Preparing a Starr Student Research Grant Proposal

The submission process for STARR Research Grant proposals is electronic. 

Notice to students, parents, and teachers. An important part of the IJAS program is teaching students the importance of communicating clearly. For that reason we reward well thought out proposals that follow directions and include clear concise writing. Students who work for several years in the program may do original research before graduating high school but it is not required. We encourage students to explore research to learn methods scientists employ to understand our natural world. It may open opportunities they have not considered. Learning the process with the scientists and science educators in the Iowa Academy of Science is a unique opportunity open to all students in Iowa. 

Preparing Your Proposal

The proposal must not exceed four single-sided pages in length, excluding the cover page, the budget and copies of any required safety forms (see Projects Requiring Special Precautions below).

Pages should have at least a 0.75 inch margin on all sides, text should be 1.5 or double spaced and size 10 or 12 font.  The proposal must be typewritten or word processed (hand written proposals will not be accepted). The use of good grammar, punctuation, and correct spelling will enhance the proposal.  

One original paper copy (including signatures of the student, teacher/mentor and principal/parent) must be mailed to:

IJAS - Iowa Academy of Science
BRC 50
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0508.


Each proposal should consist of 5 sections: 

  1. Cover Sheet

  2. Introduction and Problem Statement

  3. Review of Literature

  4. Procedure

  5. Budget

Proposals requiring special safety or ethical considerations require additional documentation.  See Projects Requiring Special Precautions at the end of the instructions. 


Prepare each section as follows:


1. Cover Sheet

Click here for a cover sheet example

The cover sheet should take up one complete page.  No other part of the grant proposal should be included on this page.  The cover sheet does not count toward the proposal page limit. 

Required Elements: 

  • brief, yet descriptive title of the proposed project

  • researcher's (student's) name

  • researcher's (student's) age and grade

  • researcher's (student's) address and email address

  • name of mentoring teacher or scientist

  • email of the mentoring teacher or scientist

  • name of school administrator and title

  • school name and address

  • This statement: "We below, certify that this grant proposal is a true and accurate representation of the research intentions of the student."
  • signature of student researcher
  • signature of mentoring teacher or scientist (if a summer proposal, include summer address of mentor)

  • signature of school administrator (home school students may substitute a guardian signature for school administrator)

  • if this is a proposal for a continuation of a previously funded project, then the researcher MUST state: "Continuation Grant" on the cover page and explain (in 1 or 2 sentences) how the new project expands upon the original project
  • if this is a Feedback Only Proposal type Feedback Only at the bottom of the cover page. 

Download one of the cover page templates from the list below: 

ssrg_coversheet_template_v11.docx (for Word 07-10)
ssrg_coversheet_template_v11.doc (for Word 97-2003)
ssrg_coversheet_template_v11.rtf (for other programs)


2. Section 1Introduction - Statement of the Problem

Include one or more paragraphs that answer all of the following questions (not necessarily in this order): 

  • What is the question/problem you are researching?
  • What is your hypothesis?
  • Why did you select the hypothesis you did?
  • Why are you investigating this question? / What do you hope to learn from doing the research?
  • What is the scientific relevance of your problem? (who else cares about this or why should anyone else care? is there a possible application for your research?)

This section should illustrate to the reviewers that you understand your topic, that you have narrowed your project to one feasible investigation and that you have developed a testable hypothesis.  This section lets the reviewers know why this project is important to you and possibly to others.  In most cases this will be the largest section of a proposal, generally taking up at least one full page of text.  Proposals with 'slim' introductions generally score lower overall. Padding with extraneous text may also lower your score. 


3. Section 2 Review of Current Literature

Provide an annotated list of references that illustrate you have researched your topic and that you have used what you have learned to develop your research plan.    Sources need to be in a consistent proper bibliographic format.  The literature list must be annotated.  This means that for each reference, the student should supply a short (1-3 sentence) description of how that resource was helpful in development of the project, what was learned from this source and an how it helped make the project better.

See examples: annotations_sample2011.pdf

The list should include information beyond encyclopedias, including online encyclopedias like wikipedia (this means wikipedia is not a good source, read the judges comments page for more information). Popular science publications such as Scientific American, Science, and New Scientist would make good sources. Resources from the National Science Digital Library make good sources. 

Resource: National Digital Library


4. Section 3 Proposed Procedure

Steps should be numbered and presented in chronological order.  The procedure may be divided into sections or protocols.  A complete procedure will address each of these issues:

  • what data will be collected
  • how the data will be collected
  • how the quality of the data will be insured (including descriptions of trials, constants and/or controls)
  • how the data will be organized and analyzed to develop a conclusion about the hypothesis (the reader should be able to determine how the researcher will decide if the hypothesis was supported by the data)

This is the proposed research plan. It should include all the things you intend to do. Every material/supply that is identified in the procedures should be included in the budget and vise versa.  Your procedure should provide enough detail that another student/scientist could repeat the study. 

Click here for tips about writing clear concise procedures.

 The Student Programs Committee understands that during the project, perhaps even as a result of the comments of IJAS reviewers, it may become necessary to change the procedures. This will not effect your award as long as the intent of the research remains the same.

 At the end of the procedures, include a statement that identifies the name of the project mentor (supervising teacher and/or scientific mentor) and briefly describes the support this person will provide. What experience does your mentor/supervisor have that will benefit the project. Do not leave out this information.

 Projects involving the use of animals and the study of living things must follow all state and local laws and the guidelines outlined in the NSTA document "Responsible Use of Organisms in Precollege Science". This document is available at: See below for other safety issues and required documentation.


 5. Section 4 Proposal Budget

In a spreadsheet or table, list all of the equipment and materials required to complete the project. For each item, provide the item name, the cost per unit, quantity required for the project, total cost, and who will provide the item. You may also wish to provide a vendor for each item.  After the table include a paragraph describing the budget.  Include a sentence that reads as follows:  I request that the Iowa Junior Academy of Science provide <enter the amount of money you wish for the IJAS to provide, it MUST be between $20.00 and $200.00> for my research project.  If you do not include this statement, your project may not be funded! 

Also if you request more than $200.00, your request will not be funded!  Asking for more money than IJAS allows does not show more need, it shows you are not following directions. Following directions is extremely important when requesting grant money.

Allowable Items for Funding

The Starr Student Research Grant money can only be used to purchase expendable items that would not normally be expected to be found in a school science classroom.  Items of equipment (microscopes, cameras, light fixtures, balances, GPS units, glassware, rulers, water testing probes, etc.) will not be funded. These items should be provided by your school.  If you have problems accessing specific equipment, please contact the IAS Office and we will try to find a local scientist to assist you with access, however we can not buy equipment for schools or students.  If the Student Programs Committee knows of a free or less expensive source of the equipment/materials you need, they will include this information in the proposal comments.

Examples of items the grant can fund include: film/photos/color printing (limit $20.00), agar medium, soil, batteries, light bulbs, seeds, standardized solutions and buffers, and other disposable items or items under $50 each that are not likely to be found in your science classroom (aquariums, test kits).  Modest expenses for laboratory tests may be funded when the student is able visit the lab and observe or participate in the testing.  IAS does not fund the materials need to create your science fair poster or binder (except up to $20 in film/color printing/printing). For non-disposable items over $50, students may request up to $50 toward the purchase of an individual item over $50 as long as they explain a) who is paying for the rest of the item and b) what will happen to the item after the experiment is complete.

For projects that require significant travel (more than 10 miles from home/school on a regular basis) to collect data or specimens, the student may request travel expenses at a rate of $0.285/mile for up to 200 miles. 

The budget must demonstrate that the student researcher has access to all the items necessary for the project, whether covered by the grant or not. It must also be clear which items will be purchased with grant funding and the amount of funding the student is requesting (see example: ssrg_sample_budget.pdf).


Projects Requiring Special Precautions

Projects which include use of human subjects, vertebrate animals, potentially hazardous materials, biological agents, pathogenic agents, regulated substances, or human/animal tissues will require documentation that proper safety procedures will be followed.  To lower the burden on the students, IAS will accept copies of State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa paperwork as evidence that proper procedures are being taken.  Complete the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa forms and attach a copy to your grant proposal (these forms will not count toward the grant proposal's 4 page limit).

For Science Fair of Iowa SRC forms click here.
For International rules acceptable for pre-college scientific research click here.

Please contact IAS if you have any questions about which forms should be attached.  Not including proper safety forms will severely reduce the chances that your project will be funded.


All projects must conform with state and federal laws.


Be sure to click on the buttons below to learn more about how to request your grant funds, to understand the criteria used by the reviewers, and how to avoid the common mistakes that may cost you a grant.