NEH Narrative Guidelines


Justify the importance of the project on the basis of its long-term benefits to research, education, or public programming in the humanities.

For projects involving humanities collections, describe the nature, size, and intellectual content of the selected collections; explain how they relate to similar collections, both within and external to your institution; discuss the rationale for focusing on these particular sources; and describe the selection criteria. Provide information about the collections’ current and past use or potential future use, their present level of intellectual description, the physical condition of the materials, and their storage conditions.

For proposed reference works and research tools, discuss the selection criteria and how your project relates to existing resources. Demonstrate what this work or tool will provide that other resources cannot and define the probable audiences.

For research and development activities, give a clear account of the history of the issue or problem this research will address and the reasons why the project proposed is a high, national priority. The research should address a problem whose solution is critical to making progress in a field or would be broadly applicable to the humanities.

History, scope, and duration

Provide a concise history of the project, including information about preliminary research or planning, financial support already received, and resources or research facilities available. If a project requires more than two years to complete, describe the scope and duration of the entire project, but show clearly the specific accomplishments or products intended in the period for which funding is requested.

If the project has been previously supported by NEH, compare the accomplishments in the current or past grant period with the intended goals. List any products or publications in print or electronic form. When appropriate, indicate print runs, sales, and royalties relating to publications. In the case of online projects, include the URL and provide use statistics and other relevant information.

Methodology and standards

Project activities should conform to appropriate national standards and accepted professional practices. If your project's methodology departs from usual standards and procedures, explain why the project's goals require this approach and how the results would be interoperable with other relevant resources that follow existing standards. All applicants employing digital technology should follow standards and best practices that ensure longevity of digital products and facilitate interoperability with other resources and related materials.

All applications should include sample materials or reports that show the final or anticipated form of the project or illustrate the experience of the project's staff in doing comparable work, e.g., bibliographic records, catalog entries, finding aids, entries for encyclopedias or biographical dictionaries, results of specific queries to databases, instructions to contributors, audio files and images, and conservators’ reports.

Discuss any intellectual property or privacy issues that might affect the availability of the materials and whether permissions and proof of informed consent have been obtained. Provide any pertinent documentation in an appendix.

Projects employing digital technology

Identify the hardware and software to be employed. Describe how the material will be prepared for processing and how it will be processed, e.g., digital capture, keyboarding, optical character recognition, or conversion from another electronic format. Discuss the methods for formatting the material and ensuring quality control. Where appropriate, indicate the levels of resolution, compression, image enhancement, and accuracy of textual conversion or transcription required to achieve the project's goals. For text with markup, justify the choice of tagging scheme and the level of the markup.

Explain the organization of the digitized material or database, including file structure, system capabilities, user access, and documentation. Identify the metadata schemes that will be used to describe the materials and explain the rationale for these choices. Provide information about metadata creation and controlled vocabularies (if applicable), and use an appendix to display sample data entry sheets, records, and screen displays. When appropriate, discuss the compatibility of the proposed technical framework with the practices of the user community. Discuss provisions for ensuring that your resource can be discovered by a search engine or become part of an aggregated resource such as a digital library, cooperative portal, or clearinghouse, or become integrated with other related resources.

Describe the institution’s plans for storing, maintaining, and protecting the data, and, where applicable, for the preservation or other disposition of the original source material. Explain how the data will be archived (independent of the processing or delivery software and interface) to migrate them to future media and formats.

Work Plan

Describe the work plan in detail and include a schedule indicating benchmarks of accomplishment during each stage of the project.


Identify the project's staff, including consultants, and describe their duties and relevant qualifications for the tasks assigned. Be specific about the tasks they will perform and the aspects of the project they will oversee. Indicate the amount of time that the principal members of the project's staff will devote to the project. If the project has an advisory board, explain its function.


Explain how the results of the project will be disseminated and why these means are appropriate to the subject matter and intended audience. If relevant, discuss publishing arrangements, publicity plans, estimated prices, and user costs. Describe plans to bring the project to the attention of the relevant communities of users through, for example, conference presentations and demonstrations.
The Endowment expects grantees to provide broad access to all grant products through the Internet, on-site use, interlibrary loan, or duplication of materials at cost, insofar as the conditions of the materials and intellectual property rights allow. NEH strongly encourages projects that offer free public access to online resources. All other considerations being equal, NEH will give preference to projects that provide free, online access to digital materials produced with grant funds.


As relevant, discuss how the project’s results will be maintained and supported beyond the period of the grant. If applicable, indicate how editorial revision will be conducted, including addition of new material or updating of current content. Describe the institution’s plans and capability for ensuring on-going access to any electronic resources. Consortial projects should indicate how governance structure contributes to sustainability. For projects that have received past NEH funding, discuss strategies for broadening and strengthening the base of financial support.
If you are requesting funds to develop a sustainability plan, describe the proposed planning process, making clear what you and the proposed consultant would each contribute. Provide the name of the consultant, a timeline for the planning process, and an estimate of costs (in an appendix).

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License