Project Proposal Requirements and Tips

Proposal Requirements

  • We expect the proposals to contain background information about your topic, an answerable research question that relates to the background information, details about the methodology you've chosen to answer said research question, and a brief description of the impact you expect the project to have. Make it clear what you are researching and the methods you will use to find an answer. Be sure to describe the intellectual merit of your research. For sciences and technology (the medical sciences in particular), please make sure you have a clear hypothesis and explain the scientific merit of your proposed research.
  • Your proposal cannot be more than 3 pages in length using double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman, and 1-inch margins. Please make sure your submitted proposal is the final version and has no markup comments. 
  • Citations and References are required. Use citation format suitable for your field. Your proposal must include a references page, but the references page does not count towards the 3 page limit. You may also include figures on a separate page that does not count towards the 3 page limit. 
  • Save your proposal as either .doc (Microsoft Word) or .pdf.  Name your file ".x500_UROP_Spring2020.doc" or ".x500_UROP_Spring2020.pdf" (your .x500 is the username you use and the first part of your University email address).

Questions to Consider 

  • What is the context for your project and why is it important? What are the broader impacts of your proposed research? Does this research have practical application or public policy implications? Will it contribute to better understanding of questions important to human knowledge or culture?
  • What goals will it accomplish or what questions will it answer?
  • For creative projects, what aesthetic are you addressing? Why is your proposed creative project unique?
  • Describe as specifically as possible what you will do methodologically during your research or creative project. What comes first? What are the next steps? Why is your plan realistic and achievable? What contingency plans do you have if this does not work as expected?
  • What is the outcome of your research or creative project? How does this impact the field of study? How will you disseminate your new knowledge? For creative projects, what will you produce?

Proposal Tips

  • Discuss the proposal and project with your faculty mentor.

    Your faculty mentor is there to help ensure that you have a successful project, make sure that you allow time to utilize them. You should write a draft, have it reviewed by your faculty mentor, and then make corrections based on their suggestions. A second reader who is not completely familiar with your discipline and your project can be very helpful in pointing out areas that may seem obvious to you, but not to others outside your field of study. 

  • Write clearly and edit.
    Your audience is educated and intelligent but not necessarily someone who is familiar with your particular field. Don’t use jargon or abbreviations. Make sure your proposal includes complete sentences and accurate spelling and punctuation. Give yourself enough time to edit!

  • Read the guidelines carefully.
    To ensure all proposals are reviewed efficiently and fairly, we expect the guidelines regarding formatting and length to be followed. Formatting issues can cause your otherwise fantastic proposal to be rejected. 

  • Include references.
    No one’s research is dropping into a void. Make it clear that you know what has been done in your area in the past and where your research will fit in. If you have questions about this, your faculty mentor is the best person to talk with about your area of research. 

  • Be sure that you have a research question that is answerable.
    It should be clear to all your readers what it is that you are researching. It should also be clear what methods you will be using to find the answer. Your reader should have a clear picture in his/her head of what your project entails and what activities you will be carrying out. Projects must have an analytical component and contribute some new knowledge to the field. If you have questions, reach out to your mentor or set up an appointment with the Office of Undergraduate Research. We are more than happy to review proposals before the deadline. Submit a draft by email ([email protected]) by 12:00 on the Friday before the deadline for a pre-submission proposal review. 

Common Comments on Non-Approved Proposals

We currently fund 75-80% of proposals, however, these are common comments on proposals we do not approve. 

  • Research question is poorly defined
  • No literature citations
  • Proposal is unclear in terms of methodology, not enough detail is provided. 
  • Project is unrealistic within the 120 hours timeframe 
  • Importance or potential impact of research not discussed
  • Faculty recommendation is not strong, lack of strong mentor support for project
  • Outcome(s) of project undefined or not included.
  • Project doesn’t entail real research (might be administrative or data collection without any analytical component)
  • Proposal or sections of the proposal written by mentor or someone other than the undergraduate applicant.