Proposal information

Which documents you need for your proposal and what you should consider in advance – here is an outline of all the stages leading up to submission. 

Our checklist serves as a guide to everything you need to cover in your proposal.

This is how to proceed with your proposal:

1. Check you are eligible to apply

All scientists with a completed doctorate who are working or would like to work at a university or non-university research institution in Germany in the future are eligible to apply. DFG funding is open to all subjects. Some DFG programmes are subject to specific formal or personal eligibility requirements. Details are explained under “Eligibility” in the respective guideline.

2. Set up DFG user account in elan

All proposals must be submitted online via the DFG portal elan: You will be issued with a personal DFG user account; once you have registered, your account usually will be activated on the next working day. Register promptly in elan and familiarise yourself with the functions!


Did you know? You only need a single user account with the DFG for different roles – whether as an applicant, as a reviewer or as a committee member.

3. Find out exactly which documents you need

Once you have found the right funding programme and checked you are eligible to apply, you can get started: in addition to the “Project Description” – the core of your proposal – you will need separate documents such as your CV. Some information is also requested separately in elan. You will find everything you need to know under the Prepare documents tab.

There are some points you need to take care of early on that are part of the underlying concept of your proposal. These include clarifying the infrastructure resources you need and obtaining statements and approvals in good time. You should also consider how you want to handle data generated in the research project. The general principles and framework conditions of DFG funding should be observed from the very outset.

  • Read through the principles and framework conditions carefully: by submitting your proposal, you agree to comply with the rules of good research practice. In particular, you must take care to ensure correct citations!

  • Apply for any permits you require as early as possible!

4. Plan and write the proposal

A proposal should set out the plans for research convincingly and be comprehensible without the need to consult additional sources. It must also contain all the information required for processing. You can use this checklist as a guide.

  • Discuss your project with experienced colleagues before submitting your proposal – and consult the research coordinators at your institution, too!

You can make the most of the preparation phase to find out what is important in terms of the review. The essential criteria are: quality of the project, objectives and work programme, applicant qualifications, work opportunities and scientific environment.

Did you know? Is English the common scientific language in your field? Feel free to write your proposal in English. This enables the DFG to access a larger pool of subject-related and unbiased reviewers in Germany and abroad.


5. Submit proposal via elan

Submit your proposal via the DFG portal elan. Generally speaking, there are no deadlines for individual proposals. If you make a submission in response to a call for proposals, however, the relevant deadline for submission applies.

When submitting your proposal, you select the appropriate primary subject area allocation yourself from the DFG subject area structure. Often a project will touch on several subject areas, so you can optionally select (one or more) additional subject areas for the allocation. The process is flexible and involves multiple stages, ensuring that competition is as fair as possible for interdisciplinary proposals, too.

Further questions?

You will need these documents for your proposal

The documents you need for your proposal depend on the funding programme you have chosen. However, all DFG proposals share a single basic structure. elan will guide you step by step through the proposal process and display all the required documents:

  • guidelines containing full details of the funding programme
  • proposal preparation instructions to help you fill in the “Project Description” and the supporting documents
  • a template for the required Appendix B “Project Description”

The DFG proposal at a glance

Your proposal always consists of the three parts A, B and C along with optional supporting documents.

Part A – Proposal Data and Obligations

  • Information on the project in German and English (e.g. title, summary, keywords, planned funding period)
  • Subject area allocation
  • Information on the persons and institutions involved
  • Modules and funds applied for
  • Declarations of commitment
  • This data is stored directly in elan via form fields. It is not possible to submit them as separate PDF documents.

Did you know? You will be asked twice which modules you would like to apply for and how much funding you require: in Part A in elan and a second time in Appendix B “Project Description”. The information you enter in both instances should be identical of course.

Part B – Project Description (Appendix B)

  • Appendix B is the core of your proposal: the detailed description of your research project!
  • The information required in the “Project Description” includes the following: Status of research and preliminary work, objectives, work programme, duration, modules applied for and funds.
  • Please use the current version of the “Project Description” template for your proposal.
  • You can prepare this document at your leisure and upload it as a PDF after you have completed Part A.

Did you know? The forms and guidelines are updated on a regular basis. For this reason, always be sure to use the current version of the “Project Description” form – and adhere to the formal requirements (such as font size, headings, numbering and specified page size). The current versions of the guidelines and proposal preparation instructions for each funding programme are also important!

Part C – Curriculum vitae (Appendix C) and other supporting documents where applicable 

  • Required: Academic curriculum vitae including list of publications (list of a maximum of ten of the most important publications). One CV is required per applicant.
  • Optional: In many cases you will need further appendices, such as statements by ethics committees, cooperation agreements and offers. Consult the relevant guidelines for details.
  • You can take time to prepare these documents thoroughly and upload them as a PDF when you have completed Parts A and B.

Finalising your submission

  • Once you have entered all the information in elan and uploaded all the supporting documents, your proposal is ready to be sent!
  • You will then receive a compliance form, which you should download, print out, sign and send to the DFG Head Office.
  • Once all formalities have been checked, you will receive confirmation of receipt in which you will also be informed of the persons responsible for your proposal at the DFG Head Office.

Further questions?

Have you remembered to include everything in your proposal?

Download: checklist as pdf document

  • My proposal follows the current formal rules and instructions as set out in the guidelines and proposal preparation instructions and does not exceed the specified number of pages.

  • My proposal is clearly structured, precisely worded and self-explanatory.

  • From my proposal, it is clear at first glance why the project idea is original and why the research project will make an important contribution to understanding questions of scientific interest (and, where relevant, social issues).

  • The research objective of the project is thoroughly described and focuses on key questions and hypotheses.

  • The explanations on the current state of research are up-to-date and related directly to the objective of the project.

  • The work programme is coherently elaborated and follows a realistic timetable. I have given concrete consideration to the handling of research data obtained and laid out a plan for how to manage it.

  • The methods proposed are tailored to the research questions and it is clear that I (or another person involved in the project) am capable of implementing them.

  • My profile and my own preliminary work reflect my qualifications and underline the feasibility of the project. They show that I am capable of undertaking independent scientific research.

  • My proposal contains all the necessary information on the ethical and legal context of my research (e.g. ethical aspects, 3Rs principle, security-relevant aspects, relevance with regard to the Nagoya Protocol).

  • I have also considered the significance of gender and diversity in connection with the research project and described these aspects where appropriate.

  • The calculation of costs is cogently derived from the work programme. In the case of a joint project, the allocation of funds to the persons involved is clear from the proposal.

  • I have attached information relevant to the proposal (e.g. unpublished manuscripts and offers, as well as job offers and other written commitments from cooperation partners where applicable).

Did you know? The DFG has its own portal on the subject of appropriate standards in research

Further questions?