The Award Lifecycle

Background and Significance (Statement of Need)

Below is some guidance on developing the Background and Significance or Statement of Need for a proposal. Additional writing assistance is under “Useful Links” at the right; detailed guidance from understanding agency guidelines to creating a strong grant proposal is available from a variety of sources. Consult the sponsor to which you are preparing your proposal to see if they offer specific instructions.    

Writing the Background and Significance

The following is an excerpt from The Art of Grantsmanship, by Dr. Jacob Kraicer:

Background and Significance: Current State of Knowledge

  • This section should answer 3 questions: what is known, what is not known, and why is it essential to pursue answers to the remaining open questions.
  • Begin with a brief outline of the highlights in the background review. State where your own previous contributions (if any) fit in.
  • Then critically evaluate the relevant literature. This section should be considerably more than an uncritical compendium or list of the existing literature.
  • Discuss fairly all sides of any controversy, disagreement, and/or discrepancy in published results. Remember, though, that a participant in that controversy may become your proposal reviewer.
  • Identify specifically the gaps and contradictions that you will clarify. Carry this into the rationale for your proposal.
  • Emphasize the importance and relevance of your proposal in bridging your hypotheses and long-term objectives with the background review.
  • Integrate your previous findings within the background to give the reviewers a sense of your relevant contributions.