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This post is one of a series about what goes into proposals that win grants. Its topic is research-based rationales. Its context is the United States of America.


During the past decade (if not longer), more and more competitive grant programs – both public and private – have required applicants to describe the scientific and/or statistical basis for selecting the strategies they plan to use in their projects. Consequently, many more grant makers and programs now require applicants to document the authorities they cite in a proposal narrative.




Citations to research most frequently must appear in a plan of action or program design, of which one element will be a research-based rationale. On occasion, they may occur elsewhere as well.


In making research references, ordinarily it proves prudent to:

  1. Cite recent work and favor materials published within the past five years
  2. Cite older work only if it was a pivotal or watershed event when first published
  3. Provide concise citations in standard formats
  4. Adopt and use a consistent citation format
  5. Select a citation format consistent with a funder’s instructions or requirements
  6. Give precisely as much citation detail as a given funder requires, if it specifies a style or format
  7. Cite only references actually used in the proposal narrative
  8. Cite one or more of the funder’s publications, if any is available


Choose a citation format and use it consistently. Among the more commonly used citation formats are:

  1. American Psychological Association Publication Manual (APA)
  2. Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)
  3. Modern Language Association Style Manual (MLA)


Links to these style manuals, as well as to many other writing tools, are found at Style Guides (Collection).



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