Texas Tech University

Why Wait for the RFP?

Crafting a Concept Paper for Fast Feedback – Part Two

Download: "Crafting a Concept Paper" Template


The first step in receiving unsolicited funding for a research project begins with a concept paper. A concept paper is typically a two-page document, basically a mini project narrative that requires you to think through all aspects of your research project. From the funder's point of view, the concept paper helps determine if the proposed project is competitive, fundable, aligns with their strategic goals, and will likely yield results that will advance the discipline. You want to capture the funder's interest, demonstrate the importance of your project, and gather feedback to improve your application for funding.

A concept paper can save you from spending the time and energy required to prepare a proposal that might not be supported. If your project is supported, though, the concept paper gives you a head start on the actual proposal submission. The concept paper also helps you develop a relationship with your program officer who will know you and your research interests.

The audience for the first version of your concept paper is your research colleagues – people either at Texas Tech or elsewhere who have expertise or had funding success in your research area. For this audience, you may use jargon and technical language.

Once you consider and incorporate feedback from your colleagues, the audience for the second version of your concept paper is targeted funders. For some funders, the program officers may be lay persons, so you'd want to avoid any technical language they may not understand. If the concept paper will be sent to more than one funder, be sure each version is crafted with each targeted funder in mind.

The alignment of your project's significance, innovation, and impact with the targeted funder's priorities is critical, so make those connections at every opportunity. The funder should decide that investing in your project will not only improve the field of research, but also contribute to policy and practice. This level of impact provides greater "bang for the buck" as their investment reaches beyond your project.

The Office of Research Development is always happy to help you create a work plan. Contact us today!