Carnegie Mellon University

Type I Guidelines for SURF

for Arts and Creative Humanities Proposals

You are strongly encouraged to work with your faculty advisor on your proposal; to meet with the Undergraduate Research Office Director or Assistant Directors at least once prior to submitting a SURG proposal to review a draft; and to attend a Proposal Writing Workshop run by the URO (please see dates of workshops in our homepage.)


The Application

The SURF Art and 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).

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 expected findings or artistic outcomes
  3. Discussion of the significance/contribution of the research to the broader field
  4. Comprehensive explanation of methdology or process
  5. Discussion of background, supervision, and dissemination of results

Proposal Format for SURF

Your SURF proposal may be up to 3 pages, single-spaced. The biography, letter, and resume are additional pages beyond the 3-page proposal

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.

A) Proposal - 3 pages maximum.

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 significance (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 first section of your proposal. 

Part II. Project Narrative 

The project narrative is a detailed discussion of your proposed project, including the project design, 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 are the general topics you should include in your proposal: 

A. Project Design: What medium and genre will you use and why are they appropriate to this project? What kinds of methods will be employed?  What kind of information or artistic product will result?

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. 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 V. Supporting Materials 

All proposals must contain supporting materials to clarify the proposal. These include prior art or creative work; links to documentation; music compositions; sketches of proposed work; preliminary research; etc. 

B) Biography - 1 page maximum.

Please use this biography to tell us about yourself.  Feel free to be creative - introduce us to your background and your interests - even those that may take you beyond your formal education and your research interests. These can include hobbies, travels, family background, what it was like to grow up in your hometown, athletics, and/or service interests.  Or, if there is a compelling story that can explain why you chose to go in a particular direction, this can also be the basis of the biography.  It should NOT be an opportunity to tell us what courses you have taken, why you deserve this opportunity, or why you chose Carnegie Mellon.  This is a chance to reveal other sides of yourself and help the committee get to know you better. 

C) Applicant’s college transcript

Please include an official or unofficial transcript that includes your spring mid-term grades. The preceding fall GPA is one of the factors, although not the most important, that we will consider. We will also look at overall trends. If there was a difficult semester or two, we will focus on a pattern over time. 

D) Resume

If you do not have an updated resume, please see the Career Center for advice on resume writing.

E) URO History

Please let us know if you participated in past SURA or SURG projects or received a SURF.
Name(s) of Projects

F) Letter of collaboration by mentor (submitted by mentor)

A SURF requires full-time research on campus for 8-10 weeks under the direct and regular supervision of a Carnegie Mellon faculty member/researcher. Once you have registered online, your advisor will receive an email prompt to submit a letter of collaboration via email to Jen Weidenhof at


Electronic Submission:

All students applying for SURF must REGISTER a student profile.  If you have registered in the past, please update any incorrect or missing information in your profile.

Please note:  All faculty advisors must be added by the student initiating the project registration.  You MUST use their ANDREW ID to enter those individuals.  ID exchanges will not enable you to apply (i.e.,;; cmu.sei.cmu;, etc.)  Use of the online application requires WebISO authentication for each application. 

Once your student profile is entered, please add your project information in the field provided, and upload your proposal.

  • All SURF applications should be compiled and saved into one .pdf document and uploaded through the URO registration portal - this includes the proposal, biography, resume, transcripts, etc. and any supporting materials.  ONLY ONE DOCUMENT will be sent to the committee for review.
  • Please submit your proposal in .pdf form and name it “LastNameFirstNameSURFSummer2019Proposal” where Last Name and First Name reflect the name of the student who is submitting the proposal. 
  • Faculty letters of collaboration may be submitted by the faculty member by email to Jen Weidenhof  


Before the deadline:

  • Did you register your student profile and project?
  • Did you ask your faculty advisor to write a letter of collaboration?
  • Did you draft your proposal?
  • Did you organize your supporting materials?
  • Did you write a resume?
  • Did you get a transcript that includes fall mid-term grades (official or unofficial)?
  • Did you draft a one-page biography as per the description above?
  • Did you attend a Proposal Writing Workshop (dates available on our main page)?
  • Did you meet with the URO Director or Assistant Directors (optional, but strongly advised)?
  • Did you apply to Institutional Review Board (IRB) if your project involves human subjects?

Before you press SAVE:

  • Did you compile a single final .pdf of your full proposal (including your resume, biography, history and transcript)?
  • Did your faculty advisor submit the letter of collaboration by email to Jen Weidenhof? (Your advisor will receive an email prompt to submit his/her letter after you have registered your project online.) 

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 SURF proposal to review a draft.