Group Research Proposal

The Group Research Proposal aims to help students


The Group Research Proposal is the fifth module in an eight-week long group project that involves a Consultancy Simulation.

In business contexts, rhetors pitch proposals

  • to secure business opportunities (e.g., business plans)
  • to propose services (e.g., management, sales, or educational services)
  • to propose basic research (e.g., scientific proposals written to the NSF, National Science Foundation or NIH, National Institute of Health)
  • to identify best solutions to real-world problems.

When rhetors work to develop proposals, they engage in preliminary research and they seek critical feedback from every source possible (e.g., bosses, peers, potential clients).

Early in the sequence of assignments leading up to the Group Research Proposal, students first developed a Problem Definition Heuristic and a Client Proposal. Those were single-authored projects, and that’s a good place to begin developing any idea–i.e., developing proposals based on personal observations and interests and a pinch of preliminary research. Now, the Group Research Proposal extends those efforts: students have listened to one another’s pitches based on the Client Proposals and selected the most interesting ideas. In some instances, students have synthesized the efforts of several Client Proposals. In others, students have developed entirely new proposals. Now, based on these efforts to revise, redesign, and edit one of the earlier Client Proposals, they are engaged in their first effort at collaboration–the Group Research Proposal.


The rhetorical situation for your collaboratively authored Group Research Proposal is similar to the rhetorical situation for single-authored Client Proposal:

  1. you can write either to
    • your boss at your consultancy company or
    • your client if you are a sole proprietor) a preliminary proposal.
  2. Your purpose is to seek approval to do research to identify and evaluate solutions.
    • This is not a proposal to implement a solution at this time.)

That said, there are a few differences between the Group Research Proposal and the single-authored Client Proposal:

  1. This is the second time your audience is reviewing your idea. Presumably, your thinking about the problem, stakeholders, and potential solutions is further developed.
  2. This is now a collaborative project. More resources have been invested in the project, so expectations are higher in regards to the overall design of the project–especially with regard to the visual representation of the problem, stakeholders, and potential solutions.
  3. The sweet spot is now five or six pages rather than two or three.

Audience for the Group Research Proposal

In some contexts, a research proposal would be written to and delivered directly to a client. In our in-class consulting simulation, your ultimate reader and the person with the power to authorize the research is indeed your client, but you’ll also have to win approval from your boss to send it to the client.

This means that you have two audiences for this proposal:

  • The client wants to make sure 
    • you understand the problem
    •  have the ability to do the kind of research and analysis necessary to find a solution.
  •  Your boss at the consultancy company your work for who wants to make sure you’ve covered all of the bases and are representing the company well.

Required Format

This research proposal should be presented

  • in letter format if you are writing as an external consultant
  • in memo format if you are writing to others at your company.

The document should be

In terms of design, your memo should

  • Have an informative subject line
  • Use a header, bullets, and visuals
    • provide a visual to illustrate the severity of the problem, the stakeholders, and three proposed solutions.
  • Use business-friendly fonts for body text and headings
    • Arial for headings and Times New Roman for body text is a safe default
  • Use Styles in your word processor to format and apply heading/subheading styles.

Required Sections

To ensure your proposal content is complete, use the table below as a guide.

SectionQuestion it answersNotes
PurposeWhat is the purpose of this proposal?Begin with a clear statement of the purpose of this document. What is the problem that drives your effort?  
Organizational SummaryWhat content is included in the document?Briefly cover the major elements of the document for readers who might not read anything but the summary.

Key terms – define any specialized terms you will use in the report
IntroductionWhat problem(s) does the proposed research project address?This section shows the reader you understand the problem. Break into sections with subheadings and fully developed paragraphs. Most sections will have more than one paragraph.

Problem statement – Clear, concise statement of problem; 1-3 sentences (move other detail to Background)

Objectives – Concise statement describing the purpose of the research and the product (recommendations) of the research

Background – Explain how, why, and for whom the problem exists. What circumstances led to its discovery, relationships or events that affect the problem/solutions, etc.

Literature review/sources of information – What previously published  literature/research informs the problem/research initiative?

Benefits – describe potential benefits expected from the research in concrete, specific language.

Scope – describe what you are going to research and what you are not going to research

Visualization – illustrate the problem (causes/history/significance/), stakeholders (people who experience the problem and business competitors who have developed solutions to address the problem), and potential solutions (even if those solutions are very tentative now, needing further research and analysis.)
Proposed Program/Plan of WorkWhat work will be done? How will it be done?Research Methods
What work does your team need to conduct to better understand the problem, stakeholders, and

Textual Research
What is your group’s plan to conduct textual research on the gated and open web?

Primary Research
Will you be interviewing stakeholders? customers? experts?

Be specific and detailed. (e.g.,. if you’re doing interviews, say specifically whom you’ll be interviewing, why you are interviewing them, and what you want to find out.) 

The goal of the Proposed Work is to convince the reader that you have a reasonable plan to further investigate the problem, identify potential solutions, and create a business thesis.
Qualifications/experienceHow are you qualified to lead this project?Provide biographical profiles of the members of your team who will be doing the work. This can be one or two sentences per person.
BudgetHow much do we need to spend to make this research happen?This is the budget for doing this research project (not a budget for implementing the solution.)

For this project, provide one clear sentence describing your budget requirements. You can estimate your budget, assuming a cost of $100/hour/person.
ScheduleHow long is this going to take?Include a short summary/overview of the schedule here and then cross-reference your Task Schedule. You may place your schedule in the body of the report or as an Appendix. 

Visualization: Use a Gantt chart
BibliographyWhat sources did we cite in the literature review?Include a bibliography of the sources you addressed in the literature review formatted in a style appropriate for your field: APA, Chicago, MLA, IEEE

Recommended Schedule

ScheduleAssignments & Suggested ActivitiesReadings
One WeekProposals are acts of persuasion: if you don’t convince your boss at the consultancy agency or client that it’s an urgent need, a significant problem, or at least a problem with a good pay day at the end, your proposal will be unsuccessful. Thus, this is an excellent time review the elements of persuasion: Rhetorical Appeals (Ethos, Logos, Pathos).

Your team may find it useful to assign specific sections of the proposals to individuals. If so, ensure there’s sufficient time for a second reviewer for that section. Plus, the entire team should review the entire proposal before its submitted to ensure it has a consistent rhetorical stance, voice, tone, and persona. If there’s not an effort to do this, sections of the report can be redundant or imbalanced in terms of substance and style.
And, just like any other

To learn how to create a Gantt Chart, see
Gantt chart at Wikipedia

Submission Guidelines

  1. Upload the url for the Group Research Proposal to the Course Management system.
  2. Upload the Team Charter document to the Project Management Portfolio at the Group Research Proposal document.

When you share Google Folders/Docs with peers and your instructor, double check that all required documents are shared given Edit permissions (rather than simply share).

Your instructor may want (1) to provide feedback directly on your portfolio at the Google site; (2) share your team’s work with other teams/people; (3) assign peer review of student work across teams

Additional Resources

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How to Create a Gantt Chart in Excel (Free Template) and Instructions