Proposals (writing)

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A proposal is a formal document to apply for funds for a project, or to propose a business agreement. It can be a letter or short essay, and can be used to apply for a number of different things. In this assignment, you can choose a more business oriented topic or a more academic topic.

1 General template

Here is a general template to help you get started. Each of these items might constitute a paragraph or a section of two or more paragraphs in your essay.

  1. Brief self-introduction; general purpose of the project
  2. Statement of the problem or question
  3. Specific description of your proposal / solution
  4. Specific goals, objectives, or outcomes
  5. Uniqueness or distinctiveness of your project or idea
  6. Your qualifications
  7. Timeline, budget, and how you will allocate the funds

2 Research examples

Here is a well written research proposal for an undergraduate research project in history.

Etruscan influences on Roman military history

I am applying for a research grant as a fourth-year college student majoring in history at Purdue University. I am interested in researching early Roman military history, and in particular, Etruscan influences on Rome’s military development and policies. I am also doing a minor in classics, with a focus on Latin, Greek, and Etruscan languages, and am able to read historical scholarship on such topics, as well as ancient Latin and Greek texts. This project will be conducted as part of an independent studies course, and Professor Mortimer Snerd in the Classics Department will be my project advisor and director. Historians have debated the earlier stages of the Roman civilization before it became an empire, and especially its early period from the founding of Rome through the Roman republic. Original historical records are sometimes limited, leading to debates over how much we can know about this period. Some questions regarding Rome’s geopolitical and cultural development remain unclear, or not well researched. One such area is the military history of early Rome, and how it was influenced by neighboring states. Of particular interest here is the nearby Etruscan civilization, which once conquered early Rome, and was later conquered and assimilated by Rome.

The Etruscan civilization started in Etruria, in modern-day Tuscany, at roughly the same time as the Latin tribes in the area of Rome. Around 650 BCE, the Etruscans conquered Rome and installed a series of Etruscan kings, who were later deposed due to their corruption and harsh rule. During that time, however, the Etruscans taught the Romans basic building architecture and engineering, urban planning, and infrastructure construction. Roman gladiator games were adapted from Etruscan military games, in which the Etruscans forced captured enemies to fight each other to the death. More specific military contributions of the Etruscans are known, as they taught the Romans important skills: dividing their armies into legions, constructing military bases, metalworking techniques for making swords and spears, and concepts of military discipline.1 The Roman military symbol known as the fasces was also borrowed from the Etruscans; this symbol consists of an axe and a bundle of sticks that symbolize collective strength and power2 (and is the source of the English word ‘fascism’).

Other possible aspects of military influence remain less explored, particularly some less obvious or less tangible influences. For example, the Romans fought the Etruscans while being conquered by them, while expelling them from Rome, and when they later conquered and assimilated them. One question is how Etruscan military tactics later influenced Roman military tactics, strategy, and later military policy, during their dealings with the Etruscans, and later as Rome began to conquer other nations around them. This might include battlefield tactics, weapons use, and military strategy. This might even include the psychological warfare techniques, and torturing of captured enemy soldiers, that the Etruscans were infamous for.3 Other influences might be discerned in attitudes among the Roman ruling elites toward neighboring tribes and nations. This could constitute evidence of influence on Roman geopolitics. Thus, this research focuses not so much on tangible influences like weapons and army divisions, but more on potential intangible influences like tactics, strategy, and military policy.

More importantly, these various influences can be brought together and made coherent when viewed within a commonly used theoretical paradigm from international studies and political science. Such paradigms can provide a framework for explaining how different nations influence each other and competitively seek their own interests. Such frameworks, such as structuralism and pragmatism,4 have not been applied often in the study of ancient civilizations. Yet such a framework can be useful for understanding influences of military cultures between nations, especially an under-researched area like Etruscan military influences on early Rome.

This project will begin in September 2022, and will run until May 2023. The first month will involve a survey of research by history scholars, and original historical writings in Latin by Roman writers in October. In October and November, I will travel to research libraries to access historical documents and research that are more difficult to find, at Indiana University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Chicago, and Harvard. I will also interview some well known scholars in the classics and history departments of those universities, such as Prof. Nethercut in the UT-Austin Classics Department, and Prof. Zeitler at the Oriental Institute in Chicago. December and January will involve compiling my preliminary findings into a draft of the first few chapters of a bachelor’s thesis. In February I will work on developing a political science analysis by applying a theoretical framework from international studies to my research findings. This may include one or more common frameworks like structuralism or political pragmatism. March will involve consultation with my project advisor, and with other professors in classics, history, and political science departments at Purdue University and Indiana University. The final thesis will be completed and submitted to my university in May 2023.

Part of the research will involve buying or copying books and research articles—original Latin historical writings, and books and articles by relevant scholars. Though the quality of some original historical sources is debated, these can be used here cautiously, including earlier Roman historians like Livy (Titus Livius),5 as well as some Greek historians. But such sources can be read more closely for hints of military culture and policy influences. Other historical and cultural influences may be discerned in ancient Latin literature and social history, and part of this study will examine non-historical Latin and Greek literature for such influences. Works of classics scholars and political scholars at the aforementioned universities will be used as well.

For this project, I anticipate a budget of $5000, as detailed in the attached budget document. Approximately $2000 will be for scholarly books and articles; about $1800 will be for travel expenses; and about $500 will be paid for consultation fees.

This project will shed new light on an under-researched area in ancient historical studies and classics, and can better inform not only scholars, but writers of general history texts. This will also show how ancient historical scholarship can be enhanced by drawing from political science paradigms. This can lead to lessons for understanding our modern world. For example, Etruscan-Roman military influence might help us understand how superpowers like the US may be influenced militarily by smaller nations that they have engaged with, or how American military policy shapes the military policy and culture of other nations. These modern-day applications are topics that I hope to pursue during a master’s and Ph.D. program after college. Thus, this project will lay a foundation for my future research, and will prepare me for my graduate school studies.


  1. Sekunda, Nicholas, and Simon Northwood, Early Roman armies (London: Osprey Publishing, 1995).
  2. Livy, Ab urbe condita (London: Bristol Classical Press. 1991), 1:8.
  3. Hencken, Ηugh, Tarquinia and Etruscan origins (New York: Frederick A. Praeger Press, 1971).
  4. Snyder, Jack, “One World, Rival Theories,” Foreign Policy, 145 (November/December 2004): 52.
  5. Livy, Ab urbe condita (London: Bristol Classical Press. 1991).

2.1 Warp drive research

Here is an example for a research proposal, which is of course rather fictitious, and this one has some problems.

I would like to apply for a research grant from your foundation, for a physics and engineering project that will lead to the development of better spacecraft propulsion.

In recent decades, government space programs have become less ambitious and more concerned with near-Earth research, such as sending probes to various bodies in the solar system, and maintaining a space station in low-Earth orbit. Private initiatives have mainly focused on launching satellites, and creating reusable vehicles for low-Earth purposes such as launching satellites or sending space tourists to low-Earth trips. Attempts to send astronauts or colonists to Mars, both private efforts and those led by agencies like NASA, have faced endless setbacks, and suffer from a lack of planning or methods to deal with various serious obstacles. The dreams that space agencies and nations once entertained of reaching beyond our terrestrial neighborhood have gone quiet. The challenges of escapting Earth's orbit and traversing vast reaches of space, even within our solar system, seem insurmountable. The main reason is that novel methods of space propulsion are needed to overcome these challenges, and while ion rocket resarch seems promising, it will not be enough to send humans to Mars and beyond within a reasonable amount of time.

The problem of fast propulsion has been dealt with in some theoretical research. In 1994, the physicist Miguel Alcubierre proposed a mathematical model for a warp drive that could bend space-time for faster-than-light (FTL) or supraluminal propulsion.1 The original proposal had some flaws, such as the amount and type of energy required for an FTL drive, but refinements have been published since then that reduce the prohibitive amounts of energy required to power the Alcubierre drive.2, 3 Yet the types of engery involved are exotic, as "negative energy" is an undefined theoretical construct, a placeholder for an important part of the model that we do not yet understand.

This proposed project will attempt to alleviate these problems via a different approach that involves alternative methods for generating the types of energy involved. This involves the invention of a flux capacitory to generate and regulate these types of engergies, but with antimatter rather than exotic and likely impossible forms of energy. The theoretical basis and mechanics are detailed in a paper that I have submitted to a major physics journal, and is currently under review. 4

I am an astrophysics professor and researcher at the Astrophysics Research Institute at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and have published a number of theoretical papers on antimatter and exotic engergies in leading international journals, and this research lays the foundation for this proposed project. I have also collaborated with colleagues in materials engineering in designing ion rockets for future NASA spacecraft, so I have a solid understanding of principles of actual engine design and construction. The principles of ion rocket design and construction can be combined with the theoretical models that I have been developing for FTL propulsion.

This project will require a modest funding of only €2 trillion from your foundation, which will take an estimated five years to complete. I will serve as the principle investigator who will overseen the project, as I overseen a number of grant projects in the past. The funding will involve research funding for my lab, for two fellow faculty members in the Materials Engineering department, and for hiring ten post-doctoral research assistants and ten graduate student assistants. The bulk of the money will be used for the materials and testing required for developing high-energy flux capacitors to generate and regulate warp fields, and for construction of a test craft. The budget and timeline are detailed in an attached document.

If successful, this project will lead to the development of a prototype FTL craft, and will usher in a new era of space exploration, as this will make deep-space exploration a reality. Even if not quite successful, this will nonetheless lead to new propulsion technologies for slower-than-light travel, but at much faster speeds that what is currently possible.

1. Alcubierre, Miguel (1994). "The warp drive: hyper-fast travel within general relativity". Classical and Quantum Gravity. 11 (5): L73–L77.

2. Agnew, J. (16 August 2019). "An Examination of Warp Theory and Technology to Determine the State of the Art and Feasibility". AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum and Exposition.

3. Krasnikov, S. (2003). "The quantum inequalities do not forbid spacetime shortcuts". Physical Review D. 67 (10): 104013. arXiv:gr-qc/0207057

4. Cochran, Zephran. (2022). "Toward the development of flux capacitors." Physics Review D. [Under review].

3 Community service example

This example cites sources using the APA citation & referencing format.

Overweight and obesity education

As is well known, this country has a significant problem with obesity and overweight, with CDC data showing that as of 2018, 42.5% of Americans suffered from obesity, and another 31% being (non-obese) overweight (Fryar et al. 2020). A reciprocal link exists between obesity and depression, as a number of studies show that depression can contribute to obesity, and obesity can contribute to depression (Luppino et al., 2010). Obesity and overweight are health problems, which cause persons to have negative self-perceptions, and these can be worsened by negative social attitudes toward overweight people. Negative social attitudes, such as antifat bias, cause overweight and obese people to feel worse about themselves (Himmelstein & Tomiyama, 2015). Public health campaigns to address obesity and eating habits, though well intentioned, can have the unintended consequences of promoting fat-shaming and stigmatizing of obesity (Puhl et al., 2012).

As a high school and college student, I struggled with being overweight, and the self-esteem issues and social pressure that come with overweight. I struggled to lose weight, but was never successful, because my dieting attempts were motivated by external or negative pressure, and never by an internal motivation or proper awareness. I then began to read books on nutrition, and started to learn about the effects of sugar intake on health and body functions. This understanding empowered me to want to reduce my intake of unhealthy foods, and make permanent changes in my eating habits, rather than temporary diet programs. As this happened, I started to lose some weight. I was never motivated to do exercise, but I tried to spend time outdoors, and discovered mountain hiking. My desire for this lead to a desire to be in better shape, so that I could do more hiking, so I tried other outdoor exercises, and came to enjoy bicycling and swimming, and my desire to do better at these activities led to other activities like jogging. After a few years, I had lost a significant amount of weight, and attained a much better quality of like. This led me to do a second major in Health Sciences.

As I studied health and educational psychology, I came to understand the reasons for my success. My understanding of health and nutrition allowed me to develop an internal motivation to change my eating habits, and my discovery of outdoor activities led to me developing an internal motivation for exercise. I recognized that my own experience may not help others directly, but by understanding the psychological factors involved, I found that the keys were motivational. While overweight people might rely on external motivation to lose weight, they fail, because such motivators--social pressure, poor self-esteem, and a sense of obligation--are counter-productive. For decades psychologists and educators have undertsood the need for internal rather than external motivation in successfull learning. This means that a person has an internal desire to do something, and a feeling of autonomy, that it is his/her own choice and desire. With that comes a sense of mastery or improvement as one learns something, which feeds a person's self-esteem and positive self-perceptions. These standard insights of psychology have not been applied much in educational programs for overweight people Such programs tend to focus on basic information or practice of nutrition and exercise, but without addressing the underlying psychological issues.

As part of my master's level research, I plan to develop a community education program for adults that addresses these needs. This will be supervised by my future academic advisor, Prof. Stein in the Education Department at Y University. The program will be conducted at the Springfield Community Center; I have contacted the center to explain my plans, and they are very interested in the program. The program will consist of a series of eight workshops that deal with body image, self-esteem, motivation, nutrition, and exercise. The concept of internal motivation will be integrated into all these workshops. In addition, workshop participants will meet with a trained counselor at least three times during the program. The program will take two months. The workshops will be conducted by both me and the counselor. The counselor will be hired from a health counseling program at the university's education department, most likely, one of the doctoral students who are certified counselors in health and personality issues.

For this program, I am seeking a $15,000 grant. This will include a $5000 stipend to cover my tuition and research expenses, a $6000 stipend for the counselor, and $4000 other expenses, such as preparatory research, advertising and promoting the workshops, and providing materials for the workshop particpants. This will allow us to offer the workshops and counseling to the participants at little or no charge, and we expect to be able to accommodate 40 participants. We wiill advertise the program online, targeting middle-age adults to begin with. We will collect survey data and health data from the participants before and after the program for research purposes. For this, we will file the necessary paperwork with the university for IRB data collection.

The project will involve four months of preparation, two months for the workshops and counseling sessions, and a an evaluation phase. For the preparation phase, I will be examining all the relevant health and psychology research to develop the workshop contents materials, in consultation with the counselor. This will include finding and incorporating published research on internal motivation, body image, self-esteem, fitness, and basic nutrition, and relating these all to the motivation framework for this program. The evaluation phase will involve analyzing data collected from subjects at the end of the program. We will then contact them again six months and twelve months after the program to collect survey data and interviews. If the program is successful, we hope to see not only improvement in their weight loss and eating habits, but also measurable improvements in their self-esteem and self-perceptions. If successful, this program can then be expanded to other age groups and other areas.

We expect such a program can help improve the lives of many people who suffer not only from overweight, but also body image and self-esteem problems as well, which will then empower them to improve their lives.


Fryar C.D., Carroll M.D., & Joseph A. (2020). Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2017–2018. NCHS Health E-Stats.

HImmelstein, M. & Tomiyama, A. J. (2015). It’s Not You, It’s Me: Self-Perceptions, Antifat Attitudes, and Stereotyping of Obese Individuals. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(7), 1-9.

Luppino FS, de Wit LM, Bouvy PF, et al. Overweight, Obesity, and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Longitudinal Studies. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2010;67(3):220–229. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry. 2010.2

Puhl, R.,. Peters, J.L, & Luedicke, J. (2015). Fighting obesity or obese persons? Public perceptions of obesity-related health messages. International Journal of Obesity (2012), 1–9.

4 Business example

Here is an general example of a proposal; though the general purpose of this example is a bit different from the assignment requirements, it shows the key elements of a decent proposal.


Matt Smith
Manager, Web Services
Skynet Corp.
18144 El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, California 93960

31 October 2021

John Conner
Cameron Electronics
538 Cragmont Drive
Denver, Colorado 80439

In response to your company's notice soliciting proposals for a website management team, our team at Skynet would like to discuss the opportunity to manage your company’s web services, and in the following paragraphs, we will explain how we can be of help to your company.

Our own analysis of your company’s search engine hits shows that your company ranks relatively low, and is need of SEO (search engine optimization). We also see some potential problems with the visual layout of your web pages, such as font issues that look fine on a PC, but do not render well on mobile devices. We also have found that navigation menus and input fields in the order forms are not so intuitive or easy to navigate. Also, some of your product information is less than clear, or could be more informative and appealing to customers.

Skynet’s web development team includes IT experts with training and background in cognitive science, linguistics, and user experience (UX) fields, and such expertise is necessary for designing a more professional website that would be suitable for a large company such as yours. For example, our cognitive scientists are familiar with eye tracking research that shows how users scan the visual and text information of websites in certain directions1, and the visual layout of your product pages are inconsistent with these research findings, and thus, are more difficult for customers for locate relevant information. We are also aware of recent research on font design and the types of fonts that are suitable for different types of websites2, and can help you customize the text display of your sites for different devices.

Finally, our linguists, style and communication experts can help redesign the text on your website, including company information and product descriptions. For example, some users will want more technical information about your electronics products, which is often incomplete, while others would want more functional descriptions, and our designers can help create intuitive interfaces to provide different types of information to different users. Some of these principles are described in trade publications by one of our UX experts.3

In fact, our team can help redesign the entire website from the bottom up. We are capable of hiring focus groups to test web interfaces, to assess the success of your work. We also have access to quantitative rating criteria from university research labs in order to evaluate and compare your current site with the final redesigned website that we would create. Our effectiveness can also be gauged by your future online sales data. For comparable past projects, our work has generally led to a 20% increase in sales on commercial websites like yours, and we expect to be able to deliver similar results.

For a company of your size, we can redesign your website within a month, for an estimated €500,000, followed by a recommended four months of maintenance, supervision, and quality control testing, for €40,000 per month. We can project that as a result, if you experience an increase in sales volume of around 20%, within a year your investment will have paid itself off. So we invite you to contact use for further discussion about letting us partner with you to improve your website experience.

1. McKlonkie, Georg, & Alan Svednarp, 2019. "Visual scans of commercial websites. Journal of Experimental Marketing Research, 12(2), 178-195.

2. Barx, Elan. 2021. "Font type judgments among users of various types of websites." International Research in Online Marketing, 4(1), 33-56.

3. Swatch, Amalie. 2019. "Principles of text and information in web user interface." Online Marketing Monthly, Sept. 2019, 14-17.

4.1 More examples

  1. See pages like this one at for commercial and business examples. Note: These tend to be in slide / PPT or informal formats, so look at the contents for ideas, but not the design or layout of these documents. This site explains the good points and bad points of each example, and each example is in a separate link.