The Proposal: Definition and reasons for assigning

To an extent, the word "proposal" is misleading, as it suggests that you are outlining what you plan to do in the FUTURE. To an extent a proposal does indicate what your final project will look like, but remember that a good proposal indicates that you've already done a third to a half of the work needed to complete your project.

So, please take this assignment seriously.

Two major reasons your professor will assign a proposal are:

  • To ensure that by the due date you have assembled a tentative bibliography, done a substantial amount of reading and have made crucial decisions about the topic, scope, and structure of your paper; and

  • To identify and discuss with you anything that is of concern about your semester project or term paper. It's much better to find and correct problems early on rather than ending up with a weak paper and much lower grade than you would like.

It follows that:

  • If you run into a problem before the proposal is due, it's wise to meet with your professor to resolve it. He or she almost certainly will be very happy to help you.

  • It's a really bad idea to slack off in the early part of the semester and dash off a "proposal" a day or so before it's due. If your hasty preparation is obvious, then you'll have to re-do your proposal and meet with your professor or receive written feedback when he or she is available--which means you might have to accept a delay. And if your proposal sounds plausible, you may have committed to something you can't deliver on.

In contrast, a carefully researched and written proposal ensures that you'll have fairly smooth sailing for the balance of the semester.

© Jan Mainzer