The Proposal Overview

Learning Objectives

Module Six: Proposals

  • Learn about the purpose of proposals
  • Learn about the components of propoals
  • Learn about the ethics involved in creating proposals
  • Learn to write your own proposal


A Proposal is a document that outlines a project the organization or department wants to undertake.  It is like a blueprint for the project and includes key components that give the reader a clear understanding of what is to be done, how much it will cost, how it will be accomplished and by when.  Proposals make ask for funding or they may be for approval from the administration of the organization.  Either way, proposals both seek to inform and persuade.

Components of a Proposal
A basic Research Proposal have the following sections: Problem, Solution, Research, Implementation, Method of Operation, Timelines, Costs, and Benefits. These different sections are presented as follows:

Paperwork on desk

Problem section
Introduce the problem. State and discuss the problem. In the discussion, define and detail the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, and why).

Solution section: discuss the solution. Since your problem is unique, the research will not present the solution to your problem. However, the research will discuss similar problems and the solutions to these problems. This research will provide you information with which to formulate a solution that is relative to your specific problem.

Research section: If your proposal requires it, research your topic. Your sources must be current, within the last 2 or 3 years. Therefore, you need to research journals or newspapers for published articles, published interviews, published speeches, and other current materials You cannot use books. Information in books is usually outdated.

You will need at three (3) or four (4) documents that address a problem similar to the one you have chosen. Although you will not find your exact situation/problem, you will find documents that refer to similar problems. These documents will have similar populations, environments, workforces, etc. For example, if you propose to implement a shuttle bus service from the parking lot to work places for a more efficient and effective way for people to report to work, you may find documents from other workplaces, with circumstances similar to yours, which experienced similar problems and solved them by providing shuttle bus services.

The research will provide you with information that validates your topic as a problem and your solution, as well as validating your proposed implementation, methods of operation, costs, and benefits as credible.

Note that you need at least three (3) references/sources for your proposal.

Implementation section: Tell when, why, and how the solution will be used for the first time. The implementation period is usually a trial period to see if the solution is feasible as planned. Thus, you will pick a time that does not impact the normal operation of existing programs/patterns of operation/etc. In addition, describe the location of implementation, who will be involved, costs of implementation, what is expected to happen, the date and time of implementation, the duration of implementation, etc. Explain also why you chose this time for implementing the solution. State that during this time you will note what works and what needs to be changed.

Sketch of Turf Solution ProposalMethods of Operation section: This section will tell how the solution will fit into and be used as a functional part of the day to day operation of the organization. Detail the date you expect to launch the solution into the operation the company, the place from where the solution will operate, how it will operate, and who will be involved (identify their responsibilities, duties, and any titles, certifications, degrees, and other qualifications needed).

Costs section: This section tells how much the solution will cost. Detail the cost. Report costs in dollar amounts.  This should not only include equipment and materials, but also overhead costs and additional personnel costs that might be involved.

Timeline sectionAlthough projected dates may be included in the methods of operation section, you may want to set out milestones and timelines in a separate section to provide detail for your administration.  It also provides opportunities to report on the status of your project and keep your administration informed, as well, as keeps staff involved in the proposal on task.

Benefits section: This section explains the benefits of the solution. There is little reason why your proposal should be accepted if there are not meaningful benefits. Thus, be sure to show that your solution will result in substantial benefits for the organization, company, etc.

Reference page: The reference page is a separate page that references your research. Remember to use the APA style of documentation.

Appendices: The Appendices include the full summaries and responses, the Problem Analysis, and any information that is meaningful to the proposal.

See the following example of a Proposal:  Sample Student Proposal 

  • Proposals to funding agencies also may include measurable goals and objectives, letters of support for the organization, an executive summary and a description of deliverables.  More on these types of proposals under Proposals to funding sources.