Step 1: Define My Project

Pre-Award Phase


How do I develop a compelling research question?


Your project should be something that interests you and that you are well-positioned to investigate.


  • Significance (Why would others care?)
  • Potential impact (How will it move the field forward?)
  • Innovation (How will it change the status quo?)
  • What research has already been done?
How can I get other people invested in my research?


  • What will the results mean not only to your own research, but to your field, to other fields, and to the people who are going to be reviewing your proposal?
  • Where will your potential project fit within an agency's or funding sponsor's objectives?
What resources do I have or need?


Define your needs and assess your resources

  • What resources will you need to perform your work?
  • What resources do you already have?

Understanding your needs and resources will help you to hone in on the appropriate scope of the project for a particular funding opportunity and identify which facilities you can access and whether you should engage in any collaborations with other researchers or partners.

How do I start conceptualizing my project?


Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) has resources and examples to help you begin to conceptualize your project.  See General Proposal Advice.

How do I build an effective team?


Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) has a lot of resources and advice on building collaborations and teams.  Reach out to BRDO for a consultation on your project:

What do I need to know to define a gift funded project?


Gifts may be given for specific purposes, including research projects, but funding is given with the intent that the campus has broad flexibility to utilize it for said purpose.

  • Gifts do not require anything of value, tangible or intangible, to be returned to the donor. Gift funded projects should aim to advance knowledge in that area or on that topic, as opposed to delivering data or a product to a funder. In addition, gifts should only require broad stewardship reporting, if any, to the donor on the progress of purposes funded.
  • The campus retains the exclusive right to any intellectual property, patent rights, copyright, or other materials produced as a result of work performed with a gift. Gifts cannot be associated with any commitments to deliver or share intellectual property and data.
  • Gifts are never given by the federal government. Gifts must benefit Berkeley by supporting activities that relate to the university’s mission of teaching, research, and public service. Therefore, subawards cannot be made from gift funds. Money cannot be sent to collaborators at other institutions.
  • Gifts are negotiated and processed by the University Development & Alumni Relations Office, Fund Management team.
How do I get help?


The Berkeley Research Development Office (BRDO) is a great place to start. Contact BRDO staff have expertise in proposal development for a variety of funders. If your proposal is outside their area of expertise, they will refer you to the correct resource. 

For general help, please reach out to

How can I provide feedback on this website?


We want this Grant Life Cycle webpage to be useful, and we welcome all feedback. Please use this form to provide feedback to our team: Grant Life Cycle feedback form.