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Creating the Research Plan - 12 Pages

To judge the merit of the application, reviewers will comment on certain criteria. See the peer review criteria for your program type.

Before beginning the Research Plan review the program description, noting especially the qualifications and any restrictions for the program for which you are applying, and peer review criteria. The Research Plan should address all of the peer review criteria.


The Research Plan must be created as a Word document, converted to a Portable Document Format (PDF) file, and uploaded to Grants@Heart.  Only PDF files will be accepted.  When creating the Research Plan, you must comply exactly with the Association's format/type requirements and page limits below.  Failure to comply will result in the administrative withdrawal (disqualification) of the application.  

  • Only Portable Document Format (PDF) files will be accepted.
  • File must be single-spaced. 
  • No more than 15 characters per inch (cpi) or an average of no more than 15 cpi (cpi includes symbols, punctuation and spaces).
  • No less than ¾" margins allowed.
  • Sixty lines per page are the maximum allowed  (The average number of lines per page using the font and point size below will be approximately 50-55 lines).
  • Arial Font style, 12 point font size for Windows users; Helvetica Font style, 12 point font size for Macintosh users
  • Figures, charts, tables, graphics and legends may be smaller in size but must be clear and legible
  • Twelve page limit

Users of other word processing programs must adjust settings appropriately and should measure text after saving and printing as a PDF.  Type requirements should be checked using a standard measuring device (such as a ruler), rather than relying on the font selected for a particular word program/printer combination.  Type size specifications must be observed in the text of your research plan or the application will not be reviewed and will be withdrawn.  Adherence to font and margin requirements is necessary.  No applicant should have an advantage over other applicants by providing more content in his/her application by using smaller, denser type. The AHA has the responsibility to make the final determination of conformance to format requirements and the authority to withdraw applications.  This decision is final and not subject to appeal.

Internet Web site addresses (URLs) may not be used to provide information necessary to the review because reviewers are under no obligation to view the Internet sites. Moreover, the reviewers are cautioned not to directly access an Internet site as it could compromise their anonymity.

The only place a URL may be used is in the biographical sketch as described in the instructions for that form. Provide a URL to a full list of your published work as found in a publicly available digital database such as SciENcv or My Bibliography, which are maintained by the US National Library of Medicine.

If this application is a "resubmission" of a previous proposal, mark changes within the Research Plan by using brackets, italics or bold (do not shade or underline changes).  A separate document addressing modifications is also required.  View the Resubmission Instructions for more information. 

Type the research plan specifically following the outline given below, in the same sequence.  All items should be addressed.  Indicate N/A or None if not applicable to this application. The suggested lengths (in parenthesis) are guidelines only; the entire proposed research plan must not exceed the 12-page limit.

  1. Specific Aims (1/2-1 page)
    Provide a clear, concise summary of the aims of the work proposed and its relationship to your long-term goals.  State the hypothesis to be tested.
  2. Background and Significance (2 pages)
    Sketch the background leading to this application.  Summarize important results outlined by others in the same field, critically evaluating existing knowledge.  Identify gaps that this project is intended to fill.

    State concisely the importance and relevance of the research to cardiovascular function or disease, stroke, or to related fundamental problems. Also, it is incumbent upon the applicant to make a clear link between the project and the mission of the AHA.  The significance section will be assessed in terms of potential impact on the AHA mission; this will be factored into the overall priority score as noted in the peer review criteria.
  3. Preliminary Studies (1-1 1/2 pages)
    Describe concisely previous work related to the proposed research by the applicant that will help to establish the experience and competence of the investigator to pursue the proposed project.  Include pilot studies showing the work is feasible.  (If none, so state.)
  4. Research Design and Methods (7-8 pages)
    Description of proposed tests, methods or procedures should be explicit, sufficiently detailed, and well defined to allow adequate evaluation of the approach to the problem.  Describe any new methodology and its advantage over existing methodologies.

    Clearly describe overall design of the study, with careful consideration to statistical aspects of the approach, the adequacy of controls, and number of observations, as well as how results will be analyzed.  Include details of any collaborative arrangements that have been made.

    Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims.

    Note: If a proposed research project involves human subjects, the population sampled shall be inclusive of the general population, of relevance to the scientific question posed, without restriction in regard to gender, race, age, and socioeconomic status.  Proposals that intentionally restrict the population sampled must include a compelling scientific rationale for such research design.  Be sure to address this topic.
  5. Ethical aspects of the proposed research (1/4-1/2 page)
    Describe any special consideration you have given to all ethical issues involved in your proposed investigations (biohazards or human subjects, etc.), identifying risks and management.  Be sure to address this topic.  If using animals, visit the Vertebrate Animal Subjects instructions. Discuss the nature of the informed consent that will be obtained if the research involves human subjects.  If the proposed project involves no ethical questions, indicate "5: NONE". 

End of text for the Research Plan (not to exceed 12 pages.)

Reminder:  if this application is a "resubmission" of a previous proposal, mark changes within the Research Plan by using brackets, italics or bold (do not shade or underline changes).  A separate document addressing resubmission modifications is also required.

PLEASE NOTE:  Although your project may study the same or a similar issue/problem as another investigator, your research proposal should be your own original/creative writing.  You should cite all information taken from another researcher or publication. Failure to do so may result in your proposal being flagged for Ethical Disapproval due to plagiarism.

Submission of applications to the AHA with identical or significantly similar content from a sponsor to a grant program and their fellow to fellowship program is prohibited.  Both applications will receive a recommendation for “disapproval”. If a grant application is submitted by the sponsor of a fellowship application, both applications may be funded if there is no duplication of aims.

View the Resubmission Instructions for more information. 

Notice: A document that exceeds the page limit or file type will be rejected by Grants@Heart.