Carnegie Mellon University

Small Undergraduate Research Grants (SURG)

Proposal Type II: Non-Arts and Creative Humanities

You are strongly encouraged to work with your faculty advisor on your proposal; to meet with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholar Development representative at least once prior to submitting a SURG proposal to review a draft; and to a Proposal Writing Workshops run by the office.

The Proposal

Your proposal is your chance to tell us about your proposed research, why it is significant, and how well you are prepared to undertake such a project.  All parts of your application must be submitted online.  

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 audience. Your readers will be considering your proposal in light of these key criteria:

  1. Well-defined, actionable research question or objective
  2. Discussion of hypotheses OR other expected findings/outcomes
  3. Discussion of the significance/contribution of the research to the broader field
  4. Comprehensive explanation of methdology 
  5. Discussion of background, supervision, and dissemination of results

Proposal Format for SURG 

Your SURG proposal may be up to 3 pages, single-spaced. The budget is a separate page beyond the 3-page proposal.  

Please note that ALL pages of your application materials will show as black and white during the review of our committee.

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.

If you will work with Human Subjects: Read A Note on Human Subjects for instructions.

Components of Application: Headings and Content

Please include the headings in the proposal exactly as they appear below.

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, with a targeted word count of ~200 words.

Objectives and Contribution of the Research:

  • Research questions or objectives
  • Hypotheses or expected findings
  • Gaps in the existing body of work:  what has been done before that sets the stage for this work and what makes this new?  Please cite relevant people, publications, and research.
  • Why is this research important
  • Novel contribution to the field and/or to society

Methodology: 

  • Project Design and Feasibility
  • Specific methods to be used
  • Equipment and materials to be used
  • If applicable: sampling method
  • If applicable: interview or survey design
  • If applicable: experimental setup
  • If applicable: methods of analysis
  • Justification of the methodological choices
  • Proposed timeline: Outline your expected timeline for the project

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. 

  • How do you know your faculty mentor? How did you find your faculty mentor?
  • If you had other support for projects in the past, either through the OURSD or through other avenues, please include this information in this section
  • If this is a SURG 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 SURG 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 closely with graduate students or other members of the research group; 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, for example a departmental poster session or a discipline-specific conference, please mention these options here. If there are publications expected, please share with the readers.

Optional Supporting Materials: Please note any materials are optional and not required.  Please only include here materials that are directly related to the proposed project. For example, if you are doing an interview- or survey-based study, you could include your interview protocol or sample survey questions. You may also include a larger-scale diagram that does not fit within the three pages of the proposal but is essential for readers’ understanding of your project. Please limit the optional supporting materials to three pages. If supporting materials are not crucial to your proposal, this section should be omitted.

Budget:  Additional page

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. Please list the full estimate of cost, even beyond the SURG maximum.  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

Letter of recommendation by faculty mentor (submitted by mentor)

A SURG requires the direct and regular supervision of a Carnegie Mellon faculty member/researcher. Once you have submitted your application, your advisor will receive an email prompt to upload a letter of recommendation.  If you have questions about a faculty member, please contact our office.

Application Instructions and Submission

Application Instructions

Application FAQ Page

Apply Here!

Application Checklist

Before the deadline:


  • Did you ask your faculty advisor to write a letter of recommendation?
  • Did you draft your proposal?
  • Did you organize your supporting materials?
  • Did you attend a Proposal Writing Workshop (dates available on our main page).
  • Did you meet with the OURSD staff (optional, but strongly advised)?
  • Did you apply to Institutional Review Board (IRB) if your project involves human subjects?