Your Task: You will be writing a proposal seeking my approval of your specific topic and the detailed plans for the recommendation report. (If your proposal is accepted, the deliverable will be a major report written as the proposal indicates and according to the specifications in the handout ‘Major Report Guidelines.’)
The Audience: The primary audience for the proposal is me. The primary audience of the report is an educated expert in the field addressed.
The Format: Your proposal must be in memo format, typed (12 point), with margins of one inch top and bottom and left and right, appropriate headings. Use spacing illustrated in sample proposal in your textbook. Between 500 and 750 words long, the proposal should include the following sections (as described and illustrated on pages 494-501 down to Sales Proposals). Your proposal will be structured as follows:
[Introduction] See opening paragraph on p. 498. A heading is not included for this section but is for all of the other sections listed below.
Detailed description of the project
This section should include a summary of what the ‘deliverable’ will be.)
Details of relevant background information
Topics to Investigate (in question format, including main and sub questions)
Methods and Resources
Call to Action (Omit first sentence of sample in book.)
Other sections, such as examples of interview or survey questions, may be added as deemed appropriate with my approval.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The sample proposal in your book is written as a group; therefore, first-person plural (we, our) is used. Your proposal, however, will be written from one individual, you; therefore, use first-person singular (I, my) instead of first-person plural.
When submitting the final draft of your proposal, include the workshop draft and the grade sheet in a folder.
CRITERIA FOR PROPOSALS
Caution: Most people who evaluate proposals check first to see whether the proposal conforms to the requirements that have been previously announced usually, in the Request for a Proposal (RFP); therefore, observe these requirements. Such errors as using the wrong margins, failing to include the required sections, etc. are rookie-proposal-writer mistakes?probably ensuring that the substantive content of your proposal will never be considered. The second check in many cases involves whether the proposal appears substantive (appropriately detailed and specific, showing the project has been thoroughly considered) or ‘blue sky’ (made up of thin air). Typical ‘blue-sky’ indicators on report proposals include failing to include a detailed bibliography (if the subsequent report relies heavily on such research), failure to make the questions to be addressed detailed enough (appearing as though you are just imagining the major report as you write the proposal), or totally unrealistic timetables, among other concerns. Any sections of the proposal that are marked as being ‘blue sky’ will need to be substantially strengthened in the recommendation report. (A copy of your graded proposal must be included as an appendix to your recommendation report.)
Criteria range from external to internal (from external validity (‘face’ validity) to internal validity). Often the first criterion is used to eliminate the biggest number of proposals in the smallest amount of time (at the lowest level of reader), the next eliminates a somewhat smaller number in somewhat more time, and the last eliminates the smallest number (presumably, only a few left and eliminating just some of those) in the biggest amount of time (at the highest level of reader).
Most people evaluating proposals check first to see whether the proposal conforms to the requirements that have been previously announced, so pay attention to these requirements. Such mistakes as using the wrong margins, failing to include methods if required, etc., are rookie-proposal-writer mistakes?ensuring that your proposal?s substantive content will not be considered. Failing to appreciate the importance of these mechanical compliance points is a classic rookie mistake. Evidence suggests that most proposals eliminated based solely on such points.
A second level of compliance is substantive compliance: often the RFP will specify a number of other factors (such as population base to be affected, whether or not federal funding has been applied in this area before, etc.) that also need to be met explicitly
The second check whether the proposal is substantive (appropriately detailed and specific, showing that the author?s homework has been carefully done and the project is thoroughly thought out) or blue sky (made up of thin air). Typical ‘blue-sky’ indicators on proposals students write for major reports include failing to include a detailed bibliography (if the report leans heavily on such research), failure to include detailed questions (which makes it look like you?re just imagining the major report as you write the proposal for it), or totally unrealistic timetables, among other things. Similarly, outside of academe, proposals whose science is, at best, sketchy, whose methodology is largely conceptual, whose timetable is not detailed and precise, proposals that lack any kind of notion of how the project will be managed or of what the foreseeable problem areas are (and how those problem areas will be dealt with) will be judged to be blue sky and likely rejected. (Any sections of the proposal you turn in for this assignment that are marked as being ‘blue sky’ will need to be substantially strengthened in the major report. Remember that the copy of your proposal that is returned to you with your writing teacher’s comments must be included as an appendix to your major report.)
One of the important (and most challenging) qualities of a successful proposal fingers on is linkage, the way elements of the proposal are closely consistent with each other, to “tell the same story.” That is, the introduction needs to lead logically to the problem statement; the problem statement needs to reflect the client or funding agency’s needs and problems (and not the applicant’s); the objectives need to match the problem or need; the methods need to flow naturally from the problems and objectives; and the budget needs to fit the proposal narrative and the problem statement. This quality of linkage makes the proposal internally consistent and in that sense strong in a way that many proposals lack.
A number of factors complicate the process for writing effective proposals:
As a genre, proposals are externally determined. That is, you as a writer may have a strong sense that presenting your project in some structure, etc., other than that spelled out by the RFP will work better; however, people reading proposals and funding projects are adamant that the way the proposal was described in the RFP (or accompanying information) is exactly the way the proposal is to be done. One reason for this strict adherence to guidelines is so that all proposals will be easy to compare with each other. Another reason, frankly, is that they have the money and the power and you do not. (Note: a concern for compliance can counteract this problem.)
As steps in careers, proposals usually involve huge amounts of power, prestige, and money. Successfully acquiring funding through a proposal (in some places, even the submission of a proposal) means successfully climbing another rung of the career ladder.
REVIEW WORKSHEET FOR PROPOSALS
Use the following tips to review your proposal before bringing it to the workshop:
The purpose of this document is to request in a persuasive way approval of a major report topic. Persuasiveness in a proposal comes, in large part, from giving the impression of knowing what you’re doing; often that means by including the right kind and amount of detail. Check the draft before you to see if it includes enough information, and the right kind(s) of information, to accomplish that goal. This is a check for substantivity which is very important in proposals! Put a large X anywhere you think more information is needed. Circle any words you don’t understand.
CAUTION!! Make sure this proposal is asking my approval for the plans for a major report say, on describing recent treatments for bad knees and not trying to ask my approval for doing something the major report may be describing, such as treating bad knees.
Does the document “flow” does it have a clearly distinguishable beginning, middle, and end with clear sense of progression through those sections? Or are the paragraphs just separate, disjointed, interchangeable units? Use circles and arrows to re-order sentences and paragraphs as necessary. Write Flow?” between seemingly disjointed paragraphs.
Does the paragraph structure make sense to you? Apart from the introduction, does each paragraph begin with a clearly identifiable topic sentence? Circle any paragraphs you think may need more structural work. Also, circle any sentences you must reread
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