Neutron Science Research Proposal Writing Tips

To obtain beam time for experiments at ORNL, users must submit a proposal. A complete, thoughtful, detailed, and well-written proposal is a key part of the process for being accepted to conduct experiments at the Spallation Neutron Source and/or the High Flux Isotope Reactor.

Before you start writing a proposal for research at SNS or HFIR, review the following tips for developing a thorough, detailed, and clear proposal.

First, contact an instrument scientist from one of our instruments to ask about opportunities for collaboration and to get answers to your initial questions. Instrument staff members are available to:

  • Provide details about equipment and capabilities, including availability or subscription;
  • Discuss the feasibility of your approach;
  • Help estimate and justify the amount of facility time you are requesting;
  • Assist in determining why a specific facility is the best choice to meet your requirements; and
  • Provide constructive comments on your statement of research.

Second, include background information in your written proposal stating why the proposed experiment is important.

  • Include a precisely defined objective.
  • Don't combine loosely related experiments in a single proposal.
  • Clearly articulate the science case: state the problem and its importance.
  • Place your research plan in the context of what others are doing; include references to literature where appropriate.
  • Describe what is particularly innovative about your strategy to address the problem.
  • State why the proposal is timely.

Third, address how the experiment will make a difference and/or contribute to the related field of science. Describe the proposed work, including samples, methods, and procedures.

  • State clearly and exactly what you are going to synthesize, measure, or calculate.
  • Describe how your sample(s) have been characterized by other methods to ensure phase purity, crystal quality, or specific intrinsic behavior.
  • Provide sufficient detail to demonstrate that you have thought carefully about your plan.
  • Describe the techniques to be used to generate and analyze the data.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with prior work done in this area:
    • Refer to current literature on the subject, especially your own work.
    • Summarize the key points of cited references and explain how your proposed work fits in with prior work in this area.

Fourth, demonstrate your team's productivity at the facility, if applicable, by describing how the results of previous experiments were used and published.

  • Describe related results (both published and unpublished) from prior work done by your group.
  • Include key data in graphic format.
  • Explain why you need this particular user facility and instrument.
  • Justify the amount of time requested.
  • Identify potential problems and how you plan to avoid them; if you don't identify them, the reviewers will!

And fifth, your Statement of Research is limited to two pages. A template is available within IPTS as part of the proposal submission process.