START BY TELLING THEM WHAT THEY’RE GOING TO GET, NOT WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO.
A great proposal addresses the reviewer’s need. A great title highlights your solution to that need. Emphasize the results, not the activities.Here’s a good technique for writing a great title:
- Make a list of words in your proposal that are important. Focus on those that convey the novelty of your idea.
- Brainstorm as many titles as you can — write down everything that seems reasonable. (Hint: combine the words from #1 in different ways)
- You have 255 characters – don’t use acronyms just to cram more words in! Avoid acronyms entirely unless they are unambiguous (e.g., DNA).
- Pick your favorite five and give that list to (a) colleagues and friends both within and outside your fields. Ask what piques their interest.
- If opinions converge on one title, use it. If they converge on two, think about combining the concepts into a new title. If they don’t converge, write five more titles and repeat step 4.
NEXT, SUPPORT YOUR TITLE WITH APPROPRIATE KEYWORDS.
These can be techniques, theories, subdisciplines, debates, compounds—anything that frames your work in a context others will recognize.
One way to find good keywords is to visit the NSF webpage for the field in which you’re applying. Follow the link at the bottom of the page to projects that program has already funded. Download the data to an excel file and look over the titles and abstracts, then see what keywords the scholars used for projects that are similar to yours.