AERC does not have an application form for the purpose of crafting a proposal. There are, however, some requirements as to what the proposal should contain (see Table below).
The point to stress at this stage is that once you know what you want to do, you should not start writing the proposal straight away.
Instead you should first work on a sketch. This involves writing brief notes indicating what you intend to say under each of the headings and how much space you want allocated to each section of the proposal.
WHAT SHOULD THE PROPOSAL CONTAIN?
Background. The policy context of the proposed research.
Research Issue. A detailed statement of the issue to be researched, including reference to other work and perceived gaps in knowledge
Objective(s). A brief statement of the specific objectives of the research.
Methodology. A statement detailing how the research objectives are to be achieved, i.e., hypotheses, methods, data collection, data analysis, etc.
Results. Anticipated results and how they might contribute to knowledge, future research and especially public policy.
Dissemination. Expected output from the project, e.g., paper(s), article(s) and other forms of dissemination to interested researchers and policy makers.
Budget. Estimated expenditure by major line item, e.g., research assistants, travel, computer time, etc.
Timetable and duration. The length and time needed for each portion of the project and an estimated completion date.
The proposal should also identify a "team leader" who acts as the "reporting centre" for the team, and the individual or institutional recipient of the grant.
Poor space allocation is a major problem and experience shows that many AERC proposals devote ten pages or more to the background, the research question and the literature review, and only one or two pages to describing the proposed research itself. Predictably, such proposals are criticized for being "too vague". So you should make sure that the introductory material is just that and that it does not crowd out what should be the most important part of the proposal.
The sketch provides you with a skeleton, and writing the proposal then amounts to putting flesh on this skeleton. Working on the skeleton first will greatly improve the structure and coherence of your paper. Once you start writing you will know at each stage what points you need to make and how they relate to what will be discussed in other sections of the proposal. If you use this method you will be in good company as many experienced researchers use it, for both writing research proposals and drafting articles.