Proposal Writer's Guide

by Don Thackrey


The Abstract

Every proposal, even very brief ones, should have an abstract. Some readers read only the abstract, and most readers rely on it initially to give them a quick overview of the proposal and later to refresh their memory of its main points. Agencies often use the abstract alone in their compilations of research projects funded or in disseminating information about successful projects.

Though it appears first, the abstract should be written last, as a concise summary (approximately 200 words) of the proposal. It should appear on a page by itself numbered with a small Roman numeral if the proposal has a table of contents and with an Arabic number if it does not.

To present the essential meaning of the proposal, the abstract should summarize or at least suggest the answers to all the questions mentioned in the Introduction above, except the one about cost (which is excluded on the grounds that the abstract is subject to a wider public distribution than the rest of the proposal). Certainly the major objectives of the project and the procedures to be followed in meeting these objectives should be mentioned.

The abstract speaks for the proposal when it is separated from it, provides the reader with his first impression of the request, and, by acting as a summary, frequently provides him also with his last. Thus it is the most important single element in the proposal.

Proposal Writer's Guide: | PWG Contents | PWG Introduction | Parts of a Research Proposal | Title Page | Abstract s | Proposal Table of Contents | Background Section | Description of Proposed Research | Resources Descriptions | References | Personnel | Budget | Appendices | Proposals for Academic Programs | III. Inquiries to Private Foundations | IV. Dealing with Short Deadlines | V. Why Proposals Are Rejected|