Basic features of a proposal

There are some basic features that all proposals are likely to contain, which is summarised below. However, the information provided is only a guideline – you may need to adjust according to your document’s purpose and your discipline’s preferences.

Basic Features
1. A well-stated definition of the problem
  • a description of the problem
  • the causes of the problem
  • the consequences should the problem remain unsolved.
2. A clearly stated proposal to solve the problem
  • arguments in favour of your solution
  • some hints as to how to implement the solution
3. Awareness of alternative proposals
  • alternative solutions for the problem
  • acceptance or refutation each alternative solution
4. An evaluation of the benefits of your proposal
  • positive effects of your proposal, for example, cost benefits or sustainability
5. Possible counter arguments to your proposal
  • an awareness of possible objections to your proposal that you, in turn, argue against
6. A careful analysis of your audience
  • the needs, convictions and prejudices of the readers are taken into account
  • the information selected is neither too basic nor too narrow for your audience’s knowledge base
7. A reasonable, sensible tone
  • irony and sarcasm are avoided (unless it is your specific purpose to be ironic)
  • counterarguments are fairly and reasonably evaluated, without attacking those who disagree with you
  • the appeal is to the intellect rather than to the emotions (although appealing to the emotions subtly is likely to be necessary at times as part of the persuasive tone – see persuasive writing).

Academic Proposals

An academic proposal, such as an application for PhD studies, usually looks a bit different from a business proposal. The following sections are commonly found in an academic proposal:

  1. Introduction and Theoretical Framework
  2. Statement of the Problem
  3. Purpose of the Study
  4. Review of the Literature
  5. Research Questions and/or Hypotheses
  6. The Design – Methods and Procedures
  7. Limitations and Delimitations
  8. Significance of the Study
  9. References
  10. Appendices

You will find information on all the sections here: The Elements of a Proposal by Frank Pajares

N.B. Information regarding features of other proposal types will be available here in the future.