Proposal Writing                 Local Knowledge                 Winter 2005


This winter you will be working on an independent project synthesizing your knowledge of a local community with skills and perspectives developed through your studies. A proposal has distinct parts. Drafts of selected sections are due weeks 4, 5 and 7 (see descriptions below).  A full draft of the proposal is due week 9. We’ll discuss revisions with you during your evaluation conference, as needed.


A project proposal describes the project you intend to do—but it also, through its clarity, coherence and grasp of subject matter, makes a case for the project. It should be 4-6 pages in length (typed, double-spaced).  Proposals are necessary for fund-raising, but they also help you organize your ideas and articulate them clearly. A proposal is also an excellent way to request community support.


All proposals require research.  Your research this quarter could include library and website research, observation, interviews, or working with government documents.  This assignment requires you to clarify your project framework, decide on a methodology, conduct research, and describe possible outcomes of your work.


What Goes in Your Proposal


There are 5 basic elements of a proposal:  a cover sheet, project summary (synopsis), project description, research plan, and list of key participants.


1.  Cover Sheet:  This includes the title, project participants, date submitted, and a

short paragraph introducing the project.  The paragraph includes: (a) a 1-2 sentence

summary (what your project is about); (b) a brief statement of objectives (what form will your work take? what is the expected outcome?); and (c) a sentence or two clarifying your project's purpose and importance (why are you doing this work? what need will it fill?  how is it useful to the community?)        


2.    Synopsis (Abstract): The synopsis is a summary of your subject matter, including

main themes or ideas you plan to develop.  It describes the approach you'll take, research methodologies, representational strategies, objectives, and how you plan to use, display, or exhibit the work. Proposals often use narrative elements more than once.  Part of the synopsis could be used on your cover sheet and to introduce your project description (next section).


3.  Project Description:  This includes the following sections.  Each section

should be labeled and presented in the order given below:


         a) Topic:  One paragraph; repeats/builds on your cover sheet) and synopsis.


         (b) Narrative:  Describes your subject matter more fully, giving background and context, setting out key issues, themes, or experiences you are working with, and explaining their significance. Tell this as a story, incorporating the research you’ve  done.  You might relate your discussion to themes or communities we’ve studied in class, drawing connections between them.  The narrative should give a good understanding of what you've learned, the perspective you've developed on the topic, and why it's important.  (*Draft due Friday, week 5) 


         c.  Research and Production Outcomes: if you'll design and administer a survey, say why you chose this research method and how you will implement it.  If you plan to make a documentary film, say why. How could your work potentially be used?  If you have a particular audience or destination in mind for your work, identify it. How do you plan to gain access to the people for whom your work is intended? What opportunities are you creating or do you intend to create to share your work in a community setting? How will you invite audience participation, interaction or feedback? (*Draft due Friday, week 7)


d. Community collaboration: who are your community participants or collaborators? What shared understandings are developing and how will you work together?  What statements of permission or support have you asked for or received? What forms of guidance and consultation can your collaborators offer you? (*Draft due Friday, week 7)


e. Strategies of representation: please use this section to reflect on strategies of representation, ethics, and ownership/authorship, including informed consent. What strategies of representation are appropriate to this community and subject matter, and what issues do you foresee? What questions might you and the community wrestle with? How will decisions be made? If you are collaborating with a community organization, are you aware of ethical guidelines they use to guide their activities? If appropriate, describe a case study, research project, or film that influenced your choices. Filmmakers: attach a thoughtful release form addressing your approach to informed consent, collaboration, public use, and authorship. (*Due Friday, week 7)  


         f.  Your relationship to the subject matter—to be written individually: What is it that draws you to this particular subject matter?  What personal experiences have shaped your perspective? How are you situated in relationship to the group you will be working with? (Gender, ethnicity, age, region, class, race, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation might all represent significant differences/similarities that can impact community work.) How might these factors affect your relationship to each other and your project work? (*Draft due Tuesday, week 4)


         g.  Resources:  What resources are necessary to complete your project?  Divide these into categories, including technical resources, (equipment, computer access), research (libraries, archives, local historians, newspaper files), consultants, government documents, community agencies, etc. Have you obtained access to the resources you need?


         h.  Challenges:  What technical, personal, ethical, methodological or artistic challenges does the project pose for you and your group?  What will you do to address these challenges?


4.  Project Group Description: Write a brief description of the members of your project group, the skills and interests they bring to the project and how tasks will be divided, if appropriate.


5.  Appendixes:  will vary with project type, but could include: a bibligraphy, a draft script (for filmmakers), a survey plan, schedule and draft, a list of web resources, a proposed schedule of relevent events, including meetings, hearings, consultations, and discussions.