In business, academia, and industry, engineers write proposals in order to convince a client or funding source that they or their company should be chosen to complete a job or to receive research funding. Successful proposals describe a problem and show how that problem will be solved in a timely and economic manner. Think of proposals as presenting (1) a problem and (2) your solution.
Proposals fall into two categories, solicited and unsolicited. You may write a solicited proposal in response to an organization’s formal “Request for Proposals” (RFP). RFPs outline an organization’s specific need and invite outside individuals or groups to submit a plan to address that need. Many RFPs require that your proposal follow a set of detailed writing specifications so that it may be evaluated with a formal “points” system. Unsolicited proposals are generally less formal than the solicited kind. You may, for instance, write an unsolicited proposal to your manager if you have an idea that you would like to implement. Unsolicited proposals may be short (2-4 pp.) documents, or even 1-page memos. See the References below for more detailed information on engineering proposals.
In ChE 333T, you will write a proposal requesting approval to proceed with your chosen topic for the Ethics Report. Like “real world” proposals, you will need to persuade your readers that your topic is timely, relevant, and worth further investigation. Unlike “real world” proposals, you can skip a detailed analysis of the financial cost. Nevertheless, you do need to consider another precious resource: time. Consider the time you will spend researching and writing the report, and the time your instructors and fellow students will spend reading it.
Formats for proposals vary widely. The format for ChE 333T proposals resembles one designed for literature reviews (Alley, 2004); other formats may be found in the References. This format begins with a title page and ends with an annotated bibliography. The text itself has five sections:
Introduction: The introduction consists of 1-2 paragraphs summarizing the background, the purpose of the project, and your specific focus.
Statement of the Problem: The Statement of the Problem begins with 1-2 paragraphs that describe the company and give readers enough background to understand the problem that the company faced. The Statement of the Problem also explains why the company and its problem are worth further study.
Objectives: The Objectives presents the purpose and the specific goals of your project. Think of the goals as a preliminary outline for your research. What are the tasks you are setting up for yourself? Also, use the Objectives section to explain your “scope and limitations.” What will you focus on? What will you not be able to cover?
Plan of Action: The Plan of Action links your goals to your research. How will your sources help you meet your goals? What further research will you need to do?
Management Plan: The Management Plan sets out a schedule for managing your time. Include the important due dates. Also, set out your qualifications for conducting this research.
The proposal text should be 1400-1600 words. (This word count does not include the Title Page and Annotated References.)
Alley, Michael. (2004, July). Proposal request for the Undergraduate Literature Review. Writing guidelines for engineering and science students. Retrieved July 5, 2005 fromhttp://www.writing.eng.vt.edu/workbooks/proposal.request.html#request
Burnett, Rebecca. (2005). Technical Communication. (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Moore, Christy. ME 333T. Engineering Writing Center. Retrieved July 5, 2005 fromhttp://www.me.utexas.edu/~moore/ME333T%20Home.htm
Colorado State University. (2004, June). Overview: engineering proposals. Writing@CSU. Retrieved July 7, 2005 fromhttp://writing.colostate.edu/references/documents/proposal/pop2b.cfm
Greenly, Robert B. (1992) Technical writing and illustrating strategies for winning government contracts. In David F. Beer (Ed.), Writing and speaking in the technical professions. pp. 213-218. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE Press.