Proposal with annotated works cited page

Summary: Submit a proposal in memo format with an annotated works cited page attached showing and explaining your research so far.


Your formal proposal should be based on the reading from the book from last week (particularly proposals) and the example provided on the syllabus. While you have already presented your research topic to me for my approval, this is a more detailed document that spells out just what you hope to accomplish with your final paper. The main thought to keep in mind is that if your idea cannot be understood, it will not be approved. Take into consideration your audience. Unless you have identified a different audience, I want you to think of your fellow classmates as your audience (though, of course, you will never meet).

Thinking about your class-as-audience, you realize that these people, whomever they are, probably do not have the same command of the technical language and terms as you do. Therefore, you need to make that technology understandable to them. Much of your future writing will be produced for managers and clients who lack the technical information you command, so this will be a good opportunity for expressing technical ideas in non-technical language.

(Also note: if I receive a report that does not fit with the structure of the course, i.e., it appears to have some other purpose or was written for some other class, I will not read it and you will not receive points for it.)

Your assignment for this week should include the following:

A. Letter of Transmittal (the letter is addressed to me) See cover letters in the book for elements of a Transmittal letter. A model of a Letter of Transmittal can be found below.

Read this material carefully and make sure your Letter of Transmittal is complete and is written as a letter. A letter which simply says, “Here is my report,” is not complete and will cost you points. Remember: for a proposal the Letter of Transmittal should state what is contained in the proposal, not what would be in the final report. This is the most common mistake I see in this assignment. So, the letter will have phrases such as “The attached proposal contains a detailed work schedule,” but will not have sentences such as “The final report will include a list of recommendations for implementation.” This kind of sentence is necessary in the proposal itself, just not the letter of transmittal which accompanies the proposal. Just try following the instructions above and the samples and if you are still confused at that point, email me.

The letter of transmittal is a separate document; that is, if you were handing this in as a hard copy, it would not be attached to the document with anything more than a paperclip. However, some students this term have had difficulty turning in more than one document for an assignment, so you can include the letter as the first page of your document, followed by the proposal.

Technical tip: If you want to start fresh on a new page of a document (for example, your letter ends 3/4 of the way down the first page, but the proposal needs to start on the next page), don’t hit Enter until you’re on the next page — when the document is opened on another computer the formatting will likely change a little and your report will be a mess. Instead, hit Control and Enter at the same time. This will move you to the following page, and you won’t have to worry about formatting changes on different computers.

This letter should be thorough. In a number of situations, the Letter of Transmittal is NOT read by the company or agency who requested the Proposal (or report). Rather, the Letter of Transmittal is read by a GATEKEEPER who then passes it along to the department to which it is directed. Therefore, it should be treated as a separate document and needs to explain in some detail what the proposal is all about.

Note: there is a difference between a Letter of Transmittal and a Memo of Transmittal.

B. The body of the proposal, which is 2-3 single-spaced pages, in memo format

The following should be included in the memo:
proposed program
qualifications and experience
time-table — the time-table must be a graphic, a table, a chart that shows your reader you have a clear understanding of the work to be done. Note also, when planning a schedule, you should work backwards from the due date so that your work will arrive on or before that day. Please be thorough in your timeline and do not simply include the due dates for later related assignments (although they should be a part of the time table).

You may choose to add other sections to the proposal based on the reading or your own research. The book does a good job of explaining what proposals look like, what their purpose is, and how they’re organized, so I won’t repeat all of that. I will remind you, though, that you need to cite (using MLA format) any sources you have used in writing your proposal, and you should have at least four sources by now.

Remember, this is your proposal to me for what you would like to work on for the remainder of the term, so it would benefit you greatly to look ahead and read the details about the final project to be sure your proposed topic will provide enough material to meet the requirements of that assignment. Occasionally a student has chosen a poor subject and discovers too late that the topic is either too broad or too narrow. While that kind of mistake can often be corrected, it almost always results in wasted time, an inferior product, and a lower grade.

At the end of your proposal, attach an annotated works cited page showing your sources so far. In your final report, your reference page will be written as a Works Cited page following the MLA Documentation model but will not need to be annotated. The annotation is required only for this assignment and should consider such issues as the quality of the source.

I have placed links on the External Links page that should help you as they offer examples as well as models of how to cite sources in MLA documentation.

As Rew points out in her text Technical Communication, you have an ethical responsibility to document your sources. You also have a responsibility to use the documentation style that the company or organization asks you to use. For the purpose of WR 327, I am requesting an MLA style. I will not accept anything else. Recognize that your report/document must demonstrate internal source citation (this means that if you use information from a source, whether it’s quoted, summarized, or paraphrased, you need to cite it).

The book (under the topic documenting sources) shows a few different styles for documentation; again, for this class we will be using MLA, so please don’t “mix and match” it with different documentation styles. Unfortunately, a number of otherwise well written reports lose points here because the documentation is not MLA. Don’t let this happen to you–review these sites. This part of the assignment is worth 100 points total, 50 for the Works Cited page itself, and 50 for the annotations.

As mentioned above, you’ll need to use in-text citations which tell the reader how you are using your sources. Be sure your proposal and final report used in-text citations.

Your works cited page should include all of the work you have gathered thus far for your project. Essentially, this is a preliminary list of references — things that look helpful at this point in your research and which helped you in selecting your topic and writing your proposal. By this time, you should have at least four sources of information for your works cited page, although more is better.

Some notes about sources:

Do not use Wikipedia. Because the information can be changed easily, it is not always a reliable source of information (although it might be okay to start there to familiarize yourself with terms and ideas that will help you do better research elsewhere). In 2009, a Member of Parliament (MP) in Great Britain publicly accused the Prime Minister of having his facts wrong on a topic. It turned out the MP’s facts were wrong, so a member of his staff changed some information on Wikipedia to match what his boss had said. This demonstrates how stupid the staff member was, but also how changeable the information on Wikipedia is. Even if you trust Wikipedia, will your reader?

One more thing about Wikipedia. It is at best an encyclopedia, and when you are writing at the college level, encyclopedias and dictionaries simply are not good enough sources to be cited. You can, however, use them to get a better understanding of your topic before you start your more serious research. In short, it is simply not good enough to use sources like, How Stuff Works, or Wikipedia in a college-level paper.

You really need to know the sources to judge them, not just the name of the source. For example, telling me your source is the Dihydrogen Monoxide Research Division found at, and the website looks good, ignores the fact that it is a hoax site all about the dangers of water, H2O. So, when you annotate your citations for this assignment, you should answer the following:

What organization or person is responsible for this information? (Again, just a name isn’t enough, but a real understanding of who it is).
What information is available through this source?
How will you use the information?

If your reason for trusting the article boils down to “the information seems good” (which students say frequently) then you haven’t really got a reason for trusting the site. If you don’t know who the source is, really truly know, then you’re pretty much saying, “So, some guy says that . . .” and using that in an upper-division college paper. You will lose points if you do this.

Third, I would like at least one of your sources to be a professional or academic journal article. Some articles are available online through the OSU Library website, so even if you are in the middle of nowhere, you can still access journal articles.

Although you need at least four sources for this assignment, you will need at least six by the time you turn in your final report, and more is better.

Length: The letter is one page, the body of the proposal is two to three pages, and the annotated works cited is usually one to two pages.

Format: As always, single-spaced (except for the works cited, which has its own formatting), with one inch margins.

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