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College of Arts & Sciences
Writing Center


At various times, you may be asked to submit a proposal. Of course, the most important part of the proposal is the idea being proposed. However, a great idea will be ignored, rejected, or even criticized if your audience does not understand the proposal. Thus, the writing--successfully communicating your idea--becomes paramount.

Tips for Writing Proposals


  • Make sure you understand your idea or project and the significance of it. Be able to complete the following clearly and concisely:
The purpose of my project/research is to. . .
  • Know your audience and keep it in mind. Do not use jargon, provide explicit descriptions, and use examples.
  • Think about format. Text-heavy documents are not inviting. Make your proposal easy to read: use headings, bulleted lists, and adequate spacing.

Components of a Proposal

The following headings and sections will work for most proposals. However, you should tailor your sections and headers to fit your topic.

Explain the topic and your particular research question/project. Begin generally, and then move on to specifics. A proposal's introduction is similar to an essay's: grab the reader's attention, introduce the topic, describe the key points and significance, and state your idea. The introductory section does not have to be limited to one paragraph.

Research question
This section is relatively brief. Simply state your question and its significance and mention the method. No description or examples are involved here.

Literature Review
Provide the reader with the background information needed to understand the overall topic. Give specific citations to articles and books. Use quotations. If research similar to your proposed project has been conducted, definitely include it and differentiate it from yours. The purpose of this section is to explain the topic and show how your idea is new.

This section could also be entitled "Significance."  In this section, you should persuasively argue for your project's value. Why is this research important? How will the results be used? How will it contribute to your field?

Provide a detailed description of the proposed research project. This section may have several subsections, as the project dictates. Some examples of subsections might be:  "Subjects or Participants," "Evaluation," "Procedure," or "Instrument."

Resources Required
Explain, in paragraph or list form, the items required for completion of the project. Usually, the primary resource needed is financial backing. Attaching a project budget may be necessary.

Projected Timetable
Include an estimate of how long the proposed project will take. Usually, timetables are presented as charts.

Finally, attach the bibliography.  It should include the bibliographic information for all sources cited throughout the proposal. Be sure to use the appropriate citation style, such as APA or MLA.


This handout was developed by Staci Stone, Department of English, University of South Carolina.