Writing Your Proposal-Undergraduate Research Office - Carnegie Mellon University

Guidelines for a Successful SURF Proposal

Writing a research proposal will help you to clarify your project and it will give you valuable experience for any proposal writing you may do beyond Carnegie Mellon. All proposals submitted to the Undergraduate Research Office (URO) are read and scored by a selection committee made up of faculty from each of the colleges on campus. Your proposal will be read by someone in your college, but it will also be read by faculty members who are not familiar with your discipline. For this reason, a successful proposal will be written in such a way that an intelligent reader who is not familiar with your field can still understand the research question you are proposing and the significance of this research in a larger context.

Proposal Contents

Please follow the headings that are laid out here - Proposal I and Proposal II.  NO BUDGETS ARE REQUIRED FOR SURF.

The effectiveness of your proposal will depend on your ability to explain the nature, context and scope of the project. The selection committee will also be looking for an indication that your project will be more than just a learning experience—what does it contribute to your field that we do not already know?

Please make sure to put the key question or theme at they very start of the paragraph.  Readers should not have to search through the body of the paragraph to find what you are studying and why it is important.

Proposal Format for SURF

Your SURF proposal may be up to 3-pages, single-spaced, with an additional 4th page for the budget.

Typeface:  We recommend at least a 12 point serifed font (such as Times or Palatino), justified left (right ragged).

First Page: At the top of the first page, please state your project title and names of all students submitting the proposal.  The next item is your Abstract, and subsequent headings and body of the proposal.

Spell Check: Remember to spell check and read through your proposal carefully.  You are requesting funds and your proposal is a reflection of your commitment to the project.

Submission of Hard Copies to the URO (531 Warner Hall)

  • All SURF proposals are submitted online, with hard copies (EXCEPT FOR THE FACULTY LETTER) submitted to the URO Office, 531 Warner Hall
  • Hard copies must be SINGLE SIDED
  • Do NOT include a cover sheet or title page, as they will be discarded
  • Faculty letters are submitted ONLY online, no hard copies

Graphs and/or Illustrations: Illustrations may be used in the body of the proposal but they should duplicate well on a copier.

Color graphs and/or Illustrations:  If you are submitting color graphs and/or illustrations, please submit 5 complete copies of your proposal so we can hand them out to the selection committee. 

Supporting Materials

All Type I Arts and Creative Humanities proposals must contain supporting materials to clarify the proposal. These include prior art or creative work, links to CD/DVD documentation, music compositions, sketches of proposed work, preliminary research, archive information, etc.

For Type II proposals, illustrations may be used in the body of the proposal but should duplicate well on a copier. If you are using color graphs or illustrations, please submit FIVE complete copies of your proposal for the selection committee.

Review a Draft

You are strongly encouraged to work with your faculty advisor on your proposal and to meet with the Undergraduate Research Office Director or Assistant Director at least once to review a draft prior to submitting a Summer Research Fellowship proposal. There are also Proposal-Writing Workshops that students should attend (see front page of URO website for dates.) To schedule an appointment, call x8-5702, or email Stephanie Wallach at sw4s@andrew.cmu.edu or Joanna Dickert at joannad@andrew.cmu.edu.