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A key element of your application is the Research Proposal. The proposal reflects your thinking and design of an original research project that is within the scope of the Research Opportunity to which you are applying. The Research Proposal should be innovative, technically sound, and feasible to complete in a 2-3 year period of time. The outcome of the proposed research should be new information that can be published in the peer-reviewed literature and that will further knowledge in a field of science or engineering.

Applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposal with the prospective Adviser(s) at the federal laboratory. The proposal must represent the applicant's own intellectual effort; however, the proposed Research Adviser may suggest revisions to improve a proposal's scientific or technical quality or to provide better integration into the research mission of the agency or center. Part of the overall evaluation of the application is the assessment of the laboratory regarding the quality and relevance of the proposed research. An enthusiastic endorsement of your proposal by the prospective Adviser(s) will increase your chances of receiving an award.

The proposal should be well-organized and clearly written, avoiding jargon. It should be a maximum of ten pages (12-point font, 1" margins, double-spaced), including citations and keeping the number of graphs, figures and photos to a minimum. Each section should be identified with a heading or sub-heading. When preparing the proposal, include the following key elements:

Statement of the problem
Write a clear and concise statement describing the subject area of your research and what you hope to accomplish.

Background and relevance to previous work
Briefly review the relevant literature as it pertains to your stated problem. Describe how previous work, by you and others, has led to the research that you propose to perform. Discuss any technological developments that have contributed to the state of knowledge that will allow you to conduct this research.

General methodology
Provide sufficient detail of your plan of work such that knowledgeable reviewers can evaluate whether the work you plan is technically sound. Whenever possible, refer to published methods. Include analytical methods that will be used to interpret or evaluate results (e.g. statistical methods). If the proposed research involves the use of animal or human subjects, a statistical discussion of the number of animals (or human subjects) relative to the validity of the results should be included. Make sure you provide an overall timeline for completion of the research within the projected length of the fellowship.

New or unusual methods
If your research will include new methods or methods that are not likely to be generally known in the discipline, provide additional detail that documents the feasibility of these methods in the context of your proposed research.

Expected results, significance, and application
Describe the results that you hope to obtain, including any contingencies that might apply if unexpected results are obtained or methodologies fail. Describe the significance of these results and how they might be used in practical application to problems of interest to the agency to which you are applying. If your proposed research does not have obvious practical applications in the short term, explain how the work will advance knowledge in the field that will eventually lead to practical application. 

Literature cited
Provide citations to all published work that is cited your proposal.