Write a proposal for a fictitious company situation below that follows the guidelines in Chapter 16.
Write your proposal as a memo or a report. Name the file draftproposalyourlastname and post your file by the due date.
Purpose of the Assignment
This assignment will help you learn how to prepare a persuasive research proposal.
In the working world, knowing how to write a successful proposal will help you because most resources are allocated in response to proposals. You will routinely identify problems and opportunities, propose plans of action, calculate budgets, and create task schedules. This assignment will introduce you to these tasks.
Another purpose of this assignment is to help you practice giving and receiving peer reviews of your writing.
Suggestions for Responding Successfully
Keep in mind the following tips for writing a successful proposal.
- Choose one of these scenarios. Make up any necessary details:
- Scenario 1 – GPS systems. You work for a fictitious outfitting company that brings people out on treks in Yosemite. The problem is that your guides do not currently have portable GPS systems. Because of this, in the last year, three of your guides got lost and returned late, leading to bad publicity and partial refunds. Your hypothesis is that if your guides were equipped with portable GPS systems, they wouldn’t be so likely to get lost. Your proposal is an argument that you be authorized to research portable GPS systems (in the proposal) and to recommend (later in a recommendation report that we are NOT going to do this semester) which (if any) of the available models you should buy for your company. (Primary research: Survey the company guides on brands of GPS systems, features they think they need, and on their experience using GPS systems. Secondary research: general features of GPS systems, major brands, general price guidelines, any studies that show using GPS helps keep people from getting lost.)
- Scenario 2 – Digital cameras. You work for a small residential real estate company in a mid-size city. Currently the company contracts with an outside company to do professional quality photographs of the interior and exteriors of homes that your agents list. The photographs look good, but there is a three-day delay from the time your agents sign a new listing until the time the photographs appear on the company web site and on the real estate listing sites. Your hypothesis is that agents could take their own pictures of the homes and upload the photographs the same day they sign a new listing. Your proposal is an argument that you be authorized to research digital cameras (in the proposal) and to recommend (later in a recommendation report that we are NOT going to do this semester) which (if any) of the available models you should buy for your company. (Primary research: an agent survey on brands of digital cameras, features they think they need, and on whether they would be willing to take and upload their own pictures. Secondary research: general features of digital cameras, major brands, general price guidelines, any research that shows faster listings lead to more sales.)
- Scenario 3 – Tablets. You work for a medium-sized construction company that specializes in doing contract work for roadway projects. Your site inspectors currently spend most of their time driving from site to site to assess progress and make recommendations. At present they take handwritten notes and use paper checklists for quality control. On Fridays, they return to the main office and type and transfer their notes into the company project management software. For many projects, this means that project managers are reviewing reports that are a week old, so by the time they catch any changes that need to be made, the crews have worked several more days, resulting in a lot of re-work for some projects. Your hypothesis is that if the inspectors had tablets with wifi and/or 3G internet connectivity, they could write their notes in the field and upload them immediately. The managers could then review the notes the next day and make faster changes, saving the company from unnecessary re-work. Your proposal is an argument that you be authorized to research tablets (in the proposal) and to recommend (later in a recommendation report that we are NOT going to do this semester) which (if any) of the available models you should buy for your company. (Primary research: an inspector survey on brands of tablets, features they think they need, and on whether they would be willing to type their notes every day and use electronic checklists. Secondary research: general features of tablets, major brands, general price guidelines, 3G versus WiFi versus satellite in remote areas, any research that shows faster review of data leads to fewer reworks and change orders.)
- Create a fictitious audience. Your audience for this proposal is not the instructor of ENGL 4010, but rather some manager at your fictitious organization. I don’t care what name you assign to this person. The important point is that this fictitious person has to have characteristics that will affect how you write the proposal and the recommendation report. (Study Chapter 5 on audience analysis.) For instance, your audience might know something about your topic (such as GPS systems) and want to read the technical details. In this case, you will present a lot of technical information in the bodies of the documents. However, if he or she takes no interest in the technical details, you will put most of the technical information in appendices.
- Be as specific as you can in listing the criteria according to which you will evaluate your options. When you need to buy a car, you have certain criteria in mind, such as that it must have 4-wheel drive, must seat at least five people, and must get at least 17 mpg. These are called necessary criteria. If the car you are considering doesn’t have all these characteristics, you eliminate it. You would like the car to be powerful enough to tow 2,000 pounds and be no older than five years. These are called desirable criteria. If the car you are considering has them, all the better, but you won’t reject a car if it doesn’t have them. For your proposal, incorporate specific criteria you will use to evaluate your options.
- State the problem or opportunity clearly. Use a sentence such as the following: "The problem we are facing is that . . ." If possible, cite a dollar amount of the problem or opportunity.
- State the purpose of the proposal clearly. Use a sentence such as the following: "The purpose of this proposal is to . . ." Use generic words such as purpose and proposal. In technical communication, the premium is on clarity. Don’t try to think up unique terms.
- Describe the nature and scope of the primary and secondary research you plan to conduct. In each scenario above, I have included suggestions for your primary and secondary research. Focus on the questions you would need to answer if you were to later write a recommendation report based on this proposal. For instance, to determine whether we should buy company cars for our business, you will need to answer the following question: "How much would each car cost?" Then determine how you would find the answer to that question. The secondary research is easy. Most of that research you’ll gather from web sites, brochures, magazine reviews, etc. For primary research, most students propose a variation of a survey. Keep it simple and easy to analyze quantitatively.
- The key to writing a successful proposal is to show that you understand the readers’ needs. Audience analysis is critical here. What do you know about your audience that can help you present the problem or opportunity in terms that the audience will understand and appreciate? How can you justify to your audience the need to implement your proposal?
- Integrate your research into the discussion of the problem and the rest of the proposal. Perhaps the most common weakness in student proposals is the failure to carry out any secondary research and to use it in framing the discussion of the problem or the opportunity. Don’t just toss in a few citations. Use the literature as the starting point for your discussion of what is known and not known about your subject. The sample proposal in the textbook does a good job on this.
- Cite your sources correctly at the end of the proposal. Appendix B (beginning on page 632) shows three documentation systems. You may use one of these systems or some other system that is more appropriate for your subject.
- Be specific in describing what you plan to do. It is not sufficient merely to assert that you will "carry out research". When you describe a research methodology, be prepared to justify why you have chosen that method rather than other available methods. Don’t let your audience wonder why you would do what you propose or what the outcome of the procedure would be. Better: " I will conduct an email survey of 10 questions (see attached Appendix B) to all 13 managers at their work email addresses between August 1 and August 10, 2021. I will follow up with a telephone survey for non-responses on August 12, 2021."
- Explain and demonstrate your professionalism. A lot of people have good ideas but don’t follow through on them. Show that you are a professional by including the kinds of information your audience seeks, such as task schedules. In addition, be sure that the proposal looks professional.
- Use a standard structure. Chapter 16 provides a basic organizational structure for the proposal. I am less concerned that you follow the structure provided than that you provide the kinds of information that the chapter describes. If you choose a different structure, justify your choice.
- There are several ways to create a Gantt chart. If you have access to project-management software such as Microsoft Project, you can of course use it. If you don’t, however, you can make a Gantt chart using the table function, as explained in the Tech Tip: How to Create a Gantt Chart on page 451.
- Remember, your budget in this proposal is a budget for doing the research, not the budget for your solution. For example, say you are proposing to research buying electric cars for your company’s delivery fleet. And say your preliminary idea is that your company would need 4-7 cars. The budget in your proposal is how much it will cost the company, usually in lost time, to do the research. (If Sally spends 1 hour a day surfing the Internet gathering data on electric cars and her hourly wage is $10 per hour, and it will take her 3 weeks to gather the data, her cost is $150.) The budget in a later recommendation report would be the budget for the cars, maintenance, parts, etc.
- Study the rubric. Study the rubric below and use it to guide the structure and features of your proposal.
- Study the sample proposal. If your proposal doesn’t resemble the sample proposal on pages 452-459, you are unlikely to do well on this assignment.