A proposal is simply a document that tries to persuade a reader to implement, authorize, or extend a project.

Types of Proposals


A proposal requested by a sponsor that has specific requirements


A proposal that has not been requested but is believed to be important/significant by the proposer


A brief letter or abstract requested by a sponsor to minimize effort (once this is submitted, the proposer may be asked to submit a full proposal)

Continuation or non-competing proposal

A proposal that seeks to continue the support of a project after the initial end date by confirming the original proposal as well as showing reasonable progress

Renewal or competing proposal

A proposal that requests continuing support for an existing project; typically seen as an unsolicited proposal

Research proposal

A proposal that presents and justifies the need for a research study as well as presenting the ways the study will be conducted


The following information is geared toward a solicited research proposal; keep in mind that a proposal will need to follow the guidelines suggested by the solicitor/professor.

Components of a Proposal

Not all proposals will include each of these components.

  • Introduction: should state the problem as well as the purpose and significance of the research; should also give enough background information that any audience would be able to put your research into context.
  • Background: similar to a literature review, this section shows how your research will build upon, but is also different from, past research.
  • Description of proposed research: this section should give a thorough explanation of what can be accomplished, the focus of the research, and the methods you will use in your research; don’t forget to be concise while also making the connections between the research objectives and methods clear.
  • Conclusion: this short section should reiterate the significance of your research and why it is unique from past research.
  • Citations/references: consult with your professor/instructor as to their preference for this section.

What To Do

To begin, ask yourself questions about what you want to study and why:

  • What is the significance of the topic?
  • Will it help solve a problem?
  • How does it build on previous research?
  • What is my plan? What is my timetable?
  • Can I get this project done in that time?

Once you’ve answered those questions, write a sentence or two summarizing the proposal—this can help you organize your thoughts and may eventually be used in your introduction as a thesis statement.

Know your audience—typically, with solicited proposals, you’ll know who you’re writing to, but it is always a good idea to keep the reader’s needs, values, and attitudes in mind; if writing an unsolicited proposal, this is very important to keep in mind.

Always be clear and concise—do not use flowery language, stick to the facts

What Not To Do

  • Do not use flowery language
  • Do not use language/jargon your audience won’t understand
  • Do not leave out any critical information—your reader/audience must make the connections you need them to make in order to authorize/enact your proposal


Writing a Successful Proposal | Babson

Writing a Research Proposal | USC Libraries

Writing a Research Proposal | Illinois Library

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Compiled By

Michel LaCrue

Writing Studio Consultant