Proposal Writing: The Art of Persuasion

At various times in your life you will need to write a proposal, a statement or statements relating to a project you would like to accomplish. Such a proposal is an example of persuasive writing. It is addressed to the individual or agency or scholarship selection committee whose resources can allow you to carry out your project. Your task is to convince them that you and your project deserve their support. Proposal formats vary, but they all need to be highly specific about your goals, methods, preparation for the project, significance of the project, and fit with the funding organization.

Major Questions to Answer in a Scholarship or Grant Proposal

  1. What do you want to do?
  2. Why does it need to be done?
  3. Why should we think you are the person to do it?
  4. How are you going to do it?
  5. Where or to whom have you gone for additional information about (a) researching and developing your project and (b) exploring your fit with the university or other institution where the project will take place?
  6. Why is this organization the right one to fund you and your project?

Building the Case for your Research or Other Project

  1. What issue will your research/project address?
  2. Why is this issue important?
  3. What is already known about the issue?
  4. How is your approach innovative?
  5. How will it advance knowledge in the field?
  6. How would this award help you achieve your long-term goals?
  7. Why are you qualified to carry out the research/project?

Overall Tips

  1. Follow the rules exactly! Read the application form carefully and take it seriously.
  2. Pay attention to the award program’s mission, objectives, and criteria and integrate them with your goals.
  3. Write clearly. Be highly specific and succinct. Make the writing flawless.
  4. Avoid vague and abstract sentences, ambiguities, jargon, and technical language. Be sure to define any acronyms or abbreviations the first time they are used.
  5. Ask your mentors and peers to critically review your proposal.
  6. Spend time on the application. 
  7. Make sure it is complete.
  8. Make the strongest case you possibly can.
  9. Do not be reluctant to toot your own horn!