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 accompanied by the University's internal routing form and the appropriate signatures. Approval of the proposal is demonstrated by signatures on the proposal cover page and the routing form.

After the Principal Investigator(s) (PI) and any co-investigators have signed the proposal and routing form, the package must be signed and endorsed by the Department/Unit Head and next higher authority within the School, College, or Institute. The proposal is to then be routed to ORA and must be accompanied by the current Internal Routing Form in either a paper or electronic version. The RFP, funding opportunity announcement, or the URL for the RFP or program announcement should be included on the routing form that is delivered to ORA.

ORA review can be done quickly for proposals which are complete (usually within four to six days). 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. Proposals submitted to NIH or NSF via require additional time to review and submit; therefore, these proposals should be routed to ORA at least six business days before the deadline. 

Paper Hard Copy Submissions

If a paper proposal is to be submitted, route to ORA the original signed proposal and one copy along with the Internal Routing Form for review and final approval.  ORA will review for accuracy, completeness, and compliance with University and sponsor policies and procedures. To obtain institutional approval, ORA requires the signed routing form, a budget, a budget justification, an abstract, and any agency forms which require the signature of an authorized institutional representative.  ORA will then notify the department for pickup.  The department is responsible for making any additional copies that are required and mailing 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.

Principal Investigators should notify their Contract Administrator as soon as he or she is aware that the proposal is to be submitted electronically. An Internal Routing Form must be completed, signed and submitted along with one hard copy of the proposal to ORA six business days before the submission deadline. Unless a department uses Coeus for S2S proposal submissions, the electronic version of the proposal should be uploaded to ORA’s website as early as possible to allow time to adequately respond to any issues that may arise. The upload site can be accessed here. The individual uploading the proposal will need to sign in using his or her Directory Identification information.   If the proposal is being prepared in the online system (ex. NSF FastLane), provide submit access to proposal at least 24 hours before the deadline. 

ORA provides training 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.

Training sessions for the system are offered periodically, and trainings for other systems can be requested by your department. For a list of current offerings, go to Electronic System Training page. Contact ORA’s eRA Specialist for registration or to schedule a session,


Coeus is the University of Maryland’s electronic research administration system of record for proposal and award data. The Coeus system allows for the preparation and electronic routing of proposals. Coeus maintains all award data and includes historical data for award actions processed since fiscal year 2001. Faculty and staff can obtain access to view proposal and award information in Coeus once they have attended training. To register for Coeus training, please go to Coeus Training 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.

Fiscal year 2017 minimum Graduate Assistant & Fellowship compensation rates are:

  • $15,294 for 9 months
  • $16,144 for 9.5 months
  • $20,392 for 12 months

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; 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
  • 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 Sponsored Research Handbook.

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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