Preparing Your Proposal

Moving Through University Channels - From Faculty to the Sponsor

The information on this page is available in more detail in the Sponsored Research Handbook.

Faculty must submit all proposals and awards through ORA.

Proposals must be routed through the Kuali Research (KR) system, which will ensure all of the appropriate electronic signatures and certifications for the PI(s), Chair and Dean for lead department are obtained. Department personnel prepares and completes proposal information in the Proposal Development module of KR, including completing all required sections and uploading all appropriate documents. The proposal is then electronically routed..

After the Principal Investigator(s) (PI) and any co-investigators have answered the required questions regarding the proposal and certified their agreement in KR, the proposal must also be certified in KR by the Department/Unit Head for the lead department and next higher authority within the School, College, or Institute. The proposal is then routed to ORA for review and submission to the sponsor.

ORA review can be done quickly for proposals which are complete, but ORA asks for 6 business days prior to the deadline to allow for sufficient review. Complete and final KR proposals including S2S (system to system) proposals should be routed completely to ORA no later than 48 hours before the deadline, but earlier is better. If the proposal is being prepared in another online system (ex. or NSPIRES), provide submit access to proposal at least 24 hours before the deadline in that system. Upon review and approval an ORA Contract Administrator will either sign a hard copy of the proposal or electronically submit the proposal to the sponsor. Complex proposals, such as those which involve interdisciplinary collaborations, sub-awards, Requests for Proposals (RFP’s), electronic submissions, or cost sharing; require additional time for review and should be submitted to ORA well before the deadline.  

Paper Hard Copy Submissions

If a paper proposal is to be submitted, route the final proposal document in KR to ORA. ORA will review for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with University and sponsor policies and procedures and sign the proposal. Minimum components of a proposal include a cover page, the abstract and technical narrative, the budget, budget justification and any sponsor forms which require the signature of an authorized institutional representative. Upon signature, ORA will then notify the department for pickup. The department is responsible for making any additional copies that are required and mailing or delivering the proposal to the sponsor.

Electronic Submissions

Many sponsors, including all Federal agencies, are allowing or requiring proposals to be electronically prepared and submitted. All Federal agencies use the find and apply system as well as other submission systems. Principal Investigators should refer to the individual sponsor’s guidelines for information about the required method of submission. The sponsor’s guidelines will also include information about the necessary file format for documents submitted with the proposal. PI’s should work closely with their Contract Administrator so that if necessary there is plenty of time to properly register the University in the sponsor’s system.

ORA can provide information to the PI for electronic proposal preparation and reporting to agencies and foundations. Some electronic systems, such as NSF’s FastLane and NIH’s eRA Commons require the PI to create accounts before using the system. You can request an account for these systems by using the links on ORA’s home page. Questions about using these and other electronic systems can be directed to ORA’s eRA Specialist, at or 301.405.6263. Information about electronic submission systems can be found on eSystems page.

Kuali Research

Kuali Research (KR) is the University of Maryland’s electronic research administration system of record for proposal and award data. KR allows for the preparation and electronic routing of proposals. KR maintains all award data and includes historical data for award actions processed since fiscal year 2001. KR training is available for all faculty and staff for proposal routing, viewing and searching KR and reporting on KR data. To register for KR and report training, please go to Kuali Research page. 

Agency Guidelines/Forms

In a Request for Quotes (RFQ), Request for Proposal (RFP), or Funding Opportunity Announcement, guidelines can be very detailed with specific forms accompanying proposal text. Often there are limitations for page length, type size, title length, and supporting documents. More information on preparing your proposal can also be found in the Sponsored Research Handbook.


Some sponsoring agencies have specific deadlines for proposal submission. This information is available directly from the sponsor. Alternatively, departmental administrators or ORA can provide assistance. Note that all Requests for Proposals (RFP) have strict deadlines that cannot be modified; this information is always in the RFP application package obtainable from the issuing agency. 

Classified Research and Restrictions of Publication

The University of Maryland does not enter into agreements to carry out research if the grant, contract, or other award instrument restrains the freedom of the University and its faculty to disclose the existence of the grant or contract, the general nature of the inquiry to be conducted, or the identity of the sponsor. 

The University reserves, for its faculty, the right to publish the results of the research without the prior approval of the sponsor. Please reference the UMCP Policy on Classified and Proprietary Work for further clarification.

General Rules of Thumb When No Guidelines are Provided

A COVER PAGE should always accompany your proposal. It should include PI and University Authorized Official signatures and contain items such as proposal title, PI name, submitting department(s) or center, total funds requested, and period of performance.

A TABLE OF CONTENTS which includes PAGE NUMBERS is essential and helps the reviewers.

An ABSTRACT detailing the purpose, important features, and significance of the project should be both concise and complete. Agencies often use abstracts in their annual reports. 

The PROPOSAL CONTENTS should include:

  • Project Description (include the rationale, needs assessment, proposed goals and objectives, procedures, evaluation, and management of the project)
  • References
  • Biographical Sketch
  • Budget
  • Budget Justification (consists of supporting information for all budget categories, including an explanation of the need for unusual or large expenses such as equipment, travel, or facilities).
  • Current & Pending Support

For guidance concerning the application of direct costs, fringe benefits, graduate student salaries and Facilities & Administrative (F&A) rates consult the web pages below: 


Estimating your Budget-Frequent Rates and Expenses

SALARIES are established by the University. Multiple year budgets should include estimated salary increases. A 4% increase may be projected unless the sponsor specifies salary inflation rates.

GRADUATE ASSISTANT STIPENDS are set by the departments.

FRINGE BENEFITS are applicable to all University salaries and wages. The University does not have a "fringe benefit rate" and Grant/Contract accounts are charged actual amounts. When preparing a sponsored project proposal budget, calculations for the sponsor's contribution to employee fringe benefits can be found at Employee Benefits.

A typical estimated rate for twelve month full-time personnel is 25% plus tuition.

FACILITIES and ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS (F&A) (formerly known as Indirect Costs) represent the University's expenses associated with running the research enterprise. F&A rates are expressed as a percentage of total direct costs, but exclude permanent equipment over 5,000 dollars; tuition; stipend for trainees on training programs; participant support costs and rental of off-campus facilities. The Campus calculates its F&A cost rates and negotiates these with the U.S. Health and Human Services Audit Agency acting on behalf of all federal agencies.For the current rate agreement, go to F&A Information page.

F&A costs are calculated based on the project's Modified Total Direct Cost (MTDC).

The MTDC is an adjusted figure and not always equal to the direct costs requested.

Calculating Modified Total Direct Costs

MTDC = Total Direct Costs minus the following:

  • Individual items of equipment in excess of $5000
  • Capital expenditures (includes alterations and renovations)
  • Tuition remission
  • Participant support costs
  • Rental costs of off-campus facilities
  • The portion of individual subgrants and subcontracts over $25,000
  • Scholarships and fellowships

For more help with budgets, including a checklist of key budget categories, see the Budget Guidance.

Need Proposal Help? Contact the Following ORA Personnel:

Your Contract Administrator:
Staff Directory

For assistance with electronic proposal systems, contact:
ORA’s eRA HelpDesk

Quick Reference Guide

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