Writing a grant proposal


The LSE Research Development team help you at any stage of writing your proposal. Contact the Research Development team.

Key elements to consider: 

  1. Time: How long will it take to complete the project? If the funder expects the results in a certain time period, what is the most realistic design? Start from the actual research itself and outline each stage in chronological order (e.g. desktop/literature review first, recruiting researchers, planning field work, conducting interviews, organising information, analysing data, presenting key findings, writing key findings, etc.)  
  2. Cost: How much will it cost to conduct the project in a given time? If the funding rules have a minimum and an upper limit, how is the funding best utilised?
  3. Quality: Within the limitations of time and budget, how will you ensure the highest quality?

Keep in mind what can be achieved within any budgetary or time constraints and remember that the three elements are directly correlated to each other. If you need to compromise the budget then you may see the quality drop; if you need to increase quality you may need to have more time.


Grant writing support  [click to expand]

Your two main points of contact when drafting a proposal should be your academic mentors and the Research Development team.


Your academic colleagues can advise you about the research background and your methodological approach.


Check with the funding body to see which projects they've previously funded and how your project fits with their funding priorities. 


The Research Development team offer feedback on how the proposal meets the scheme requirements. We:

  • help you make the content accessible to a general audience
  • carry out the costings to populate your budget information
  • source examples of previously successful applications
  • help you navigate your way through the submission system and internal regulations
  • offer general feedback
  • help provide peer reviews
  • put you in touch with Human Resources, who will need to be informed of any researchers you'd like to hire  


If you need to refresh your knowledge on project planning and management skills, Human Resources run training sessions throughout the year. Browse the LSE Training and Development System [intranet].





Feedback from peers  [click to expand]

LSE academics can advise on what makes a good quality application, as they sit on a number of panels that review applications. We highly recommend you submit your application for scrutiny to an academic mentor, to give you the chance to further improve.


If you are unable to find a mentor, contact the Research Development team

Costing your resources  [click to expand]

Ensuring you have the correct resources for your project is crucial. If you underestimate the amount of funding you need, it can pose an insurmountable obstacle that can jeopardise your success.


However, if you include an excessive amount of unnecessary items that are over-priced, this can prejudice the review committee and prevent your application being funded.


The Research Development team are happy to help cost your project for you. You also need to check the funding regulations for the scheme you are applying for, as there are explicit instructions regarding eligible and ineligible costs. There will also be a set way of presenting this information that you need to take into account. See Compiling a research budget.

How to write a proposal training [click to expand]

Writing a funding proposal requires a very different style of writing to that of an academic paper. It's an essential skill for all researchers who wish to progress in their career. You need to make your research proposal accessible to a general audience, while not losing the detail of a strong methodology that will be scrutinised by experts in your field.


We can help provide the skills you need to develop research ideas into successful proposals. View our training and events programme [intranet] for forthcoming events and download presentations from past events [restricted access, LSE login required]. 


Missed an event? Contact the Research Development team to discuss plans for repeat sessions.  


Before you apply for funding checklist  [click to expand]

  • Have you identified a challenging research problem? Will it make a valuable contribution to knowledge? Will others be interested in the outcome?
  • Discuss it with trustworthy colleagues. Make sure it is 'new' by checking published literature and papers given at recent conferences to find out about work that's not yet been published.
  • Identify clearly the novel elements in your research. Don't be afraid to list them in bullet points.
  • Provide a clear plan and explain how your programme of work should solve 'the problem' you are addressing. Your plan should show how you will begin your research and your key milestones.
  • Show that you have the skills to carry out the research.
  • Be as specific and quantitative as possible: for example, to claim that your new method is 'more sensitive' than others is not justification enough to award you £100K ... a justified X factor might however.
  • If you are fairly new to the area try to get yourself known by attending national meetings or conferences, especially those likely to be attended by potential referees. It helps if they have met you rather than getting the reaction 'Who's this?' when they see your proposal.
  • Identify an appropriate source of funding - the Research Development team can help.
  • Read any conditions for eligibility: make sure your project meets them. There is no excuse for getting 'mechanical' aspects wrong.
  • If there are any other guidelines (for example regarding ethical approval or patient involvement), try to satisfy as many as possible.
  • If there is a co-ordinator, programme manager or secretary mentioned in the information provided by the funding body, contact them. Can you invite them to visit the department? Ask them whether your proposal meets their conditions and is within their remit.
  • Ask colleagues to read and comment on your proposal. Try to find people with experience of the same funding body.
  • Find out how the proposals will be assessed. The Research Councils use 'Colleges' of referees to referee and prioritise proposals. Their names are published and the list will tell you the kind of people who will be asked to comment on your proposal. Make sure you write for this 'readership'.
  • Look up projects already funded by the body. Will your proposal be out of place? Have they funded very similar work recently? Are you asking for a reasonable level of funding?
  • Make sure you are claiming all relevant, allowable costs, especially recovery of costs of support staff, computer costs, travel and consumable items. Check these alongside internal departmental and LSE guidelines for any potential conflicts.
  • Read the proposal as if you had been sent it to be a referee. Be objective.


Writing a proposal timeframe

The longer you have to prepare your proposal the greater your chances of submitting a winning application.  Early consultation with the Research Development team and your head of department is essential. 

The Research Development team require a minimum of 2 weeks to review your proposal prior to the submission date.  This amount of time should be allocated in addition to the time allocated to writing your proposal.

Here is a suggested timeframe for preparing a proposal.



Large grants/fellowships/networks e.g. ESRC, European Commission

3 - 6 months  

Small grants e.g. Nuffield, British Academy

1 - 3 months

Research Division to review your proposal 

Minimum 2 weeks before deadline