How to Write an Abstract for a Grant Proposal

by Elaine Riot

A grant abstract is a concise summary of the project, usually appearing at the front of a grant application. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the abstract is an important part of the funding application, and should describe every major aspect of your proposal, in brief, except for the financials. Abstracts give funding agency staff and reviewers an idea of the scope of the work. NIH reports that "Study Section members who are not primary reviewers may rely heavily on the abstract to understand your proposal."

Reread your report. Outline the main points of your project as you go. Most abstracts are restricted to 30 lines of text or 100 words. Consider how you will express each of the following abstract components (supplied by NIH), in one sentence or less: project background; specific aims, objectives, or hypotheses; significance of the proposed research; relevance to the mission of the funding agency; unique features; methodology (action steps) to be used; expected results; evaluation methods; and how your results will affect other research areas. If your grant application asks for different information than above, consider those components during the read-through instead.

Write a rough draft of your abstract without looking at the report, advises the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). Consider the major components listed in Step 1, but don't copy sentences from the report, or you may end up with too much information. Use third person. Follow grant application margin and font guidelines.

Revise your rough draft. According to the OWL, correct weaknesses in organization or clarity, delete superfluous information, add key points you left out, edit out all unnecessary words, and be sure the paragraph is grammatical.

Proofread your finished abstract.


  • Write the abstract last so that it reflects the entire proposal.
  • NIH advises that you remember the abstract will be used for purposes other than the review, such as to provide a brief description of the grant in annual reports, presentations and dissemination to the public.

About the Author

Elaine Riot has been writing professionally since 2001. Her work has been published online; in quarterly business, arts and education publications; and in B2B and consumer magazines. A natural wordsmith, Riot writes effective copy for a diverse clientele, including the University of Washington, Vulcan, Inc. and She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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