This resource explains the purpose and structure of a project proposal.
What is a project proposal?
A project proposal is a 2-5 page document that seeks to address key questions surrounding a major project. A project proposal concisely describes what your project hopes to accomplish, why those objectives are important, and how you intend to achieve them. In more general terms, it makes a case for what you plan to do.
During your studies, you may be asked to complete a project proposal as a first step towards completing a major project, for example a capstone project. A project proposal at university is used to assess the quality and originality of your ideas, your understanding of the purpose of your project, and the ultimate feasibility of the project.
How is a project proposal different to a research proposal?
A research proposal typically describes a question or hypothesis you have chosen to explore, whereas a project proposal will typically describe something you intend to produce – this might be a policy report, a web site, a film, a book, a computer game or an event – there are many possibilities. Both types of proposal involve research.
How do I structure a project proposal?
The structure of your project proposal will vary depending on the nature of the work you plan to undertake, and with the discipline in which your project is situated. The subject outline will specify any particular requirements. It may ask that you include basic information and any of a number of common components of project proposals. These can include:
This is a brief heading that accurately captures the nature of the proposed work. Example: “Politics on the Lawn Events: Student Voices in a Post-truth Age”.
This section provides the reader with an overarching rationale for your project that explains what you want to achieve and why it is significant. This should relate directly to the requirements found within your subject outline. If your project has more than one objective, each should be included as a single sentence or dot point.
Example: “Our project is designed to make a positive contribution to community recycling in the Illawarra. We aim to:
- identify the recycling options available to the Illawarra community
- explore community attitudes to recycling
- prepare a community resource kit which clarifies recycling options and encourages Illawarra residents to recycle more of their waste.”
Here you provide the background context against which you will conduct your project. This will include a brief summary of what is already known about the issue or topic as well as some of the problem areas that directly relate to your proposed work.
Certain disciplinary fields may want you to demonstrate your knowledge by placing your project in relation to published research or others’ work in the area. In some cases this may entail a literature review.
Ultimately, by the end of the background statement the reader should recognise the originality of your proposed work and understand its relevance.
This highlights how you will contain your project to ensure it is focussed and achievable.
For example, you might explain that you are limiting your work to a location such as “in the Illawarra”, to a group such as “first year students currently enrolled at university” or to a time period such as “in 2018”.
You should also explain what is out of scope, for example “excluding PhD students”.
The approach/methodology section describes the methods and materials that you intend to use within your project. It will detail how you will go about acquiring the information you need and explain how the project will be managed. If a particular theory or model is to be used, this should be stated. You could also include details such as timelines, budgets, locations, or the software to be used.
If you intend to conduct field work or collect empirical data as part of your major project, you must provide details about this, as your subject coordinator might need to give you advice about the university’s policies for safety or human research ethics.
If this is a group project, you would list each member and describe their planned role or contribution. You might also briefly mention how you will work as a group, for example how you will communicate or share work and how often you will meet.
This section should include the expected impacts and benefits of the proposed project. It is important that these be specific and realistic.
Example: “Outcomes of this project will include:
- a prototype of an engrossing, original computer game of professional standard
- a business plan for taking our game to market
- for team members, valuable insights, enhanced skills and an original work for portfolios.”
The bibliography should list all of the sources drawn upon to write the proposal, in the academic referencing style used by your school or faculty.