The abstract outlines the proposed research, including objectives, methodology, and significance of the research.  Each sponsor has their own requirements.  Many times, the abstract is requested to be written in lay terms.  The abstract is usually used by the sponsor to publicize the work being proposed/awarded. 

Sponsor Specific Requirements 

Source: NIH 

The project summary is a succinct and accurate description of the proposed work and should be able to stand on its own (separate from the application). This section should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and understandable to a scientifically literate reader. Avoid both descriptions of past accomplishments and the use of the first person. Please be concise. 

  • Format: This section is limited to 30 lines of text, and must follow the required font and margin specifications. A summary which exceeds this length will be flagged as an error by the Agency upon submission. You will need to take corrective action before the application can be accepted. Attach this information as a PDF file.  
  • Content: State the application's broad, long-term objectives and specific aims, making reference to the health relatedness of the project (i.e., relevance to the mission of the agency). Describe the research design and methods for achieving the stated goals. Be sure that the project summary reflects the key focus of the proposed project so that the application can be appropriately categorized. Do not include proprietary, confidential information or trade secrets in the project summary. If the application is funded, the project summary will be entered into an NIH database and made available on the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT) and will become public information. 

Read complete NIH instructions  

Source: NSF 

Each proposal must contain a summary of the proposed project not more than one page in length. The Project Summary consists of an overview, a statement on the intellectual merit of the proposed activity, and a statement on the broader impacts of the proposed activity.  

  • The overview includes a description of the activity that would result if the proposal were funded and a statement of objectives and methods to be employed.  
  • The statement on intellectual merit should describe the potential of the proposed activity to advance knowledge.  
  • The statement on broader impacts should describe the potential of the proposed activity to benefit society and contribute to the achievement of specific, desired societal outcomes. 

The Project Summary should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields, and, insofar as possible, understandable to a broad audience within the scientific domain. It should not be an abstract of the proposal. The Project Summary may ONLY be uploaded as a Supplementary Document if use of special characters is necessary. Such Project Summaries must be formatted with separate headings for Overview, Intellectual Merit and Broader Impacts. Failure to include these headings will result in the proposal being returned without review. 

Read complete NSF instructions

Other Sponsors 

When developing an abstract for other sponsors, check the program announcement for specific instructions concerning content and formatting.