RA Essentials Job Aid - How to Read a Solicitation


Reading a solicitation can be a time-consuming and overwhelming process, yet it is critical as the solicitation is the primary guide to creating and writing a successful proposal. All of the sponsor's priorities should be referred to in the solicitation and should be responded to in the proposal to reduce the risk of proposal rejection. Here are some tips and tricks for finding these key pieces of information within the solicitation.


Pay close attention to formatting requirements including but not limited to the following:


Pay close attention to the following eligibility requirements:

Special Instructions

Make sure to read whether there are special requirements or exclusions as well as additional compliance requirements.

Common Acronyms

There are many names for solicitations and funding opportunities. Here are some of the most common ones:

BAABroad Agency Announcement 
FOA Funding Opportunity Announcement
NOF(O)Notice of Funding (Opportunity)
PAProgram Announcement
PONProgram Opportunity Notice
RFARequest for Applications
RFPRequest for Proposal

Sponsor-specific Guidance: Federal Government Solicitations

Smart Tip: Use the search function on each solicitation. Enter “CTRL F” to activate the key word search on any document type.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

These tips refer to the most common type of NIH grant solicitation, the R01.

    • Section II: Award Information—Any special instructions will be found here (e.g., funding ceiling)
    • Section III: Eligibility Information—Read this section carefully to determine eligibility requirements for both the PI and the institution.
    • Section IV: Application and Submission Information
      • Pay special attention to Part 2: Content and Form of Application Submission as this is where the formatting information can be found. Make sure to bookmark the link to the Table of Page Limits which can be found under the heading “Page Limitations”.
      • Read Part 4: Submission Dates and Times in this section.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

These solicitations can be quite long and repetitive. Here are tips to make it easier to find what you need.

Department of Defense (DOD)

DOD is different from NIH and NSF in that the solicitations do not follow a standard format and vary depending on the funding branch within the DOD. Solicitations can be found online at Grants.gov, but they differ from the two types above in that you must download the PDF of the solicitation. These can also be quite lengthy—anywhere from 20 to 200 pages, but the PDF is usually clickable, so you can jump from the Table of Contents to the key sections.  

The best way to find eligibility, formatting, special instructions and contacts on DOD solicitations is to use the search function within the document. You can access this by entering “CTRL” + “F”. Once that window pops up, enter key words such as “eligibility” or “eligible” to determine PI and institutional eligibility. When looking for key dates, try searching for “dates”, “deadlines” or any other synonyms. With DOD solicitations, you will need to be flexible and creative when searching for the key pieces of information on the solicitation.

Sponsor-specific Guidance: Non-Government Solicitations

This category includes nonprofit, industry/for-profit, foreign institutions, institutions of higher learning and UC Programs. These solicitations tend to be more straightforward than government solicitations. Just look for key words related to formatting, eligibility and special instructions.

Important distinctions:

  1. UC Programs are not the same as a state program; they are their own category. UC Programs refers to solicitations put forth by the UC Office of the President (UCOP).
  2. Other University of California (UC) schools are considered institutions of higher learning, not UC Programs.

Smart Tips:




                                          Up to = ceiling (maximum)              At least = floor (minimum)