualitative research, be sure to include specific methodology and a clear analysis plan, with evidence that you (or your team) has the expertise to do this kind of work.

If the project is meant to test the efficacy of an intervention, make the case about why this is important to the larger field and not just your specific/customized intervention. Can your study help you understand mechanisms that may be more broadly applicable?


Have your budget reflect only the realistic costs needed to complete the work. (You may request less than the maximum funding amount.)

If this work is part of a larger, already-funded project, be sure to explain how this project fits in, and why/how it will go beyond the existing work. Be clear about what this funding will be used for within the larger project.