3.1 Some preliminaries

In a technical writing course, the proposal assignment is an opportunity for you to present an idea to a specific, named audience about an idea you have to improve a certain aspect of that company, organization, center, or other business. Whatever topic you choose, you must be able to conduct thorough research that you will integrate into your final report.

To begin planning a proposal, remember the basic definition: a proposal is an offer or bid to complete a project for someone. Proposals may contain other elements—technical background, recommendations, results of surveys, information about feasibility, and so on. But what makes a proposal a proposal is that it asks the audience to approve, fund, or grant permission to do the proposed project.

A proposal should contain information that would enable the audience of that proposal to decide whether to approve the project, to approve or hire you to do the work, or both. To write a successful proposal, put yourself in the place of your audience—the recipient of the proposal—and think about what sorts of information that person would need in order to feel confident having you complete the project.

It is easy to confuse proposals with other kinds of documents in technical writing. Imagine that you have a terrific idea for installing some new technology where you work, and you write up a document explaining how it work, showing the benefits, and then urging management to install it. Is that a proposal? All by itself, this would not be a complete proposal. It would be more like a feasibility report, which studies the merits of a project and then recommends for or against it. However, all it would take to make this document a proposal would be to add elements that ask management for approval for you to go ahead with the project. Additionally, for some technical writing classes offered in college, one of those elements may be scholarly research. Check with your instructor to see if this is the case. Certainly, some writers of proposals must sell the projects they propose, but in all cases, proposals must sell the writer (or the writer’s organization) as the one to complete the project.

Chapter Attribution Information

This chapter was derived by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, from Online Technical Writing by David McMurrey – CC: BY 4.0


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Technical Writing Copyright © 2017 by Allison Gross, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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