Project Summary/Abstract and Project Narrative: What’s the Difference and What to Include


When writing an NIH grant application, applicants are asked to develop a Project Summary/Abstract and a Project Narrative, two sections that, if funded, are made available on RePORTER to help the public understand the value of NIH-funded research. Check out the table below to see how they compare and what to include.

Project Summary/Abstract Project Narrative
A succinct and accurate description of the proposed work Communicates the public health relevance of the project to the public
30 lines of text or less No more than 2-3 sentences
Should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and understandable to a scientifically literate reader Use plain language understandable by a general audience
Include: the project’s broad, long-term objectives and specific aims, and a description of the research design and methods. Do not include: proprietary or confidential information, or descriptions of past accomplishments. Describe how, in the short or long term, the research would contribute to: the fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems, and/or the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.
If the application is funded, the summary/abstract will be available on RePORTER If the application is funded, the narrative will be available on RePORTER

For more guidance, see the Application Guide for Project Summary/Abstract and Project Narrative.


  1. Why not change the name of the “Narrative” to “Public Health Statement” to more clearly guide applicants?

    1. Your suggestion makes perfect sense, Jed, and we would love to do that. But the form is a fed-wide form used by the research agencies, many of which do not have missions associated with public health, so the field name needs to be generic.

  2. For the Project Summary/Abstract, this page says, “Use plain language understandable by a general audience,” while the application instructions say, “This section should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and understandable to a scientifically literate reader.” Which is it?

    1. Please follow the application instructions in this case. We have updated the post to reflect this. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  3. Is there a specific form that should be uploaded for the narrative or is a pdf with three sentences in it sufficient?

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

    1. There may be situations where the summary/abstract is updated prior to award. In such cases, the funding IC will work with the applicant to update as appropriate.

  5. Can you please add the Specific Aims to this table comparison? I am confused why you are having us write both a Summary and a Specific Aims, which seems like a duplication of the work. Thanks

    1. I agree. If you submit specific aims in a separate document, why are they to be included in the project summary which is only 30 lines?

  6. For the Project Summary/Abstract, can you please confirm if blank lines do not count toward the 30 lines of text limit and also if a document header does count as a line of text?

  7. The Project Summary/Abstract format requirement states it’s limited to 30 lines of text, and must follow the required font and margin specifications. There’s further information that states “The entire “Project Summary/Abstract” attachment is limited to 30 lines of text”. Does this mean the heading would be included in the 30 lines of text?

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