Type II Guidelines-Undergraduate Research Office - Carnegie Mellon University

Type II Guidelines for SURG and SURG/CW

for Proposals other than Arts and Creative Humanities

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? 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 need to make your proposal accessible to a broader audience.

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.) Your proposal should include the following information and should include the exact headings. 

Your proposal should include the following information and these exact headings.

• Abstract: A summary of your research question and your project design. Researchers typically write the abstract after they have finished writing the rest of the proposal. Include it as the first section on the first page of your proposal.

• Research Question and Significance: This is a key section that helps provide important background for your project. You should discuss the broader contextual framework:

  • What has been done before in the field, or in the particular lab in which you are working? 
  • What gap(s) or unresolved problem(s) have you identified within that research?
  • What is your research question and why is it a timely and necessary exploration?
  • How will it fill that gap and advance in the field?

In terms of the audience you are writing for: You should frame the question that you want to explore in your research for a broader audience and discuss why this is an interesting and important question.

  • How might its applications improve people's lives or the world we live in?
  • If working on a larger project within a lab, what is your individual contribution to this endeavor?

• Project Design and Feasibility: This is an important, larger section and should include much of the substance of your proposed project. It is appropriate to use your discipline-specific language to provide detail about how the project will unfold. In this section, you are speaking to the reader with some expertise in the field.  The details of the expected process will be critical.  

  • How will you go about exploring your research question?
  • What will be your methods?
  • Are these methods in keeping with traditional approaches in this research area or is this new, uncharted territory that requires an experimental methodology?
  • What is your expected timetable for carrying out this research? A timetable can be especially helpful to outline how the project will unfold.  Break down the specifics of what your projects steps are going to look like.

• Background: This is a shorter section to let the committee know what courses and/or work/research experiences have prepared you to undertake this project. Please include how you know the faculty mentor. If this is a group project with fewer than 5 people, then you should include a sentence on the responsibilities for each team member; if this is a larger group project, then please highlight the main students. 

• Feedback and Evaluation: This is a shorter section. Who will provide feedback on and evaluate your project and according to what schedule and what criteria? How often will you meet with your faculty mentor? Are you also working with graduate students, if so what are their names?

• Dissemination of Knowledge: How will you share the results of your project? What form will your final report take? You should include Meeting of the Minds but if there are other venues to share your work - a departmental poster session or a discipline-specific conference, please mention these options here.  If there are publications expected, please share with the readers.


Please consider your budget carefully. Include a list of all the items you propose to purchase and your best estimate of the cost of each item, including specific vendor information - where you plan to purchase the item(s) and how much each item costs. Pleast list the full estimate of cost, even beyond the SURG maximum.  This is especially inportant for SURG/CW proposals to be considered for supplementary funding beyond 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.  All expense items should be explained either in the body of your proposal or in a budget narrative included on your budget page.

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
• Food costs disallowed
• 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

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 deisgnated 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 listed on the 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.