Proposal Categories and Sources

Listed below are the three main types of proposals, as well as details on proposal requests and offers.

Planning Proposals

These suggest solutions to a problem or provide ideas for improvement.
Example: A planning proposal might be an appeal for funding to expand a campus newspaper, the architectural plan for new services at a ski area, or a plan to expand energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Research Proposals

Research (or grant) proposals request consent and financial support for research projects. Research proposals are solicited by many agencies, some of which include the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. In these cases, proposal readers will normally be other scientists, so writers can use language that is suitable for other experts.
Example: A chemist at a university might address a research proposal to the Environmental Protection Agency for funds to identify toxic contaminants in local groundwater.

Sales Proposals

Sales proposals suggest services or products and may be solicited or unsolicited. (See below for more on solicited vs. unsolicited proposals.) A successful sales proposal convinces customers that your service or product is determined by the guidelines that are set by the client or by a thorough investigation of the kinds of information your audience requests. It can act like a checklist in the selling process, making sure that you completely understand your clients’ needs.


These are proposals that have been specifically requested by a manager, client, or customer. For example, if you represent an engineering firm that focuses on highway construction, you may get a “request for proposal” (RFP). These requests are issued to many companies, and your proposal will need to exceed the others in competition.


These are proposals that have not been requested. For example, if you are a new advertising agency in town, you may send out concise unsolicited proposals to local radio stations suggesting that they use your agency for their advertising endeavors.


Clayton, B. (1982). The Other Side of Proposal Writing: People. Personnel & Guidance Journal, 60(10), 629.

Article that specifically addresses the audience that your proposal should be oriented to.

Gurak, L. J., & Lannon, J. M. (2010). Strategies for technical communication in the workplace. Boston: Longman. (Pages 336-358.)
Excellent book source that gives a complete overview of proposals, as well as helpful examples.
Hagley, T. (2006). Writing winning proposals: PR cases. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon.
Book that specifically addresses public relations cases.
O’Brien, S. R. (2011). Grant-Writing Tips for the Non-Grant-Writer. Parks & Recreation, 46(11), 71-72.
Article specifically addressing grant writing.
Porte, M. (1967). WRITING EFFECTIVE RESEARCH PROPOSALS. Journal Of Business Communication, 5(1), 13-20.
Article that specifically addresses research proposals.
Seng, J. J. (2012). Inside the proposal development process: 10 tips for writing a great RFP. Public Relations Tactics, 19(2), 13.
Article that addresses the beginning stages of development and their role in public relations.