Writing a Project Proposal
A project proposal is a detailed plan for investigating a design or process alternative.
Purpose: to persuade the reader to authorize the proposed project
Audience: the person with the authority to approve what you’re proposing
Tone: confident and sales‐oriented because you must sell your idea and yourself
A proposal may take one of the following forms:
• an informal memo or letter
• A semi‐formal report, including a cover page and appendices.
• A formal report with an accompanying letter of transmittal.
To make your proposal easy to read, use visual cues such as headings, subheadings, and
numbered or bulleted lists. For long or more formal reports, be sure to include a table of
contents and a title page that gives the title and also details the authors, recipient, and the date
the proposal was submitted.
Parts of the Proposal
The executive summary appears first but is written last, after the entire report has been written.
This summary should be self‐contained and include an overview of every part of the proposal
and all key points. The executive summary is written with the busy decision‐maker in mind.
Begin the introduction as if the executive summary were not there. First, state the purpose so
that it is clear that you are proposing something. Next, define the need for investigation by
telling what problem, situation, or unsatisfactory condition you would like to improve or study.
Then establish the significance of the investigation by telling your reader what benefit will be
derived from conducting the investigation. Last, briefly preview the contents of the proposal.
The project description should answer these questions:
1. What do you propose to do? 4. What equipment will be required to
complete the investigation?
2. What are the technical specifications for
the proposed investigation? 5. What specific tasks will be performed?
3. How will current research be used? 6. What is the timeline for this project?
The project description should be subdivided into the following sections.
• Background. The background outlines the circumstances leading to the problem or
condition that you are trying to solve. It also includes the results of previous work.
• Objectives. The objectives must be tangible, specific, concrete, measurable, and
achievable in a specified period of time. In this section, describe the project goals
and the expected outcomes. Define what needs to be done to solve the problem.
Establish criteria for the best solution.
• Scope. This section outlines any limitations imposed on the project by the person
who is authorizing or undertaking it. These types of limitations might include the
cost, the time it will take to complete the project, and the depth of the study.
• Methods. This section tells the experimental, numerical, and/or theoretical
methods you will use to conduct the investigation. It describes specific activities or
tasks that you will do to meet the objectives. It enables the reader to visualize the
implementation of the investigation by providing the order and timing of tasks in
• Timetable. In this section, the project schedule should be portrayed graphically,
organized by task over time. You can use a calendar, a table, or a Gantt chart. (See
Table 1 for an example of a Gantt chart.)
Table 1. Gantt Chart Illustrating a Home Construction Schedule
Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June July Aug. Sept. Oct.
Adapted from An Engineer’s Guide to Technical Communication by Sheryl A. Sorby and William M. Bulleit, pg 191
Use both internal citation and a reference list to indicate your sources. The citation style
you choose should be appropriate for your field.
The appendices may include supporting material in sections such as facilities and
equipment, budget, and personnel/qualifications if these sections are not included as
independent sections of the report. Each appendix should have its own name (usually a
letter name) and numbering system for graphics (begin at Figure 1 again in the appendix).
The appendix should also be referred to somewhere in the body of the proposal with a key
phrase such as “See Table 5 in Appendix A for a detailed breakdown of the budget.”
Blicq and Moretto, Writing Reports to Get Results; Sorby and Bulleit, An Engineer’s Guide to Technical Communication;
“Proposals” from Univ. of Toronto Engineering Communication Centre website; University of Bath Proposal Project Website;
“mytechcommlab” Pearson & Longman website; Salter, “The Persuasive Document,” course handout
Technical Communications Center • Texas A&M University at Qatar
Access all of our handouts online at www.qatar.tamu.edu/tcc/