How to Write a Proposal

The project proposal is aimed at allowing the writer to clarify what it is he/she wants to work on, as well as why and how he/she wants to do it. In addition, the proposal should be structured to clearly indicate whether or not the proposed project can be completed within a timeframe of three years. A successful proposal will be sufficiently detailed to enable the potential supervisor and eventually, the selection committee decide whether or not you are able to clearly articulate and defend your ideas.

Components of a Project Proposal:

1. Title

The title of the project is very significant. It will be used as an initial classification metric to determine whether or not this is a good fit for the work that we do. The title is one of the ways that is used in identifying a potential supervisor for your work. Therefore, the title must be clear, be appropriate for the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development, and be less than 45 characters, including spaces and punctuation.

2. Introduction (WHAT is this about?)

The Introduction to the project provides a general introduction to the phenomena or issue of interest, and should be contained in 1-3 short paragraphs. The issue or problem under investigation is described, and background and/or context for understanding the nature of the issue is provided.
In writing this section, be sure to provide answers to two main questions:
What is the project all about?
Why is the project important or worthwhile?
The Introduction will also typically conclude with a brief description of the structure of the remainder of the document.

3. Research Question (WHAT am I trying to find out? WHY?)

Every project must state a research question or a statement on what the intent of the project is. The research question is where you declare the big, overarching question that is guiding your study. Several smaller questions may even be nested in the larger one.
The research question and the title are two required elements of all proposals. The connections between the two must be obvious. (Hopefully, they are obvious to the writer, but they may not be to the readers.) Where the research question appears in the proposal is something each writer must decide. It could appear in the introduction; it could follow the introduction or the background or the literature review. 

4. Literature Review and Method (What Exists? HOW? WHO? WHERE?)

The literature review needs to include a couple of key research papers that are relevant to your research question. Choose 5-7 publications from well reputed journals or conferences in your target area that are related to your topic and critique the papers with respect to your research question. Note that this section must make sense within the context of the document and be linked with the sections preceding it.
The next step is the methodology you plan to use. In this section provide a clear, explicit and thorough description of how you will complete your project and the timetable for completing each step. For example, what benchmarks or data repositories or platforms will you be using during your experiments. What exclusion criteria will you be using? When will you be starting your literature review and when will it be finished?
For projects that involve interviewing people or collecting raw data indicate how you would go about obtaining ethics approval and documentation to support obtaining informed consent. This section needs to include a statement that you will adhere to an approved code of ethics of the University.

5. Project (What do I do when I’m done doing what I said I would do?)

Describe what you think the final product will look like. For example, if it is a software artefact, provide details about the usability of the software, limitations outside the context for which it was designed, what you hope to achieve or whom your target population is, etc. 

6. Editing

Remember to cross check grammar and spelling. A great proposal that no one can understand because it is riddled with spelling errors, does not showcase your application favourably. If you have trouble with English get a native speaker or someone comfortable with the language to proof-read your document. Remember to use professional language always and avoid slang or undefined abbreviations! 

Some Helpful Resources for Proposal Writing

Proposal Writing Resources (
Proposal Writer Resources (
Writing project proposals  - how to: (


(See Template.tex, Template.pdf and Template.doc)