Skip Navigation Archive: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

Concept Paper Review Guidelines and Suggested Format

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

The purpose of the Concept Paper review is to enhance dialog between staff and the research community on potential grant applications related to the programs and mission of the Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Information shared in the Concept Paper review is understood to be preliminary and will require further development should the investigator pursue the proposed line of inquiry.

A suggested outline of the Concept Paper content follows. Overall, papers should be 6 to 10 pages (double-spaced) in length, with the individual pages numbered. It is necessary to formulate a total proposed budget and to indicate the number of years for the proposed project.

Significance of the Problem

Outcomes and effectiveness studies focus on effectiveness of health care interventions (the effects observed in typical practice settings) rather than efficacy (the effects observed under the ideal circumstances of a clinical trial). The emphasis is on conditions that are costly and for which there is substantial evidence of variation in practice. Discuss, in a few paragraphs, the issues which form the basis of the problem.

Place the problems in the context of the health care delivery system and identify how research could enhance practice, service delivery, or health care policy. A brief description of how the proposed study would add to previous work in the area of inquiry should also be included.

What Is the Conceptual Framework or Theoretical Basis for the Study and for Use in Data Analysis?


The overall study design is important. Define the subjects or target population. Because grant applications will be scored specifically on the inclusion of women and minority subjects in the study population, their inclusion should be addressed in the Concept Paper as well. If interventions are proposed, describe their content and how they will be implemented. Sources and types of data need to be described. The project sample size and duration of the proposed project should be stated explicitly. Consider the following:

  • What information will be needed to answer the questions.
  • How will it be obtained if the source of data is reliable and the data are available.
  • If additional or new instruments will be needed.

Here a brief description of the setting (e.g., primary care practice) may be warranted to clarify the sources of data.

Evaluation and Analysis

How will you determine whether the original questions have been answered? What is the potential contribution of both positive and negative findings to the field of inquiry? What is the potential policy and/or practice relevance of the study? Is the proposal a part of a planned series of studies? If so, what are the other parts of the series?

Selected References

Include a bibliography of references cited in the Concept Paper.

Concept Paper Submission

Please send your Concept Paper to:

Joanne Book
AHRQ, Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research (COER)
540 Gaither Road, Suite 6000
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (301) 427-1488
Fax: (301) 427-1639

Current as of October 2000

The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care