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How to Write a Cover Letter for a Completed Research Proposal

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When you complete a research proposal, you must write a special type of cover letter known as a letter of transmittal to accompany the proposal. The letter of transmittal introduces the research proposal to the audience and provides an overview of the purpose and contents of the proposal. If the recipient does not like what they read in the letter, or if the letter is unprofessional, they may not read the research proposal. The letter of transmittal is critically important for the proposal's success.


The introduction provides a brief description of the project and explains the sender's reason for passing it along to the audience. The introduction should be no more than two or three brief statements. For example, "I am pleased to submit to you this research proposal for my project, tentatively titled 'Implications of Virtual Teams: Opportunities and Challenges.' The purpose for this research proposal is to request funding from the John J. Whittmeyer Faculty Research Fund to complete the project."

Describing the Project

The main paragraphs of the letter of transmittal should describe the project. The description should contain enough detail to give the audience a clear idea of the research and what the researcher needs to complete the project, such as the funding or time off required. The description of the project should also highlight the significance or the potential for the project to capture the interest of the audience and to encourage them to read further. However, the project description paragraphs should be brief and the entire project description should take up no more than half of one page under typical circumstances.


The letter of transmittal should wrap up with a closing paragraph that thanks the audience for its time, establishes a goodwill tone, and provides or reiterates the author's contact information. The closing paragraph should be no more than one or two statements. For example, "Thank you for your time and attention. I can be reached by telephone at XXX-XXX-XXXX or by e-mail at [email protected] for questions or for further information about the project."


While the content of the letter is important, following a few basic tips can improve the audience's impression of the letter and the research proposal. Use standard business letter formatting for the letter of transmittal. This formatting is widely recognized and has a distinctive professional look. In addition, it is important to proofread your letter carefully. Even one grammatical error can cause the audience to dismiss your research proposal.


Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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