Writing a Proposal

A proposal is a plan that states a problem, offers strategies for solving the problem, asks for resources to do the work, justifies the request for funds by demonstrating the need for the work and the probabilities for success, and explains how the effectiveness of the plan will be measured.

There are often requirements for the length of the proposal and students are responsible for writing the proposal in accordance with the guidelines. Applicable guidelines will be found in the information for each program. Students should work closely with a faculty advisor to prepare the proposal.

Project Proposal


An abstract is a brief (generally 250-500 words) summary of a written document. For more information, see Abstract Guidelines.


This section of a proposal is crucial in defining the project and explaining the importance of the work. There should be a clear research question and a discussion of why it should be investigated. You should demonstrate that you have reviewed the literature to verify that the question has not been answered by others and that those familiar with the field consider it worthy of study. If yours is a new area, you should explain why it is important.


Be specific in the objectives you plan to achieve as a result of the proposed project. Be brief and to the point.


In this section, you will state how you intend to do your project. You should clearly state techniques and methods you plan to use, how you intend to collect, analyze and evaluate the data, and the time schedule for the project. You should address any specific hurdles that will need to be overcome (language, recruitment of subjects, etc.) Be sure you allow enough time to collect, analyze and interpret data, and write the final report. 

Proposal Writing Traps:

Try to avoid these shortcomings, which are typical of many initial proposals:

  • Application forms and other items requested are incomplete
  • Program guidelines have not been reviewed 
  • Research question is unclear or unstated
  • Excessive jargon is used
  • Methodology is not described or is insufficient for the objectives
  • Budget is unclear or incomplete