What Should I Include in the Project Summary/Abstract?


When writing an NIH grant application, remember that the Project Summary/Abstract will be viewable to the public on RePORTER if the application is funded.  Keep in mind the following guidance:

    • Limit length to 30 lines or less of text
    • Include the project’s broad, long-term objectives and specific aims
    • Include a description of the research design and methods for achieving the stated goals
    • Do NOT include proprietary or confidential information, or trade secrets
    • Write in plain language, so even a non-scientist can understand the importance of the project


  1. Hi,
    Does the 30 lines of text include the first line which states “Project Summary”? Or are the 30 lines exclusively for the description of the summary? Thank you!

      1. Just to further clarify the response to the first question from 2015; would the header “Project Summary/Abstract” be included in the 30-line count?

    1. Because this post was from 2015, I would like the NIH to confirm the following still applies:
      1) the header of “Abstract” or “Project Summary” does count toward the 30 lines
      2) the header of “Project Narrative” does count towards the three sentences/

  2. In applying for grants I have found that most initial applications limit you to 500 words total. This means the Project Summary, Target Population, Goals, Outcomes, and Timeline have to be concise and interesting enough to get your reader to turn the page.

  3. For the grants not funded, would the Abstract be published as well? If funded, when will the Abstract published? The info will be helpful for us in preparing Summary with information that has patent application pending (not yet filed).

    1. NIH only publishes abstracts of funded awards. It is normally available within a week of the grant award being made.

  4. Can we include facts in NIH proposal abstracts that require a reference and site that reference (Smith, 2016) in the text and also on the reference list at the end? Or should references not be in the abstract?

    1. The summary is meant to serve as a succinct and accurate description of the proposed work, and if the application is funded, the Project Description will be entered into an NIH database and made available on the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT, available at http://report.nih.gov), without the reference list. Thus, we do not recommend including citations in the summary/abstract. For more information, visit the application guide.

  5. Just to further clarify the response to the first question from 2015; would the header “Project Summary/Abstract” be included in the 30-line count?

  6. In terms of K01 award, should the project summary includes candidates research/career development plan? Or just summary for research plan?

    1. When applying to the parent K01, in addition to summarizing the research project to be conducted under the career development award, the project summary should describe the candidate’s career development plan, the candidate’s career goals, and the environment in which the career development will take place. The entire “Project Summary/Abstract” attachment is limited to 30 lines of text. Please see the NIH application guide and career (K)-specific instructions for more information.

    1. NIH recommends text only to convey the project summary. If the application is funded, it will appear as text only in some of our systems (e.g. the NIH RePORTER database).

  7. For grant applications recommended for funding, when will the Project Summary/Abstract be published on the NIH website? Will it be published before the Start Date?

    1. Thank you for your question. We just added this response to our RePORTER FAQ page (https://report.nih.gov/faq.aspx?sid=2 ):

      Generally, grants, along with their official abstract, will appear in RePORTER 7-10 days after their Budget Start Date.

      RePORTER data is refreshed each week (usually late Sunday nights), so newly added projects generally available on Monday mornings.
      To be included in the weekly refresh, the Budget Start Date of the funded award must have passed.

  8. If the proposal is going to be awarded, can a project summary/abstract be changed/modified before the award is issued?

  9. When writing the project summary for a renewal application, can the current grant results, for which the renewal is based be included?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *