Project Proposal



Guide for Writing Project Proposals

This is a summary of how to write good, concise proposals for course projects. The focus of this summary is on programming or implementation projects, but the general ideas can be applied to most proposals. The recommended lengths of sections are given assuming a document length of 3 to 7 pages (when using 11 pt. Times New Roman font in the main body text, Arial font in headings, and 2.5 cm space on each side of a page.) Use appropriate scaling for longer proposal documents.

Sample Outline

The following is a sample outline for a project proposal. Note that all questions for a section may not apply to your proposal, and should be used as a general guide only.

  1. Introduction (1 or 2 paragraphs)
    Briefly state the topic chosen, why it is of interest, the goals, and how you intend to carry this out. This should be a short paragraph of about 4-5 sentences:
    bulletMotivation Sentence
    bulletSummarize the problem (1 or 2 sentences)
    bulletSummarize the solution (1 or 2 sentences)
    bulletDescribe format of rest of proposal (sections, etc.)
  2. Background and Motivation (1 to 3 paragraphs)
    Describe the chosen area, which should be fairly narrowly defined, giving references to relevant work. This description should be terse and at a high technical level (e.g. do not spend time defining technical terms used). Next give reasons why the area is of current interest to the technical community in general and to you in particular. Finally, list (at least three) potential problems which merit further investigation. (Note: your project need not necessarily advance the state of the art, but it must advance the state of your knowledge and skills.)
    bulletWhat is the history of the problem?
    bulletWhy is this problem interesting?
    bulletWhen and why does the problem occur?
    bulletIs the problem already solved? What is done now?
    bulletAre there any similar systems or solutions to the one you propose? If so, reference and very briefly explain them.
    bulletAre there are possible improvements to current solutions?
  3. Project Summary (1 paragraph)
    Describe in some detail the problem which you have chosen to attack and the reasons for its importance in relation to the other problems, if any, listed above. Describe your proposed method of investigation. Give some convincing reasons why you believe you will be able to complete the project as proposed by the end of the semester. It is better to propose a modest project and complete it successfully by the end of the semester than to make a vague or grandiose proposal which you are unable to complete. 
    bulletWhat in general will this project achieve? (Do not delve into details or timelines.)
  4. Project Details
    bulletDeliverables (3-5 paragraphs - point-form may be used for some of the description)
    bulletWhat will the project produce? (program, report, etc.)
    bulletDescribe in relative detail the features of each of the project's products.
    bulletYou may wish to separate deliverables into phases and indicate optional components given time.
    bulletEmphasize what your project contributes or achieves!
    bulletTimeline (1 paragraph - point-form is suitable)
    bulletProvide an estimated timeline of project deliverables and important dates.
    bulletA division of the work into phases with a timetable for completion of the phases would be helpful
    bulletArchitecture and Environment (2-3 paragraphs + figures)
    bulletDiagrams (UML, MS Visio, ...) and figures are useful here if appropriate.
    bullet Describe the project environment (software, hardware, languages, organizations, etc.)
    bulletWhat software, hardware, or tools will you use?
    bulletImplementation Issues and Challenges (2-3 paragraphs)
    bulletWhat will be the most difficult issues and challenges in the implementation?
    bulletHow are you using or extending current tools/systems for your problem?
    bulletWhat makes your project unique?
  5. Conclusion (1 paragraph)
    bulletSummarize the project including the problem, motivation, and proposed solution, and re-state important (planned) contributions.
  6. References
    You should include Internet or other references at this stage to relevant research papers or background articles. The style of references follow that used in some recognized Computer Science academic publications, such as the IEEE Computer, ACM Computing Surveys, etc. 
    bulletList references used to compile proposal and references that will be used for project (if already known).

Additional References

bulletGeneral Writing Tips
bulletSample Proposal


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This site was last updated 12/25/12