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Proposal Summary Tips

Delivering a "Knockout Punch" in Your Proposal Summary
-Glenn Krell

Recently I spoke with an official who reviews proposals for an organization that funds grants. I won't mention his organization or his name because of what he told me in confidence. He said that proposal reviewers don't always read an entire research proposal (Yes, it is heartbreaking to even consider that thought!). There is hope, however. He said that proposal reviewers always make time to read a proposal's Executive Summary, and he told me, "That's really the place where you absolutely must use your very best writing—it's where you must deliver your knockout punch."

Sometimes, that section is called the Executive Summary; other names for it are Abstract, Proposal Summary, or Research Summary. That depends upon the funding entity. Regardless, give that section your special attention!  Make it a grabber! If it doesn't "grab" the reader, your proposal may be in serious trouble!

The main purpose of your summary, of course, is to tell the story of your proposal on one page. But make sure it isn't dull! There are as many ways to turn your summary into a grabber as there are research specialties at IIT. You can emphasize the extraordinary benefits of the technology in your proposal. You can emphasize what a strong fit your proposal is with the funder's solicitation. You can emphasize the amazing results that might come from a small investment of research money. You might even emphasize the solid foundation of research upon which your are basing your potential breakthrough. Or you could emphasize the problem you are trying to solve, backing it up with statistics in terms of the impact on mankind. After all, a research proposal, at its core, is a response to a problem in our world. How many lives might be affected if your proposal is funded and the research is successful? What, beyond the immediate scope of the research, will be made better in our world?

All of these angles are fair game. Just make sure your writing is convincing!  It's usually best to write the summary after you've finished writing the rest of the proposal.