The Project Summary/Abstract is a summary of your research project and a required component of NIH research applications. This section should be a self-contained statement of the objectives and methods to be employed in the project; it is meant to serve as a succinct and accurate description of the proposed work when separated from the rest of your application. It should be informative to others working in similar or related fields.

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Write the Summary/Abstract last, but give it serious attention. Along with the Specific Aims section, this is sometimes all the reviewers read or at least what first holds their interest. Above all, it must be easily understood to a scientifically or technically literate lay reader.

It must contain a description of the proposed activity that is suitable for dissemination to the public. Never include any proprietary or confidential information in this section. If the application is funded, it will be entered into an NIH database, made available on the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) and become public information.

This section must be no more than thirty lines of text that follow the required font and margin specifications; typically, just over half a page.

Write this section in five paragraphs of two to three themed sentences that total no more than 30 lines of text:

  • Background: Present the history of research in the clinical area that is the topic of your project.
  • Gap: Describe the current gap in knowledge and how your project proposes to fill that gap.
  • Specific Aims: Describe the hypothesis-driven research objectives and the tasks you will employ to meet them.
  • Significance: So what and who cares? Describe why it matters if you complete this research and who will care the most about a positive outcome.
  • Investigator, Institution & Collaborator Strength: Describe the qualifications of the PI and collaborators. Include any unique characteristics of the research environment to convince the reviewers of the strength of your team and the commitment of the institution.
  • Goal: Restate the goal of your research and finish the narrative on an upswing with a positive and convincing thought about your project.

Note: Write the five paragraphs according to these themes, but without the use of headers.

The Project Narrative

The Project Narrative is a separate required component of NIH and other PHS agencies applications. It consists of no more than two or three sentences, describing the relevance of the research to public health. That’s it! In this section, use plain language that can be understood by a general lay audience.