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All about justifications

A guide to writing justifications for all financial transactions.

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DMSE Finance requires all requisitions, p-card transactions, travel reports, and RFPs to include a brief explanation of the benefit to the project/institute, in order to prove compliance with federal, sponsor, and MIT financial policies.


These explanations are called justifications. They demonstrate that the purchase is:

  1. Allocable: Does it benefit the project/have a valid business purpose?
  1. Allowable: Can we charge it?
  1. Reasonable: Does the cost make sense?

Keeping the above in mind, your justification should be a short statement that answers the questions below:

  • For research: What is the specific benefit to the project?
  • For non-research: What is the specific business purpose?
Poorly written or vague justifications will be returned for additional details. Transactions missing justifications will also be returned.

Here are some examples to follow:


  • For equipment: "Equipment needed to cool the oven controller and operate the magnetic sensor"
  • For lab supplies (including chemicals): “This LICGC glass-ceramic powder will be used to prepare ceramic composite membrane for the sponsored project”
  • For materials: "Syringes needed to administer the testing solution to glass slides"
  • For services: "Laundry service needed to maintain the cleanliness of the lab coats in Lab 224"
  • For office supplies: "Pencils and a new monitor needed for office 301 to replace broken monitor and restock office supplies”
  • For classroom use: “This purchase is a diffusant for a solar cell lab as part of the 3.004 curriculum”
As a helpful rule, you always want your justification to include “for [verb]” or “to [verb].” This will ensure that you’re including how the materials or services will be used.

...and here are some to avoid:


  • “Lab supplies purchased to conduct research for Ross group”
  • “Chemicals”
  • “Supplies for 3.091”
  • “Monthly Verizon charge”
  • [a completely blank justification field]
“But it should be obvious why these materials are being purchased” For situations like audits, we need a written justification connected to all instances where the institute is spending money, including Buy2Pay requisitions, RFP reimbursements, ProCard purchases, etc—especially for purchases on sponsored research projects.

To learn more about MIT’s purchasing standards, please refer to VPF’s Buying and Paying Policies.

Specificity is key! We're looking for how the materials or service will be used, which tells us why they’re being purchased—not just a description of what the materials or services are.

Justifications for meetings (421000) on research accounts

The g/l for Meetings - Food & Beverages, 421000, is not allowed on federally sponsored projects unless specified by the award.


When these purchases are allowed by the sponsor, the justification must clearly define:

  • that the meeting’s primary purpose must be the dissemination of technical information beyond MIT
  • that the meeting was necessary for successful performance of the award

Events like group dinners, for example, are not allowed on research and should be charged on a discretionary account, because they do not satisfy these requirements. MIT’s policy on this can also be found on the Research Administration Services’ website.


How to write justifications in Buy2Pay

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