Type I Guidelines-Undergraduate Research Office - Carnegie Mellon University

Type I Guidelines for SURG and SURG/CW

for Arts and Creative Humanities Proposals

The Arts and Creative Humanities Proposal is designed for students who will submit a research-based "making" project.  It should place your project in a larger creative context, while providing specific details about your objectives, process and product, as well as the anticipated impact on your development as an artist and/or humanist.  A typical problem is to offer too broad a discussion and too much personal background.  The directions below are intended to help you organize your proposal and present your information in a way that balances significance and detail, and meets the requirements of grant-giving agencies, including the Undergraduate Research Office (URO).  Please include the headings in the proposal exactly as they appear below. 

Keep in mind that the committee reading your proposal will include four members, with only one of the readers having some expertise generally in your field.  You will need to make your proposal accessible to a broader aufience.

The SURG proposal should be no longer than 3 pages; the SURG/CW proposal should be no longer than 4 pages (a 3-page SURG proposal, plus 1 page for the SURG/CW questions.)


Part I. Abstract

The Abstract is an important introduction to your work, a brief but succinct summary that will draw the reader to explore further.  It should address your project's objectives (what you hope to accomplish), methods (what means and resources will be used), and anticipated results (why the project is important to you, your field, and the larger world). Researchers typically write the abstract after they have finished writing the rest of the proposal.  Include it as the the first section of your proposal.

Part II. Project Narrative

The project narrative is a detailed discussion of your proposed project, including the objectives, the methods you plan to use, and how your project relates and contributes to the particular creative field(s) as described in more detail below.

Here is what your proposal should include:

A. A detailed description of the creative work you intend to undertake:

  1. Why is it important that you undertake this project?  What new space or gap is your project trying to fill?
  2. What is your objective or goal and how will it fill this new space/gap?
  3. What is your vision for the final project?
    Conceptual Vision: Describe your conceptual approach for the project.
    Concrete Vision: What medium and genre will you use and why are they appropriate to this project?

B. A discussion of how the proposed work fits into and advances the field's current creative context and conversation:

  1. What are the sources of inspiration for this project?
  2. How does it build on or differ from past or current work by others in the field or in related fields?
  3. In what specific ways will this work advance the current creative context and conversation?

Part III. Process

Describe the process involved with the project.

A. How do you plan to accomplish the project?
B. With what faculty member(s) will you work?  How often will you meet?  How do you know the faculty member(s)?
C. Provide a detailed timeline, including:
     1. Pre-production research
     2. Production schedule itemizing tasks and allocating time
     3. Post-production, if applicable

Part IV. Background

Describe your personal and education background as they impact this project:

  • How do you know your faculty member?
  • What formal and informal training have you had?
  • What relevant experiences have prepared you for this project?
  • How does your past work inform this project?

Part V. Outcomes

Outline the outcomes of your project:

A. Benefit to the artist and humanist: How will this project/product enhance your interests and skills, directions and opportunities for further work?
B. Exhibition/Presentation: In addition to Meeting of the Minds (our annual campus-wide research symposium), how, where and when do you plan to present your work?  If no additional exhibition beyond Meeting of the Minds is planned, how will you disseminate the knowledge gained from the project?

Part VI. Supporting Materials

All 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; etc.

Part VII. Budget

Please consider your budget carefully.  Include a listing of all the items you propose to purchase and your best estimate of the cost of each item.  All expense items should be explained in a budget narrative included on your budget page and they should include specific vendor information - where you plan to purchase the item(s) and how much each item costs.  This is especially important for SURG/CW proposals to be considered for supplementary funding beyong SURG.  If you are asking for funds to purchase a piece of software, is that software available in a public cluster?  Does a faculty or staff member have the software that you could use when they aren't there?  The selection committee reserves the right to disallow certain line items and frequently approves partial budgets.  Please list the full estimate of cost, even beyong the SURG maximum.

Also consider:

  • Conference fees are not allowed (apply separately to the Presentation Award program)
  • Travel costs must be directly related to the proposed research and fully justified; the committee rarely funds airline tickets or international travel
  • Equipment purchases must be fully supported in the proposal and equipment must remain at Carnegie Mellon; state who will be responsible for it when you complete your project
  • Book purchases are approved only if you can show that it is impossible to get what you need from a library or on loan
  • Food costs disallowed

Part VIII: For SURG/Crosswalk (SURG/CW) ONLY

There are two additional questions for SURG/CW - projects that are interdisciplinary and may qualify for supplemental funding beyond SURG.  This is a fourth page, in addition to the three-page proposal.

Question I: Crosswalk Justification
Explain how this initiative crosses between and engages with multiple disciplines, departments, or schools.  Provide detail on the interdisciplinary nature of this project and how it is unique. Note: In order to qualify for Crosswalk supplemental funds, projects must substantially draw upon and engage with multiple disciplines and fields in their activities.  It is not sufficient for individuals or team members to have multiple majors.  It is expected that the proposed work will be multidisciplinary, not just the participants.

Question II: Faculty/Mentor Support
Beyond your designated faculty mentor for SURG, what other partners with expertise in different disciplines do you plan to contact and draw upon to inform your project and its interdisciplinary focus?  Please list these faculty members, the nature of their expertise, their potential input for this project, and whether you have contacted them and/or plan to do so. 

Proposal Format for SURG and SURG/CW

Your SURG proposal may be up to 3-pages, single-spaced, with an additional 4th page for the budget.
Your SURG/CW proposal may be up to 4-pages (SURG proposal plus 1 page for SURG/CW questions), single-spaced, with an additional 5th 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.

Electronic Submission:

  • All SURG and SURG/CW proposals should be saved into one .pdf document and uploaded through the URO registration portal - this includes the proposal and any supporting materials.  ONLY ONE DOCUMENT will be sent to the committee for review.
  • Faculty recommendation forms may be submitted by the faculty member by email to Jen Weidenhof at jweidenh@andrew.cmu.edu
Graphs and/or Illustrations: Illustrations may be used in the body of the proposal.

Review a Draft

You are strongly encouraged to work with your faculty advisor on your proposal,  attend a Proposal Writing Workshop run by the URO (dates available on our main page,) and to meet with the Undergraduate Research Office Director or Assistant Directors at least once prior to submitting a SURG or SURG/CW proposal to review a draft. To schedule an appointment, e-mail Stephanie Wallach at sw4s@andrew.cmu.edu, Joanna Dickert at joannad@andrew.cmu.edu, or Richelle Bernazzoli at rbernazz@andrew.cmu.edu, or call x8-5702.