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Writing a Proposal Essay that Will Help You Stand Out

A proposal essay is simply a single written prospectus – about a paragraph or two long – that attempts to convince a reader, audience, or most commonly your instructor that your project is a good idea. Sounds easy enough, but many students struggle with this first step and spend hours over blank pieces of paper or staring at blank screens completely lost.

Here’s the best way to write a proposal essay topic that will help you stand out and get your paper approved:

Topic: Your topic must clearly tell your reader what the specific focus of your essay will be. You could be creative, but don’t confuse the reader or mislead in any way. Explain why your topic is interesting and be sure to define any key terms.

Research Question: Ask yourself a few questions to narrow your focus from a broad interest. You want to show that you recognize what can be accomplished and what is beyond the scope of your essay. Think in specifics, “I will explain… and I will answer.”

Importance to the Field: Ask yourself what the significance of your work is. Students often get excited by a topic and expect others to follow. But students have to show why their proposed essay topic is worth writing. Be sure you provide justification and show how it will contribute to your field by exploring new ideas or answering a new question.

Steps of Your Argument: How are you going to structure your essay? You should explain what you plan to use as evidence, as well as what you intend to disprove or refute. Your essay may change as soon as you get down to your research, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an ideal of the best approach to proving your argument.

Methods of Investigation: You need to explain how you plan on going about your research. Don’t simply say that you will go to the library. Provide a list of specific journals or books as well as the topics you will be researching to find the evidence you need.

Bibliography: This may not be required in your proposal essay but you can certainly stand out if you include a list of the specific works you expect to consult. A bibliography will show your instructor that you have put much preliminary thought into your topic and aren’t simply submitting a proposal for the assignment’s sake.

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Jonathan - Freshman student