Assignments: Proposal

Technical Writing


Please Note: This assignment has five options. Please choose one of the options.

Option 1: Undergraduate Research

Learning Goals

In performing and completing this assignment, you should:

    • Learn to follow guidelines for collaborating on a research project;
    • Learn selected elements of proposal writing;
    • Learn to match personal qualifications with designated research tasks.

Like many research universities, Virginia Tech promotes undergraduate research opportunities. The College of Liberal Arts and Human Science has established an Undergraduate Research Institute (URI). Other colleges, departments (Computer Science) and labs have followed suit.

In this assignment, I would like you to search for research opportunities and grants at Virginia Tech. I would like you to apply for a grant for which you are currently qualified.

The Request for Proposal (RFP) (the request may be called something else — the URI has a "Research Opportunity Form", for example) determines the criteria for this assignment. While I believe that you can give me a full, working draft of the proposal by the course due date, I am willing to work with you through any requirements demanded by the RFP.

Once you choose a grant for which you are qualified, please let me know as soon as possible. I would like to consult with you about the proposal's particulars.

Option 1 Requirements

Due June 25 by midnight:

• Please send all files to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — as document attachments in either .doc or .docx format.
• Please have a peer review performed based on the RFP;
• Please include a copy of the RFP when you turn in the assignment. I will use this grading rubric (document file) to assess the proposal assignment.


Option 2: Wikipedia Page Analysis

In performing and completing this assignment, you should:

    • Learn to describe and analyze guidelines for writing a business proposal;
    • Learn to perform preliminary research on proposal structure and norms;
    • Learn to select proper proposal guidelines for writing a proposal.

You have been asked to review the Wikipedia page for Professional and Technical Writing/Proposals. The page is part of an open-content textbook created by, and for, students enrolled in Technical and Professional Writing courses.

You will review and closely analyze the page. You will not only describe the strengths and limitations of the contents of the page for teaching students how to prepare a business proposal, but also make recommendations as to how the page can be revised and improved.

Your analysis will be based on what you have learned about proposals from our class — using any of the course resources — and any additional research you perform. Ultimately, your goal is to determine how effective the page is at teaching someone to write a business proposal and to provide recommendations for improving the page.

In keeping with the spirit of your work and analysis, you will write your description, analysis and recommendations as a proposal. You will use the appropriate elements of the Superstructure given on the page. As the page notes: "[...] it is not mandatory for writers to include every single element listed below in their proposal. Sections can be combined or even briefly stated in other sections."

Option 2 Requirements

Due June 25 by midnight:

    • A 3-5 page (750-1250 words) proposal;
    • A completed peer review (document file);
    • A cover memo (document file) must be included.

Please send all files to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — as document attachments in either .doc or .docx format.
I will use this grading rubric (document file) to assess the proposal assignment.


Option 3: NIR Proposal

Learning Goals

In performing and completing this assignment, you should:

    • Learn to follow guidelines for describing a research project;
    • Learn selected elements of a research proposal;
    • Learn to match personal qualifications with evaluation criteria.

This assignment, a hypothetical, asks you to prepare a research proposal according to guidelines similar to those published by many foundations, universities and government agencies. Too, this assignment offers you a chance to develop skills needed in applying for grant money in the future. Please pay close attention to the information asked for in the request for proposal (RFP). You must directly answer to, and satisfy, the criteria provided.

Request for Proposal

The National Institute for Research (NIR) — a joint agency of the U.S. Department of Education and the National Science Foundation — offers summer research grants in the amount of $12,000 to qualified undergraduates whose proposals meet the requirements that follow. Up to 40 grants are offered each year on a competitive basis. For the summer of 2013 over 550 grant applications were received; 27 grants were awarded.

Grants require ten weeks of full-time work on a carefully defined project under the direction of a supervisor who has the qualifications to advise and evaluate the project. Examples of projects include research on plant or animal species (such as a sea grass or a marine parasite), development of an education program, research on an issue in computer hardware or software, historical research in regional history or literature, or an engineering design project. Any project that is judged appropriate for an honors thesis, junior or senior design project, or independent study might qualify. At the end of the study, every student participant must prepare a research monograph describing the work in detail, the anticipated results of the work and the sources &mdash bibliography, research contacts, facilities &mdash used in the course of the project.

Eligibility:
Students must be enrolled full-time in a college or university. Proposals must call for work by a single student researcher.

Project Categories:
Proposed projects must fall into one of the following three categories. You must identify the category into which your proposal falls. Special consideration will be given to interdisciplinary studies.

    1. Broad study: A broad study of current work in a subspecialty within the student's major field. Applicants may study major theories and current research projects including laboratory or on-site research.

    2. Advanced study: An advanced study of a specific research area in the student's field with a specific and narrowly defined product, goal or hypothesis to be tested.

    3. Interdisciplinary study: An interdisciplinary study focusing on the application or transfer of a concept (or set of concepts), theory, and/or technology from one discipline or field of study to another. Examples include the applications of laser technology for the study of molecular structure, applications of biological theories to explain social behavior, applications of computer analyses to the organization management structure, or applications of theories of cognitive science to the study of writing.

Evaluation Criteria:
Projects will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

    • Does the project fit into one of the three categories listed above?
    • Is the scope of the project well-defined?
    • Can the goals of the research be reached within the ten week time limit?
    • Is the project well-defined? Has the applicant prepared a step-by-step analysis? Is the project sufficiently rigorous and demanding?
    • Does the project address an issue that is important in the discipline?
    • Does the proposed advisor have the necessary qualifications &emdash; educational background, publications, research interests -- to supervise and evaluate the research?
    • Is the applicant qualified — in terms of academic performance and previous coursework — to carry out the project?

Application Process:
The proposal must contain the following sections, although others may be included at your discretion.

    Letter of Transmittal:
    (Definition, How To, Video)

    Cover Page:
    The title of the proposal, author's name, date, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address must be included.

    Body of the Proposal

      Project Definition:
      Describe the problem, issue or hypothesis to be examined during the period of the grant. Give, and explain, the central question you will explore and explain your approach or methodology. Explain how the project fits into one of the three project categories. Explain how the project idea was developed — what its relation is to your previous coursework or employment experience. Explain how the project will further your education objectives.

      Methodology:
      Describe in detail the research plan, including a proposed schedule for all work to be completed. Special attention should be given to the following area: Preliminary reading or study, meeting with advisor, methods employed, necessary travel, schedule for testing any hypotheses, schedule for a written report. If possible, this information should be integrated into a single, comprehensive week-by-week schedule.

      Materials:
      Include a list of references, collections (archives) or laboratory facilities to be used, sites to be visited and possible contacts or interviews.

      Schedule of Work:
      Include a realistic, ten week timetable for the work.

      Budget:
      Include an itemized, totaled list of the approximate costs for materials, tools and labor. The budget cannot exceed the amount of the grant. You will pay yourself out of the budget.

      Biographical Background:
      Describe the background of your advisor (you can simply pick an appropriate faculty member online). Include a brief list of relevant publications. Demonstrate the qualifications your advisor has for directing the work. Describe your educational background, relevant courses, independent study projects, intellectual interests, project related work experience, current academic status and expected graduation date.

      Conclusion:
      Please answer the following question as directly as possible: Why should the NIR fund this research?

Option 3 Requirements

Due June 25 by midnight:

    • A 3-5 page (750-1250 words) proposal;
    • A completed peer review (document file);
    • A cover memo (document file) must be included.

Please send all files to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — as document attachments in either .doc or .docx format.
I will use this grading rubric (document file) to assess the proposal assignment.


Option 4: Non-Profit Proposal

Learning Goals

In performing and completing this assignment, you should:

    • Learn to follow guidelines for a proposal to a nonprofit organization;
    • Learn to conceive and pose a doable project given the proposal criteria;
    • Learn to match personal qualifications with evaluation criteria.

The following option of the assignment asks you to write a proposal to a nonprofit organization to receive funding for a project that you will develop (in theory if not in practice). In pursuing this assignment, please keep in mind a project that you could actually perform. While you should be idealistic, you should be realistic as to what activities you can perform. (This assignment is adopted from David Toomey's formal proposal assignment for English 379, Technical Writing, at the University of Massachusetts.)

Begin thinking about the proposal by identifying a need. Examples include funding for after-school baseball leagues, breast cancer research and a documentary film to document the threatened habitat of mountain gorillas. Give your subject careful thought. Be idealistic. Foundations are set up to reward idealism. If you identify a cause you believe is important (and interesting), the research and writing will be easier.

When you have identified a need, find an entity to represent — e.g., a nonprofit organization that serves that need. You may find a list of nonprofits at Guidestar: the National Database of Nonprofit Organizations.

When you have identified a need and a nonprofit on whose behalf you are writing, you must find what is politely termed a "revenue source" — a contracting agent or granting agency. You may find a list of list of foundations at The Foundation Center. You might also look at the Foundation Grants Index. It is available online for a fee and is also available at the Newman Library. Other sources include:

Many of you may be interested in small or intermediate scale projects involving education and the arts. You would be wise to investigate funding possibilities offered by the Virginia Commission for the Arts. "The Commission distributes grant awards to artists, arts and other educators and local governments, and provides technical assistance in arts management."

Models and Guidelines

Your proposal should follow the guidelines supplied by the foundation or other agency from which you are seeking funds. Please include a copy of those guidelines with your assignment.

One problem presented an author of grant proposals is that some granting agencies offer only general guidelines. If this is the case with the agency from whom you are seeking funds, and you feel the need for more detailed advice, consult The Foundation Center's A Proposal Writing Short Course and/or S. Joseph Levine's Guide for Writing a Funding Proposal.

It is always reassuring to see models, and you should note that Levine's site also includes an excellent "simulated" Proposal for a Community-Based Mothers and Infants Center.

Option 4 Requirements

Due June 25 by midnight:

    • A 3-5 page (750-1250 words) proposal;
    • A completed peer review (document file);
    • A cover memo (document file) must be included.

Please send all files to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — as document attachments in either .doc or .docx format.
I will use this grading rubric (document file) to assess the proposal assignment.


Option 5: NSF Education

Learning Goals

In performing and completing this assignment, you should:

    • Learn to research and describe aspects of the debate regarding the public vs. private funding of science;
    • Learn to follow a request for proposal to structure a project;
    • Learn your position on the issue of public vs. private funding of science.

Call for Proposals (a hypothetical)

The Education Division of The National Science Foundation (NSF) calls for proposals to research, and provide educational opportunities regarding, debates over the public versus the private of funding of scientific and technological research and development.

The United States finds itself at a crossroads in funding research in the natural and social sciences. Vannevar Bush's famous report to President Roosevelt, Science: The Endless Frontier, still holds sway over the direction of funding and policy initiatives. But much has changed in the direction of science and technology over the last half century. The private funding of academic research has increased dramatically. What has not changed, however, is that students, in every academic discipline, know little about the mechanisms of science and technology funding and how that funding affects them.

Through this grant, NSF will fund a series of debates about science and technology funding at research universities across the United States. In so doing, NSF will act as catalyst for an on-going conversation among future scientists, policy makers, and the lay public regarding the nature and future of science and technology funding; a future which Bush's directive no longer adequately addresses.

Grants

Grants are available in the amount of $15,000. Twenty grants will be awarded. Grants are to be directed to developing and holding a one-day symposium and debate about the public and private funding of scientific and technological research aimed at students and interested lay persons. Symposia and debates will be held during the spring semester of the 2015 academic year.

Application Process:
The proposal must contain the following sections, although others may be included at your discretion. The proposal can be no longer than 1250 words.

    Cover Page:
    The title of the proposal, author's name, date, address, phone number(s) and e-mail address must be included.

    Background:
    Outline the issues in the debate over the public versus the private funding of scientific and technological research as you have come to understand them through your preliminary research.

    In this section you need to describe how scientific and technological research is publicly and privately funded. You need both to outline the debate over the funding of scientific and technological research, generally, and to illustrate, with an example, how a research project is funded at your university, specifically. The purpose of this section of the proposal is to demonstrate your knowledge of how the funding process works with respect to scientific and technological research.

    Symposium Structure:
    Describe the one-day symposium and debate you wish to conduct. Special attention should be given to the following areas: Preliminary reading or study, resources required, subjects to be addressed, potential speakers to be invited, and possible symposium and debate structure. (See, for example, Who's More Pro-Science, Republicans or Democrats?) Materials: Include a list of resources available, and needed, to conduct the symposium and the debate.

    Symposium and Debate Schedule:
    Include a potential schedule. Consider the format of the symposium and the debate, the topics you might cover, and the speakers you might invite. Budget: Include an itemized, totaled list of the approximate costs for materials, tools and labor (your expenses). The budget cannot exceed the amount of the grant.

    Biographical Background:
    Include a description of your educational background, relevant courses, independent study projects, intellectual interests, any project related work experience, current academic status and expected graduation date. In providing your background consider how your education relates to the subject of science and technology funding.

    Conclusion:
    Please answer the following question as directly as possible: Why is an understanding of science and technology funding necessary for both students of science and engineering and the lay public?

Option 5 Requirements

Due June 25 by midnight:

    • A 3-5 page (750-1250 words) proposal;
    • A completed peer review (document file);
    • A cover memo (document file) must be included.

Please send all files to me — jim.collier@vt.edu — as document attachments in either .doc or .docx format.
I will use this grading rubric (document file) to assess the proposal assignment.