The purpose & aims page should recruit the reviewer as an advocate for your proposal. They will be the ones “pitching” your proposal for the panel of reviewers.

The target audience is the review panel, and the goal is to enlist reviewers as partners and advocates of the proposal.

  • Project milestones
  • Hypotheses
  • most important elements

Effective aims page:

  • The research is important
  • The methods are likely to be successful
  • The applicant is the right person and team to do the project

…all aims pages should educate the nonexpert reader on existing literature, identify a knowledge gap, propose a solution grounded in the aims themselves, and demonstrate the impact of the work.

Four components of specific aims page

From: Monte, A. A., & Libby, A. M. (2018). Introduction to the Specific Aims Page of a Grant Proposal. Academic Emergency Medicine, 25(9), 1042–1047.

Introductory Paragraph

  • First sentence should be compelling and catchy, and include all important keywords, and show the importance of the work.
    • Don’t to bad things happen to many people, be more specific
      • Bad: “Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US”
      • Good: “After cardiac arrest, therapeutic cooling after return of spontaneous circulation improves neurologic outcomes”
  • One or two high-level sentences of current knowledge is enough
  • Then describe the knowledge gap or critical need

Rationale paragraph

  • Reveal your proposed solution to bridge the knowledge gap
    • High-level proposal to fill the knowledge gap
    • Why it is the right solution
    • Why this team is the right one to do it
  • Example statements
    • ”… through the development of a novel …”
    • ”… we now have the unique ability to …”
    • ”… based on our compelling pilot data …”
  • Overall objective statement to close out the section.
    • A succinct summary of what you will accomplish. Be specific!
      • Bad: “cure cancer”
      • Good: “improve the staging and treatment of resectable lung cancer”

In terms of critical need, it is especially desirable to have a “burning platform” for the proposed study. It may be urgent because it is timely such as when major health policy adoption hinges on a study result, when a gap is on the critical path to allow an entire field of study to progress, or if there is an advantage for safety and efficacy pending the outcome of the proposed study.

Specific aims

Taken as a whole, specific aims outline the key steps to fulfil objectives that address a critical need. Aims are clear, achievable, and directly related to the content provided in the preceding paragraphs, with no new terms or “first mentions” in the aims.

  • 2-4 aims typically.
    • You can have subaims (1a, 1b, 1c), but they can clutter up your aims page and lower clarity
  • Aims can start with action words, “measure”, “investigate”, “estimate”, “implement”
  • One common approach: Each aim generates a result that can be written as a manuscript
  • Some agencies want each aim linked to a hypothesis or specific data source, others want anticipated problems and solutions
Best practices for specific aims
Write aims early and stay open to revision
Use active verbs and massive parallelism, no first mentions in aims
Consider a figure to illustrate the story and relation between aims
Write to nonexperts, compared to approach in publications
Avoid “aim dependency” where one aim cannot be completed if a prior aim fails

Overall impact paragraph

  • Outlines the expected outcome and highlights the health and scientific impact identified in the first sentence of the page.
    • Value proposal to the funding agency, the field of inquiry, and society at large
  • You can also suggest specific next studies that build on the proposed study

Assessing an effective Specific Aims Page

Elements of a Specific Aims Page
Defining the problem/critical need
Known about the subject
Knowledge gap(s)
The problem to solve due to the gap
Urgent/important about this as a priority problem to solve
Proposed solution/rationale
Central hypothesis/overall statement of need
Why choose this study to address the identified problem
Team’s qualification and research environment
Specific aims
Major variables in each aim linked to gap
Testable hypotheses and planned interpretations for all findings
Alternative approaches for each aim in case of unexpected trouble
Expected outcome and key learning from study
Innovation and impact of aims
One logical next research step if study is successful


Monte, A. A., & Libby, A. M. (2018). Introduction to the Specific Aims Page of a Grant Proposal. Academic Emergency Medicine, 25(9), 1042–1047.