Research and Enterprise

What makes a strong summary: writing for a general audience on research grant proposals

The summary is one of the most important and sometimes most difficult part of a research grant proposal. Whilst some researchers think that they have done the job well, bids can fail because the summary is not ‘general enough’.

What is a summary?

A summary is a brief statement or account of the main points of something (Oxford living Dictionaries)

In the main, the summary is used to explain complex thinking and technical jargon to an audience that has no expertise or familiarity about the topic in question. Summary sections will differ from funder to funder and there will be guidance available on their definitions, approach and very importantly their word count. Whilst it is useful to understand the funders ethos on what a good summary is; it can ALL get very confusing!!

10 Top Tips

The Research Team has extensive experience of supporting research grant proposals. Based on these experiences we would like to share 10 top tips to write a clear and meaningful summary:

  1. Think about your audience – this is likely to be many different people from a range of backgrounds and professions.
  2. Use plain English and avoid complicated or uncommon words.
  3. Avoid using any technical jargon and use ‘everyday’ English.
  4. Use active language rather than passive.
  5. Structure the paragraphs in a logical sequence – start with the problem your research will solve.
  6. Be clear on why the project is important and its timeliness.
  7. Highlight your expertise for leading the research
  8. Include the beneficiaries of the research, reach and impact.
  9. Contact the Research Team for advice and support.
  10. Ask peers (outside of the subject area) to read the summary for clarity and understanding.

There is a Leeds Beckett Peer Review Process which supports researchers with the preparation, writing and submission of research grant proposals. Contact us on for more information.

More resources

There are ample resources to help researchers to structure their summary appropriately. Below are a few good online tools to help you think about how you might best achieve your perfect summary!

University Research Team

The University Research Team have a wide range of experience in securing external funding. We provide guidance, expert advice and hands on support to help you navigate the funding process, whatever stage you are at in your career.

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