How do I write a proposal?


What is a proposal?

A proposal is a clear, organized plan that introduces an area of need or project idea and includes the details needed to address the issue or complete a project.  A proposal clearly outlines the steps, details, recommendations, and other pertinent information needed to fully address the area of identified need.

What are the main parts of a proposal?

While there are different types of proposals (e.g. research, business, conference, etc.), here is a general format to follow:

  • Introduction:  This is where you establish the background of the issue and reference any past discussions, experience, or any other relevant information to the problem or proposed project.  Be sure to keep the introduction clear and concise.
  • Area(s) of need:  This section of your proposal needs to outline in detail the area(s) that need addressing.  For example, if you see a need for further education in your unit, clearly outline the problem areas you noticed.  You need to make it clear you have a complete understanding of the situation, so your reader will understand there are real issues that need addressing.
  • Recommendations:  In this section, clearly and logically outline the recommendations you have to address the issue(s).  If you feel further education is needed in a particular area, clearly outline what education is needed and why.  This is the section that will require you to be persuasive.  In other words, really "sell" your recommendations to ensure you get approval for your proposal.
  • Details:  Here is where you outline the cost, timeline, logistics, required staff, required technology, and any other relevant information you need to share regarding your plan.  Do not include in-depth information here - you can include this information in appendices.  See the section Additional Information below.
  • Summary:  Be sure to recap important points, stress that your plan benefits all parties involved, and call out any action items.  It is important to drive home why this issue is important to address the issue sooner rather than later.
  • Additional information in the form of appendices:  Often, it is helpful to not get too in depth with detailed information in the proposal.  That is where this section comes into play - you can use appendices to further inform your reader.  You do not want them to get too distracted by details when reading your proposal as facts and figures can sometimes detract from your main point.  For example, if you want to share a detailed timeline for implementation, you can say something like this in your proposal:
    • It will take three months to fully implement the new training needed.  In Appendix 1, you will find the detailed training plan.
    • I estimate the cost for the new program will be $100 per employee.  I have provided the detailed cost breakdown in Appendix 2. 

What should I keep in mind when writing a proposal?

When writing your proposal, be sure to:

  • Focus on facts
  • Use repetition 
  • Address the reader
  • Keep the reader interested 
  • Be descriptive
  • Be clear
  • Be concise
  • Use credible sources 
  • Be persuasive 

You can also think of your proposal like an action plan.  It is sharing why it is important to act to address the issues outlined.

How do I know I have written an effective proposal?

After you have written your proposal, you can use this checklist to ensure you've met the mark:

  • Will it meet the needs of all involved?
  • Does the introduction generate interest and clearly describe the purpose of the proposal?
  • When sharing the area(s) of need, are you providing a clear picture of the need(s)?  Are you providing clear links between the need(s) and the recommendations? 
  • Are your recommendations clear and specific?  Do you address how these recommendations will benefit all involved?  Do you provide evidence or proof?
  • If costs are involved, do you clearly justify them?  
  • Does your summary clearly tie up loose ends?  Do you have a specific call to action?
  • Are your appendices needed and complete?

If you have answered yes to all of these questions, you have indeed written an effective proposal.


Bonnel, W., & Smith, K. V. (2018). Proposal writing for clinical nursing and DNP projects. Springer.

Forsyth, P. (2013). How to write reports & proposals (3rd ed.). Kogan Page.,shib&db=nlebk&AN=522418&site=ehost-live&scope=site&custid=s9076023





  • Last Updated Jan 07, 2022
  • Views 1999
  • Answered By Kristie Keuntjes, Learning Services Coordinator

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