Writing a STARR Grant Proposal

An important part of submitting a research grant is taking care to follow directions. The scientists and science educators who read your proposal are responsible for reviewing many proposals. The directions below are designed to help you submit a well organized proposal which in turn helps the reviewers provide fair evaluations and helpful comments for you. Please read through the following instructions before starting and submitting your proposal.

Directions for Submitting Your Proposal

Notice! 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.  See STEP 5 below.

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.  Handwritten proposals will not be accepted. The use of good grammar, punctuation, and correct spelling will enhance the proposal.  The submission must include the following sections:

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Introduction and Problem Statement
  3. Review of Literature
  4. Procedure
  5. Budget
  6. Special Precautions (if required)

You proposal will be uploaded to the Iowa Academy of Science on the STARR Grant submission page.  Immediately after it has been submitted you will receive a confirmation email. The email will serve as your Proposal Authorization Form which must be signed and returned to the Academy office to complete your submission. The entire process is discussed in detail below.

Proposals requiring special safety or ethical considerations require additional documentation.  See STEP 5 below.

Cover Sheet

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.

What to put on the Cover Sheet

  • Brief descriptive title of the proposed project
  • Researcher's name
  • Researcher's age and grade
  • Researcher's address and email address
  • Name of mentoring teacher or scientist
  • Email of mentoring teacher or scientists
  • 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 the researcher
  • Signature of mentoring teacher or scientist (if a summer proposal include the summer address of the mentor)
  • Signature of school administrator (home school students may substitute a guardian signature)
  • Put "STARR Grant Application" or "Review Only" at the bottom of the cover page.

Prepare each section as follows:

Section 1: Introduction - 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 doing the research?
  • What is the scientific relevance of you 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 down 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 than those with a more complete discussion.

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 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 how it helped make the project better.

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. 

Tips for Creating Your Literature Review

Internet sources should be limited to known authorities in the given field. Examples of acceptable internet resources include government sites (.gov), university sites (.edu), and sites sponsored by world, national or regionally known organizations. A personal webpage (even a personal webpage hosted on an .edu site) is generally not an acceptable source.

The majority of sources for a high school proposal should be primary sources. A primary source is one which the author of the article did the research - is the authority. A primary source is one which allows an investigator to evaluate the research methods.

Secondary sources are not acceptable. Those sources are articles in which the author describes someone else's research, data, or ideas. All aged students should avoid sources which repackage content from other sources. For example, if you find a NASA News brief about your topic posted to a website or published in a magazine you should find and cite the article at the original NASA source.

Be sure that each of your sources are different. Different articles by different authors or in different issues of the same paper or electronic journal count as different sources. However, different pages of the same website rarely count as different sources. For example, if I was doing a project on water quality and wanted to know more about the Clean Water Act, using three different URLs at the EPA would be considered to be one, not three, sources.

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.  

The Student Programs Committee of the Iowa Academy of Science 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 by clicking on the button below. 

See below for other safety issues and required documentation.


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 an amount between $20.00 and $200.00> for my research project." If you do not include this statement, your project may not be funded! If you request more than $200.00, your request will not be funded.  

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 needed 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.

Section 5: 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).

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 including using equipment or substances according to labelled instructions.

Submit your Proposal

Your proposal must be submitted online from the STARR Grant Submission Page. This page has all of the forms needed to complete your submission. A link to the page is provided below. The form assures that you will provide all necessary information and files. After submitting you will receive a confirmation email. The email becomes your Proposal Authorization Form (see below).

Submit your Proposal Authorization Form

Print the confirmation email you receive after submitting your proposal, obtain all required signatures, and return it to the Iowa Academy of Science. Return the form as a PDF using the Proposal Authorization Upload Form on the submission page or by mail. The form must be received by the Academy within 7 days of your submission. Your submission is not complete until we receive the proposal and the signed Proposal Authorization. You will receive a confirmation email. Direct questions to the Iowa Academy of Science at 319-273-2021 or email iascience@uni.edu.

You are a Scientist

By following the process of observing, questioning, developing a hypothesis, measuring, arriving at a conclusion, and presenting your findings you are a scientist.  Doing research is an important step as you investigate the world around you through science. We hope you enjoy the scientific experience and the discoveries you make along the way.