Organisation and structure

The proposal is essentially a sales or promotional document, and the following table suggests hos usch a document could be organised and structured:

Executive Summary

(similar to an abstract but longer and more of a condensed version of the whole document than an overview).

  • who is sending the proposal
  • what the big question is that the project is going to answer
  • what the approach is to answering the question
  • what the benefits of the project are
  • who benefits from the project
  • who the proposal is from and a reference to the document or occasion which prompted the proposal
  • concise description of the problem
  • brief description of the contents of the proposal
  • present the problem, opportunity or situation that brings about the proposed project
  • get reader concerned about the problem, excited about the opportunity, or interested in the situation in some way.
  • state what you propose to do about the problem, how you plan to help the readers take advantage of the opportunity, how you intend to help them with the situation
  • discuss the benefits of doing the proposed project and advantages that come from approving it
  • describe exactly what the completed project would consist of, what it would look like, and how it would work (i.e. describe the results of the project)
  • discuss the method and theory/approach behind that method – enable readers to understand how you’ll go about the proposed work
  • provide a schedule, including major milestones or checkpoints in the project.
  • briefly list your qualifications for the project; provide a mini-resume of the background you have that makes you right for the project
  • now list the costs of the project and the resources you’ll need to do the project
  • review the benefits of doing the project, in case of shock from costs section
  • and urge audience to get in touch or to accept the proposal

Notice the overall logic of the movement through these sections: you get your audience concerned about a problem or interested in an opportunity, then you get them excited about how you’ll fix the problem or do the project, you next show them what good qualifications you have, then hit them with the costs, but finally come right back to the good points about the project:


Since a proposal is usually looking at solving a problem, the SPSE framework can be a good way to plan and structure your document. It contains many of the same features as the above but may lead you to organise your proposal slightly differently.