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Research Proposal Development Process

A group of researchers standing in a darkened room engaging with a virtual environment projection

Proposal Steps

In order to maximize your chance for success, we have established a process for identifying funding opportunities and engaging with the college to support your efforts.

Key Contact

Barbara A. Cutler
Research Administrator (RA)
101 Borland Building

1. Identify a Funding Opportunity

Resources: –
Funding Institutional –

2. Indicate Interest

Notify the Office of Research and Creative Activity of your interest in submitting. This does not obligate you to submit if you choose not to, it just allows the college to allocate resources to your project. This applies to all types of external funding – federal agencies, foundations, corporations, etc. We will contact the college Development Office for their input if needed.

The chart below will help you to identify key deadlines in the proposal development process.
Enter Sponsor Deadline (MM/DD/YYYY):

Your Processing Timeline
There are key deadlines in the proposal development process for you to supply documentation to the Research Office.

Documentation Due to Research Office
1. Initial Notification/Initial Budget 3 weeks before sponsor deadline
2. Final Budget/Final Justification 10 days before sponsor deadline
3. Final Documents Ready for Submission to Sponsor 5 days before sponsor deadline

3. Read the Solicitation

Read the solicitation carefully to make sure you are responding appropriately to the sponsor’s guidelines. Important items to note in a solicitation include:

  • Deadlines
  • Submission method (i.e., electronic, paper, etc.)
  • Restrictions (i.e., no foreign travel, no salary, etc.)
  • Required documents
  • Eligibility (i.e., only open to new faculty, only open to multi-institution collaborations, etc.) This can be complicated – please contact the Research Administrator early so that a determination can be made.
  • Sponsor contact information

Be aware of certain terms that may require special consideration. The following are some examples of items that should be discussed with the Research Administrator.

  • Export Controls
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Intellectual Property/Ownership of Results
  • Publication Restrictions

A Special Note about Letters of Intent: Letters of Intent often require only a brief summary of your project and an estimate of the total budget. In these instances, you may develop and submit these on your own if you wish as long as a detailed budget is not required. The Research Office is always available to help you with any aspect of this process. Should you be selected to submit a full proposal, the Office of Research and Creative Activity would assist you in developing your proposal and would submit on behalf of Penn State. It is in your best interest to contact the Research Administrator to verify that you are eligible to apply directly.

4. Plan the Project

  • Contact the Program Officer. Many opportunities give contact information for the Program Officer for this particular funding program. If available, it is always a good idea to contact this person to discuss your project. You should prepare a one-page summary of your project to share via email and request a phone conversation. This can help you in framing your proposal in a way that will be most attractive to the funder and their goals. If you are submitting a proposal to a Foundation, please contact the research administrator before you reach out to the Foundation. There may be an existing relationship between PSU and the Foundation that may play into your communication.
  • Identify your project team (at least 4 weeks prior to deadline)
  • Develop a budget and budget justification with the research administrator. The proposal budget is driven by the needs of the project and guidelines of the solicitation. Remember to consult sponsor and solicitation guidelines for allowable costs and any restrictions. (3 weeks prior to deadline)
  • Initiate subaward process (if applicable)
  • Initiate cost-share process (if applicable)

5. Prepare the Proposal Documents

(at least 1 week prior to deadline)


The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for preparing all substantive elements of the proposal, including:


  • Project Narrative
  • Demographic Data (Audience counts, demographic/target audiences, etc.)
  • Biographical sketches (RA will provide current template, if applicable)
  • Current and pending documents (RA will provide current template, if applicable)
  • Facilities, equipment, and other resources
  • Any other documents that are required from your specific proposal solicitation

The Research Administrator will assist in creating the budget and budget justification and will also create an IAF record (Penn State’s internal sponsored research system). All sponsored research proposals, regardless of submission method, need to be entered and routed through IAF prior to the submission to the sponsor.

6. Obtain Administrative Approvals

  • Proposals are routed through the IAF for approval. Approvals needed are the Principal Investigator, department chair, and Dean’s Office.
  • Conflict of Interest disclosures must be updated in the IAF. Contact your research coordinator if you have questions.

7. Finalize Proposal Documents

  • The final documents need to be finalized two business days prior to the proposal deadline.
  • The Research Administrator coordinates with Principal Investigator to prepare final proposal package.

8. Submit Proposal

The Arts and Architecture Office of Research and Creative Activity submits the final proposal to the sponsoring agency after the proposal has been reviewed and endorsed. Please note that all proposals on behalf of The Pennsylvania State University MUST be submitted by the Office of Research and Creative Activity.