Main Page
Course Admin
Course Resources
Rules & Regulations
Team Profiles
Photo Gallery
Contact Info
  You are here: RoboFlag Main Page > Course Resources > Report and Presentation Information > Project Proposal

Preparing a Fourth-Year Design Project Proposal

A presentation overview designed for students

Written September 2000,
William Sitch, B.Eng. (1999)

The project proposal is the first written requirement of the fourth-year design project. This proposal must outline what you're planning on doing, how you're planning to do it, and why you're doing it. This report should be written so that it can be understood by non-engineering types, such as a non-technical manager or supervisor.

Like most presentation components of the fourth-year design project, the proposal is often poorly implemented. A good proposal is often hard to prepare, and requires a significant amount of time to be spent on thinking about the project. The proposal can be re-used later in the documentation phase as a guideline for progress reports, oral presentations, and the final report.

This introduction to project proposals, with emphasis on the fourth-year design project, is as follows:

Understanding the Purpose of your Proposal

Proposals are used to sell something - in most cases, yourself or your business. A proposal is a document that offers a specific product or service to a specific client. The proposal makes a single suggestion, and describes the plan for executing and implementing the suggestion.

The most important aspect of the proposal is meeting the requirements of the person or group receiving the proposal. You must indicate that what you propose to do complys with what the "client" wants. In terms of 97.497: RoboFlag, or other fourth-year projects, your proposal is going to detail what you and your team are going to do.

The structure of a proposal is often similar to the structure of other reports. The language must be professional and formal; remember that you are selling an idea or a service, and that the proposal is the sales document.

Writing a Convincing and Persuasive Proposal

The three elements that make a proposal convincing are:

  • accurate understanding of what the client wants;
  • attention to technical detail; and
  • credibility and professionalism of the document.

As Natasha Artemeva teaches, writing a persuasive proposal requires that you _absolutely_ understand what the problem is. You need to present a detailed plan, not only for what your team is going to do, but also for what you are planning on doing. While it is important to be as specific as possible, be careful not to make any false promises. In some contracts, a proposal is legally binding.

In order to acheive credibility and to demonstrate professionalism, you should present the credentials that qualify you for the job. Don't exaggerate; present facts that speak for themselves. Maintain a dignified and professional tone.

Small Team Strategies for the Project Proposal

Working within a small team in an academic environment can be difficult: while you may brainstorm and use each other to proofread your reports, it's important to submit your own proposal. Be careful that your proposal remains unique to you, but also contains detail in regards to your team.

There are several items that may be similar for group members:

  • a Gaant chart, or timeline, can be shared between group members
  • the team goals will probably be similar (please don't copy word-for-word)
  • technical detail regarding team strategies, or other general details, will be similar

Components of the Project Proposal

A proposal will generally include your understanding of the project and your "plan". The plan should be expanded to include what your group will contribute, and what you will be focusing on. The components of a project proposal might be as follows:

  • Introduction
    • what the document is (a proposal) and for what subject (fourth-year project)
    • how long is the project? what dates does the project span?
    • who are your teammates? mention your group name, if any
    • who is your supervisor?
  • Objective
    • what is the objective of the project? (get a dict. and look up "objective")
    • what are your team goals?
    • what are your individual goals? what will you do?
  • Motivation
    • why are you doing this project?
      • don't tell me "for credit"
      • mention the academic/industrial skills you will benefit
    • what are the applications for robotics in academia/industry?
  • Technical Overview
    • detail your group's general strategy
    • how will the robot be built? how will it work?
    • what will you be doing? how will you do it?
    • (don't get too specific, after all, you probably don't really know yet)
  • Schedule
    • get your group manager to build a gaant chart
    • give some idea of the timeline, etc.

Other industry-related proposals might include the following:

  • Benefits and feasibility of the project
  • Qualifications and references
  • Costs
  • etc.
While it might be appropriate to mention the benefits, feasibilities, and your qualifications, remember that this is a short proposal (several pages), and that you shouldn't use TOO MUCH detail at this point.

Miscellaneous Advice for your Oral Presentation

As Natasha Artemeva explains, the format of a proposal changes when you consider the length of the proposal (short or long) and the destination (internal or external):

  • Memorandum - short proposal under four pages addressed to someone within your company; includes headings
  • Business letter - short proposal addressed to someone outside your organization; includes headings
  • Separate proposal with cover memo - long proposal over four pages addressed to someone within your company; in the memo, key elements of the introduction and the conclusion are restated
  • Separate proposal with cover letter - long proposal addressed to someone outside of your company; again, key elements of the introduction and the conclusion are restated
For the purposes of the 97.497: RoboFlag course, and other fourth-year projects, you should format your proposal in memorandum style.

Main Page
Course Admin
Course Resources
Rules & Regulations
Team Profiles
Photo Gallery
Contact Info