Hints for Applicants

Writing a competitive proposal


Project description.

Several faculty members from diverse areas of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) will evaluate your application so it should be written in terms that can be understood and appreciated by a broad audience. Write the project description with guidance from the faculty research mentor. A project description needs to concisely communicate several things about the proposed research.  Therefore, your description should include:

  • A brief problem statement - provide the most important background information that will establish why your objectives are unique and relevant,
  • Objectives - explain what hypothesis you will test or what questions you will address,
  • Approach - provide a brief highlight of the main methods you will use to conduct your research,  
  • Anticipated outcomes of your proposed research project - summarize what you expect to accomplish and why the findings will be relevant.

Your description should convey how your proposed work relates to the general goals of the mentor. Keep in mind that your anticipated accomplishments do not have to be major breakthroughs. Instead, consider what you might discover that is currently unknown or undocumented. What is the value to the immediate research group and to the broader research community? Also, if appropriate, what is the potential value to those outside of the research community (e.g., to human medicine, to agricultural production). How might your work benefit broader areas of society?

Describe in general terms the types of activities you will be involved in. For example, what percentage of your time will you put into such activities as library or online research, laboratory work or field studies? Include a draft timeline of projected activities and accomplishments.

Statement of benefits.

What skills and knowledge do you anticipate acquiring as a result of the project? How will this experience complement your academic program? How will participation in the program prepare you for further research, further academic pursuits, your anticipated career or for all of these?


As long as the minimum GPA requirement (2.5 overall) is met, GPA is not a major factor in success of applications. In fact, for a student with average success in classes, completion of a successful research project may be a significant encouragement for further academic study.

''Time committed to project.

How much time can you devote to the project? Most reviewers will want to see a commitment of at least 8 to 12 hours per week.

Presentation of project/results.

With your mentor’s input, propose a realistic assessment of where you think you might present the results of your research. The experience of presenting your project progress or results is a very important aspect of the Undergraduate Research Program (URP). You are expected to submit a poster or presentation to the University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum within one year of your experience.  Plans to present your results in a poster or presentation at a professional meeting related to your mentor’s broader research program will be viewed very favorably.  The CANR Undergraduate Research cohort will also present project summaries at the CANR Research Roundup each semester.

Research support funding. 

Prepare a simple budget including a breakdown of scholarship/wage/ stipend, equipment, supplies and travel/presentation costs. Reminder for students and mentors: At least 80 percent of the total requested must support the student.  Remaining funds may be used by the mentor to purchase supplies and equipment that would not otherwise be available for the project. This budget should not exceed $2,000, even if it is part of a larger project budget.  The selection committee will look at how the CANR Undergraduate Research Program funds will be used.  

Please note: These funds are for students whose primary major is in the College of Agriculture and Natural resources only. Secondary majors, minors and coordinate majors are not eligible for this program. Seniors in their last semester before graduation are not eligible for research support grants.


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