Proposal Preparation Basics

Definition of “Proposal”: A proposal is a detailed request for funding prepared in accordance with the sponsor’s instructions.

  • A proposal must comply with Institute policies and sponsor requirements.
  • A proposal, upon submission, becomes an official record of what MIT promised to a sponsor.

Preparing the Proposal 

  • The Principal Investigator (PI) is responsible for preparing the proposal but normally does so in conjunction with an administrative or fiscal officer.
  • Review the sponsor guidelines carefully. Most sponsors require preferred formats and specific forms. In addition, each solicitation details the requirements for that particular submission. 
  • National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) requirements mandate proposal-specific financial Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosures from PIs and senior/key personnel for new proposals, and annual disclosure updates thereafter. COI disclosures may be submitted electronically through CoeusLite.

Tips on Proposal Writing

Tips and links for Proposal Writing

Proposal Checklists

Visit this Preparation Checklist for all proposals, and check the sponsor-specific proposals on the pages in the Sponsor Information section.

Approving and submitting the proposal

Research Administration Services (RAS) is the central administrative office responsible for providing Institute endorsement and submitting proposals, and for accepting awards on behalf of MIT and its faculty. 

PIs and departments should allow adequate time for proposal review. Proposals must reach RAS at least five working days before the sponsor’s deadline to provide full and comprehensive proposal review, approval, and submission.

Proposals not meeting the RAS deadline may only be submitted to the sponsor with the Dean’s or VPR’s approval. If subsequent review reveals that the proposal is incomplete or does not conform to Institute or sponsor requirements, the proposal may be withdrawn from sponsor consideration.

Read more about the MIT Approval and Submission Process.


The sponsor is requiring that the proposed personnel effort be shown in man-hours. How do I do this?

If MIT is responding to a competitive solicitation requiring man-hours, proposals sometimes include estimated man-hours conversion rates, with the following statement: MIT’s accounting system does not support estimating, accumulating and reporting personnel costs on a man-hour basis  Estimated man-hour conversion information is provided for sponsor proposal evaluation purposes only.  If an award is made, costs will be accumulated and reported on a man-month basis.

Are pre-proposal submissions considered to be part of MIT’s proposal?

Pre-proposal submission instructions determine whether binding commitments are required. While most pre-proposals are non-binding, any that include binding commitments should be reviewed by the RAS Contract Administrator.