How to Write a Proposal Essay/Paper

What is a Proposal Essay?

A proposal essay is exactly what it sounds like: it proposes an idea and provides evidence intended to convince the reader why that idea is a good or bad one.

Although proposals are generally a significant part of business and economic transactions, they are not limited to those two areas. Proposals may be written for any college classes, scientific fields, as well as personal and other professional areas.

This article will go over how to write an effective proposal essay and provide a sample one that was actually submitted and implemented.

Before You Start: Pre-Writing Strategies

Much of the work is done before you type a single sentence. Before sitting down to write your proposal you’ll want to spend some time on each of the following.

  1. Get to Know Your Audience. Remember, a proposal essay is an effort to convince a reader that your idea is worth pursuing - or that another idea is not worth pursuing. To that end, you have to know who you’ll be writing for. Are they business people? Academics? Government officials? If your audience is primarily business people you’ll want to justify your proposal by pointing to possible financial benefits. If they’re government officials, you may want to emphasize how popular a certain proposal is.
  2. Do Your Research. Having secondary sources who can support your claims will go a long way to persuading others of your proposal. Spend some time talking to experts or reading their research.
  3. Pre-Write. Before starting the actual essay, spend some time brainstorming excellent ideas. Once you have a bunch of good ideas, spend some time thinking about how you’d like to organize them.
  4. Revise, Revise, Revise. Never turn in a first draft! Have a trusted peer or colleague read your paper and give you feedback. Then take some time to incorporate that feedback into a second draft.

Main Parts of a Proposal Essay

The main parts of a proposal essay are summarized here. It is important to keep in mind that depending on your proposal parts may need to be added or taken out. The parts below (with the exception of the introduction and conclusion) may be rearranged to suit individual proposals.

  • Introduction
  • Proposal
  • Plan of action
  • Desired outcomes
  • Resources needed
  • Conclusion

1. Introduction

The introduction serves to inform your reader of the history of the proposal (if applicable) or to introduce a subject to an informed/uninformed audience.

This is the most important part of your paper in some respects. You need to both introduce the topic and show the audience why they should care about this topic. It’s often helpful to begin with an interesting fact, statistic, or anecdote to grab the reader’s attention.

Typically, people only make proposal to solve a problem. As such, you’ll want to highlight a particular problem that you think your proposal would solve. Know your audience so that you can emphasize the benefits your proposal would bring.

2. Proposal

This is a statement of purpose. This section should be brief and only discuss what your actual proposition is. It is okay for this section to be only a few sentences long if the proposal is short. Do not include details about how you will carry out the proposal in this section.

3. Plan of Action

How will you go about achieving your proposal? What will you do to show your audience that you are prepared? This is where you go into detail about how your proposal will be implemented. A couple things to include:

  1. Convince: You need to convince your audience not only that your proposal is a good idea but also that you’re the person who needs to carry it out. Highlighting your qualifications about why you’re suited for the task is helpful if you're the one to carry out the proposal.
  2. Detail: In discussing the implementation, you’ll want to give enough detail to show your audience that you’ve thought about how the process will work. That said, you don’t want to bore them with overly-technical or boring details.
  3. Anticipate: Anticipating potential implementation problems is both good practice and communicates to your audience that you’ve thought carefully about your proposal and about potential stumbling blocks.

4. Will it work?

Focus this area on why the proposal will work. Quite simply, is it a viable proposal? You can draw on similar past experiences to show why this proposal will work just like previous ones. If you do not have this "past experience" option, focus on what you think your audience wants to hear. For example, if your manager really likes getting things done on time, then perhaps you might mention how your proposal can speed up productivity. Think logically here.

*Tip: Do not structure this section the same way as your "Benefits of..." section.

5. Desired outcomes

Simple. State what the goals of your proposal are. It might seem repetitive with the sections where you mentioned the benefits, but it serves to really "drill" home the point.*

6. Necessary Resources

Another simple part. What is needed to complete your proposal? Include tangible (paper, money, computers, etc.)and intangible items such as time.

7. Preparations Made

Show the audience that you know what you are doing. The more prepared you look the better your chances are to get the proposal passed (or get a better grade if it is for a class).

8. Conclusion

Do NOT restate your introduction here if you choose to mention the "history" of a certain proposal. However if you did not introduce your proposal with some historical background information, here is the part where you can quickly restate each section above: Proposal, plan of action, all the "why's" of the paper and so on.

9. Works Cited/Consulted

As in any essay or paper, cite your sources as appropriate. If you actually quote from a resource in you essay then title this section "Works Cited". If you do not cite anything word for word, use "Works Consulted".

Sample Proposal Paper

Collage Proposal


In 1912, Pablo Picasso, an avid painter of nature and still life, tore part of a makeshift tablecloth and glued it to his painting, Still Life with Chair Caning, and thus, by adding different items to aid his painting, he began the art of collage making. (Pablo Picasso – Still Life with Chair Canning). A collage is simply a group of objects arranged together to create a complete image of an idea, theme, or memory. For example, David Modler created a collage called “Big Bug” to represent the irony that is the importance of insects to our natural world in comparison to their size. The bug in the image is the smallest feature of the collage yet it is to be viewed as the most important aspect (Modler, David). All these parts of a collage collaborate together to create a unifying theme or message and can be used as a helpful tool in education.

Statement of Purpose

I propose that each student make an artistic collage to be presented to the class that will symbolize the context, audience, setting, structure or any key ideas found in one of the readings this semester. Students who make a collage will be able to drop the lowest quiz grade.

Plan of Action

The students will have one week from the announcement of the project to complete the collage and prepare a presentation for it. Each student must choose one reading that we have done so far or will read in the future, and no two students may choose the same work. Conflict with students wanting to present the same work will be resolved by a first come first serve basis. The students will be given a rubric with the exact requirements of the project and what the purpose of the project is.

I will make the rubric myself and submit it for approval, or we can use the rubric that I have attached.

Benefits of Collage Proposal

  1. Making a collage would allow the students to think and inspect the readings and ideas visually (Rodrigo, “Collage”), thus giving them another perspective, or possibly clearing up any misconceptions and confusions they had about a work when we were just discussing it in class verbally.
  2. A collage provides the opportunity for revision of a certain work and would certainly help to clear up any topics in the readings that might come up on the final exam or a future test, via a visual and more creative method.
  3. If a student received a bad grade on a quiz because they did not understand the reading, the collage would give the student an opportunity to go back to the reading and understand it, or to read ahead and grasp concepts that might be useful to present to the class before the class does the reading. A collage would allow the student to become familiar with the work in a visual way and give them an opportunity to understand the main themes, topics, and ideas of a work, even one we might not have read yet.

Viability of Collage Proposal

Since a collage would be like giving the student an opportunity to go back and review a subject and at the same time would resemble preparation for a presentation, the time and effort required to go back and re-read a work as well as prepare the collage creatively would be sufficient to justify replacing the lowest quiz grade.

Our course mentor said that this project would be a nice addition to the class because, just like any play is better seen than read, the collage will allow students to get the visual aspect behind a work and help them to grasp the ideas better.

Past visuals that we have used in class to describe scenes from our readings such as The Tempest and The Odyssey have greatly helped me to understand some of the ideas of the stories. For example, I always pictured the cyclops as a nasty, vile creature, but after some of the “fuzzy” drawings on the board done by some of my peers, I imagined and understood that he could in fact be a gentle creature that was just angered by Ulysses trespassing and blinding him. I could not have seen that perspective of the story had it not been for some of the more innocent visuals on the board.

Finally, I have discussed with the students in our class about the idea of a collage replacing the lowest quiz grade and the overwhelming majority approved of the idea. Since a collage will substitute for a quiz grade, the assignment will be optional. Just as a quiz is almost always optional based on class initiation of discussion, the collage will also be optional based on similar student effort parameters. The students who do not want to do a collage can choose “door number 2” and take a quiz that would be created by the teachers and/or myself. This quiz can be used to make the total number of assignments for each student in the class even, and may or may not be graded based on the professor's discretion.

Desired Outcomes

The first goal of my collage proposal is to give students a chance to be creative and step outside the boundaries of classroom discussion. They can use their imaginations to find a way to creatively put together a collage that will help the class as well as themselves to better understand the course reading.

A second goal of my proposal is that the time and effort put into making the collage and presenting it in front of the class will equal the worth of dropping the lowest quiz grade. Because this collage requires the creator to examine the context, audience, setting, structure of any one of the readings, it is essentially like a quiz itself, which includes questions on similar topics.

Necessary Resources

The literary work that a student chooses to create a collage on will determine how much time is necessary to fully complete the project. One week to create a collage should give each student—no matter what reading they choose to do—ample time to create a presentable and educational collage for the class.

In terms of tangible resources, this project is not very demanding. A simple poster or a series of photographs or drawings assembled neatly together by the student will be about as resourcefully demanding as this project gets.

In addition, a few hours of class time will need to be allocated in order to present the collages. If each student takes at least five minutes to present the total time needed for the presentations will be 1 hour and 15 minutes. The presentation day(s) and time(s) can be decided by the class as a whole.

The rest of the resources needed are already available:

  • The readings are all published online if a student needs to refer back to them
  • Craft supplies are readily available

Skills for Successful Completion

  • As a good planner and organizer I made a rubric that is specific enough to give the students a good idea of what they should be doing for the collage. The rubric can be made available upon your request.
  • In addition I can also come up with a quiz if there are students who want to opt out of the collage project.
  • I can talk to the class and come up with a good presentation time and date for everybody.
  • I would volunteer myself to hold an early presentation session a few days before the due date so the others can get an idea of what their collage could look like and why they can benefit from the project.
  • I will make myself available to the class if they have any questions about the proposed project.


A collage will allow students to understand visually a reading or topic in a reading that they may have been confused about. The project is a fun and creative way to get students to think about a reading more in depth as well as review for future exams. As a result of the effort and time put into the collages, the students should be allowed to drop their lowest quiz grade in the semester.

Works Cited

Modler, David. Big Bug. Photograph.Kronos Art Gallery. Web. 12 Oct. 2011

"Pablo Picasso - Still Life with Chair Caning (1912)." Lenin Imports. Web. 12 Oct. 2011.

Rodrigo. "Collages." Web 2.0 Toolkit. 11 Mar. 2009. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.

© 2011 Laura Writes

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Comments 36 comments

cedricperkins 15 months ago

A powerful guide in fact. It lists almost all aspects of writing a proposal essay. However, there is one thing students have to note. Even though there are certain rules and principles for writing an essay, there is always scope for breaking the conventions. Universities always accept innovations in writing. Be prepared to write in the most recent writing mechanics. I think will help you to write proposal essays to emerge out successfully. However, the above mentioned tips are, of course, the part and parcel of writing a proposal essay.

roselinda nyota 15 months ago

awesome guideline....

afahrurroji profile image

afahrurroji 18 months ago from Karawang, Indonesia

Awesome hub and so helpful.

Rakim Cheeks profile image

Rakim Cheeks 19 months ago

This was a really great detailed format of how to write a proposal essay. I believe all college students need to read this! As a writer, this helped me, and you explained it very well. Excellent job!

Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 19 months ago Author

Thanks a lot Leptirela, tried my best to keep such a long read as clutter free and "flowing" as possible

Leptirela 19 months ago

Excellent hub. Informative and understandable.

May I please express how, impressive this hub and the lay out is :)

EssayProfy 20 months ago

Great post. Interesting infographic how to write an argumentative essay

Larry 23 months ago

The challenge in writing a proposal resides in its structure.

For the writer it is important that it be clear, to the point and as concise as possible.

It is important to remember that the reader is the one who will accept or reject your proposal either way due to a wide array of factors. Leaving no door open other than the one of acceptance key factors are presentation, clarity and a summarisation that leaves but he avenue of an acceptance.

Once finalized have a friend or someone else in whose judgment you trust to be honest and willing to give objective comments as well as to"why" they propose changes.

One practice I enforce when writing anything that is consequential is to set the document aside forgetting about it for a couple of days and the review it again. A fresh read is always good.

One last tough. Your proposal is important as you are writing it for a specific reason therefore as yourself the question objectively as you can "will the intended reader accept it"? If you have a slight hesitation review it again and try to find the weak point and rewrite it to give it strength.

Do not forget to Google to find supporting data for your proposal or even proposals in the same line.

Best of luck to all.


Alyssa 2 years ago

This was extremely helpful! I wasn't quite sure how to lay my proposal essay out. So thank you, thank you! (:

cynthia 2 years ago

This information was very helpful. You gave me something to go on. Thank you.

Stephanie 2 years ago

This was a great go-by. Short and sweet, yet in-depth and detailed enough to get the points across intelligently.

ELSID 2 years ago

Thanks for your help!

Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

Jo_Goldsmith11 2 years ago

Just what I was looking for. Great job with presentation and easy reading on the eyes~ shared, tweet and Up...thank you for writing this. :-)

Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 2 years ago Author

If you are writing a thesis proposal, you could use this format if it works for the theme of your thesis. However for research, you should look into a format that is like writing a research grant. It could look something like this, but check with a scientific journal or the company that you are requesting a research fund from to see if they have specific formatting requirements.

Ayman 2 years ago

Is this the same Thesis Proposal or research Proposal?

EJ 3 years ago

Thank you so much

3 years ago

Very good and helpful. Really clear and straight forward.

Friskila Damaris Aquila Silitonga 3 years ago

Nice info and it's a practical round up with good resources.


Friskila Damaris Aquila Silitonga.

My Moments profile image

My Moments 3 years ago

I have been a grant writer for sixteen years and it's always nice to see someone include the actual practice with the theory of proposal/grant writing. Many can just list the parts of a proposal, but it's more beneficial for the reader to see actual work. Great job!

Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 3 years ago Author

No problem, good luck on your papers!

Aryal Umesh 3 years ago

Its great .

Thanks a lot.

daphine 3 years ago

Thx London 4 ur contribution

in building ma proposal

codjoe conduah 3 years ago

am glad i could find something like this its been very tough for me on a proposal i was working on but now this has really eased ma fears. thanks a lot

Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 3 years ago Author

I'm glad this is proving useful to everybody. Good luck on your papers!

samuel sikei 3 years ago

Thank you, this is so direct and very professional.

Anil and Honey profile image

Anil and Honey 3 years ago from Kerala

Hai nice essay. I suggest it to the school and college students.

Thanks for sharing .

hliz 3 years ago

thank you sosososososososososososo much

mumtaz 3 years ago

so nice dear..........

:) 4 years ago

thx for the awesome outline

Theo 4 years ago

This has been excellent explained...

Senze 4 years ago

This is great, extremely helpful.

sarah 4 years ago

Very nice!!!

Alexander 4 years ago

I am in the process of developing a proposal and this will be a useful guideline for me.

Thank you

jessica ramirez 4 years ago

excellent very helpful(:

Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 4 years ago Author

Thank you, I'm glad you found this useful

Joseph Asumadu 4 years ago from Ghana-aWest Africa

This is very good thump up.

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