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Assignment 2: Proposal Write a formal proposal memo seeking my approval for the project that will become your formal

Assignment 2: Proposal Write a formal proposal memo seeking my approval for the project that will become your formal

Assignment 2: Proposal

Write a formal proposal memo seeking my approval for the project that will become your formal report.  This proposal is the first document in a series of sequenced assignments that also includes a progress report and a formal report.

Your first assignment in this sequence, the proposal, asks you to identify a problem, issue, or concern pertaining to Midwestern State University that you would like to explore further and propose a solution for in your formal report later in the semester. You do not have to have a solution to the problem at this time; at this point, you are only seeking clearance to explore the matter further.

Your audience for this memo is me, your instructor. Think of me as someone who wants to be sure that you choose a project from which you can learn a great deal and on which you can do a good job. I need to be convinced that this project is important to you and that you have the ability to complete it. You should also think of me as someone who wants to see your time spent wisely, just like your boss would. The topic you propose should be clearly meaningful to the University and its constituents, and therefore, merit further exploration.

When reading your proposal memo, I will be looking for answers to the following questions: 

  • What problem/issue/concern do you want to explore?  Have you clearly defined a conflict between a desired situation and the current situation?
  • Who is affected by the situation?  Who will be the audience for your final report? What is your position in relation to the audience?
  • Why is this challenge significant for this final audience? What is at stake?
  • Do you have a possible feasible solution for the problem?  Have you established what a good solution would require? Have you thought about alternative plausible solutions?
  • What makes you qualified to carry out the project?  How is the topic related to your major?  Your career plans? 
  • What will it take to gather the necessary information and complete your analysis?  Can you complete your report in the time left in this semester, using the resources readily available to you?
  • Do you have a work plan for your project, a plan that shows specifically when certain activities must be completed this semester if you are to finish the project on time?


Craft your proposal in the form of a formal business memo to me.  Select your information and organize it in such a way that it is persuasive and accessible.  Remember, this proposal is not merely informative:  it is an argument for why your topic should be approved.  Your proposal will most likely include the following sections:

  • An introduction that tells me why you are writing.
  • A section on the problem, issue, concern and why it merits attention
  • A section describing your research plans for this project.  Convince me that you know what kind of information you’ll need and where to find it. Include an analysis of your readers and what information they’ll need in order to adopt your solution.
  • A discussion of your credentials and motivation.  Convince me that you have the background and resources necessary to conduct your research.  Be sure to also indicate your motivation for and/or connection to this particular project.
  • A schedule.  Convince me that you know what activities your research will require and that you can get them done on time.
  • A conclusion that formally requests permission to proceed.

Evaluation Criteria

Proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Persuasiveness and Organization
    • I will be looking to see that you are taking on an actual project related to your professional and academic expertise and that you can complete the project by the end of the semester.  Make your proposal convincing; demonstrate that you have singled out a worthwhile problem to solve and that you are the researcher to solve it.
  • Style, Clarity and Arrangement
    • Your proposal must be well written. The problem statement is clear and logically stated, sentences correct, concise and arranged so that the meaning is easily obtained and the prose is streamlined and effective for a general reader.  Paragraphs are coherent, unified and relatively short.
  • Design and Format
    • Your design choices, including paragraph length, headings, subheadings, font choices, etc., increase document professionalism and accessibility.  Business memo format is used consistently and appropriately.

Choosing a "good" problem or opportunity to research

Your success depends on the problem or opportunity you choose.

A "good" problem or opportunity has four characteristics:

  • You're interested in learning more about the problem or opportunity.
  • You can research the problem using some combination of observations, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and secondary research. Local problems often work well because they're easier to research.
  • The problem or opportunity is broad enough in scope to sustain a research project.
  • The problem or opportunity is narrow enough in scope that you can reasonably research it and recommend solutions over just a few weeks.

Problems to avoid

  • Parking. Unless you're a civil engineering major, this problem is too big for you to feasibly research. 
  • The price of textbooks. This problem originates from the textbook publishing industry and you're not in a position to investigate it. 
  • Too-small problems. Problems with obvious solutions or problems that aren't really big enough to merit research and reporting. For example, sometimes the bike racks at MSU are overcrowded and it's hard to find a place to lock up a bike, which can cause lateness and may lead cyclists to risk bike theft. However, this problem is only a problem at specific times during the year; most of the time, bike racks at MSU are uncrowded, even empty. So, the problem isn't much of a problem. If it were a bigger problem, it still isn't a "good" problem because the solutions are obvious: 1) observe bike parking crowding to determine where to put a new bike rack; 2) recommend an affordable yet secure model of bike rack. Done.
  • Big social problems like racism, sexism, classism, ableism, ageism, and so on. If you identify a local manifestation of one of these problems and you can research it, your problem can relate to these bigger issues.

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