Getting Involved in Academic Discourse: The Proposal

By February 23, 2017Professional Development

You found a conference? Awesome! But now they’re asking that you submit a proposal and you have no idea how or why you ought do this. It’s important to understand the features of the proposal and why they are a critical part of entering the conversation in your field.


Why the Proposal?

Generally speaking, a proposal is a way to summarize the work you’ve done and why people ought to learn about it. Think of when you submit an application letter to college or graduate school. You are presenting yourself as having the intention of entering that academic space and contributing to it positively. You are doing the same thing in this space. You are asserting your intention of introducing your work to this discourse community and getting your voice out there. While that concept may seem daunting, we know by now that you can do this! You have the ability to do whatever you set your mind to. Remember—a field is only as strong as its intention to mentor new voices.


Some Dos and Don’ts

Our UCWbLest UCWbLer Dr. Lauri Dietz shared some wise words with me about proposal writing . Dr. Dietz has been on the proposer’s side of academic discourse and served as an evaluator of proposals as part of committee work for various professional conferences. She shared three pieces of advice with me for this piece. First, she expressed how important it is to tie your work to the conference themes. She explained that if choosing which proposals will be accepted becomes a difficult one, the piece of work that ties most to the theme of the conference can be what breaks the tie, so be mindful of this when writing your own proposals. Second, be careful about the nomenclature—don’t assume everyone knows what you do or what words you use. In other words, be aware of your audience. Third, make sure to always get feedback on your proposal. This advice has helped me get accepted to many conferences over the last couple of years. I have received feedback from colleagues at the UCWbL and friends in the field. People often don’t realize that those who teach in your field who might also be your mentors are more than willing to help you get to your goal. That’s what academic growth is about. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help when in doubt.


Extra Resources

Now that we know why we write proposals, it’s important to have some resources for when you do it. Many writing centers across the country have produced incredible resources for proposal writing. However, I want to stress the best resources you have available are the people around you. I always share my work with fellow tutors whenever possible. If you don’t have time for a face-to-face appointment, remember that you have other options. We have three types of appointment currently available:

Face to Face: in person appointment in which you to meet with a tutor at the UCWbL for between 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Written Feedback: a tutor provides feedback in the form of written comments at a rate of 8 pages per hour. However, if you have a particularly dense piece that number may drop a bit to accommodate the level of work.

Online Real-time: you meet with a tutor digitally. You can video chat or just chat in a side panel as you work collaboratively on your document in real time.

If you just want some resources to refer to before you schedule an appointment or if you find you want to implement some of the things tutors mentioned in their feedback, here are some resources we at the UCWbL like to use:

I hope this post proves useful to all in their proposal writing and that this series has inspired you to reach outside of your comfort zone. If you fail, try again. The only failure is never trying. My father has always told me something that has stuck with me through all my work: if you never ask, the answer is always no. So, ask! Dare! Do! We need your voice now more than ever. I hope to read your work in a publication or to see your work at a conference in the future.