Part 4: Rhetorical Modes

18 Proposal Arguments

Proposal Argument

A proposal argument is a structure of argument that focuses on presenting some kind of proposal as a solution to a problem, outlining the details of the proposal, and providing good reasons to support the proposal. In this type of argument, you must propose a solution to a problem. First, you must establish a clear problem and then propose a specific solution to that problem. For example, you might argue for a proposal that would increase retention rates at your college.

This type of essay works well if you see a problem you want to fix or see the change you want to make. For example, it’s not enough to argue that cigarette smoking is bad for one’s health. Most people would agree. But, you could make a good argument that we need a plan to cut down on teens who are becoming addicted to cigarettes.

A proposal, in the technical sense, is a document that tries to persuade the reader to implement a proposed plan or approve a proposed project. Most businesses rely on effective proposal writing to ensure the successful continuation of their business and to get new contracts. The writer tries to convince the reader that the proposed plan or project is worth doing (worth the time, energy, and expense necessary to implement or see it through), that the author represents the best candidate for implementing the idea, and that it will result in tangible benefits.

Your proposal must persuade the reader that your idea is the one most worth pursuing. Proposals are persuasive documents intended to initiate a project and get the reader to authorize a course of action proposed in the document. These might include proposals to

  • Perform a task (such as a feasibility study, a research project, etc.)
  • Provide a product
  • Provide a service

All proposals must be convincing, logical, and credible, and to do this, they must consider audience, purpose, and tone.

The problem/solution pattern is commonly used in identifying something that’s wrong and in contemplating what might be done to remedy the situation. For example, the problem of water pollution could be described, followed by ideas of new ways to solve the problem. There are probably more ways to organize a problem/solution approach, but here are three possibilities:

  • Describe the problem, followed by the solution
  • Propose the solution first and then describe the problems that motivated it
  • Explain a problem, followed by several solutions, and select one solution as the best

Emphasize the words problem and solution to signal these sections of your paper for your reader.

Here’s an example article from The New York Times, “Monks Embrace Web to Reach Recruits,” that highlights an unexpected approach by a group of Benedictine monks in Rhode Island; they’ve turned to social media to grow their dwindling membership.


Proposal Structure

Watch the video below to learn more about the structure of a proposal argument.



When writing a proposal argument, it’s important that you don’t try to take on too much given the length of your assignment and the time you have to write your essay. Think about proposals that work well given the constraints of the assignment.

If you have a choice in what you write about, find something you feel passionately about. If you’re going to be writing a specific proposal to solve a problem, it helps if you care about the problem.

Think about your audience members as you plan and write. What kind of information do they need? What will be convincing to them? Think about your audience as you work to use ethospathos, and logos.


A Sample Essay with annotation can be found here.

Time to Write

Purpose:  This assignment will demonstrate the understanding of how to do a full research paper in the problem/solution mode. Students will research a problem and identify a legitimate solution to the problem.

Task: This assignment presents a solution to the problem based on your approved topic.

Write a Proposal Essay.  This essay should clearly identify a workable solution to the problem you have been researching.  Your research should include the solution’s details (the costs, feasibility, acceptability, and benefits of the solution).  This is an Argument essay, so you aren’t making a presentation of facts, you are presenting a position and supporting it.   Explain what the problem is very briefly. Then explain in great detail about the solution. Include the costs, not just in money but time and people and opportunity costs. Explain the steps on how it can be done. Defend the feasibility, can this solution actually be implemented? What are the limitations, what problems are faced? Explain the benefits of using this solution.  Present views that are different, other possible solutions, and defend why your solution is the best possible approach.  Include how.  Conclude with a statement of what the readers should understand after reading your essay. Your research should include quotations, summary, paraphrase, and synthesis.  Draw on a variety of sources.

Key Features of a Proposal:

  • The outline is present  and matches the essay
  • The essay is in full APA format, with abstract and reference page
  • The problem is clearly identified
  • The problem is of some importance
  • The audience of the paper is clear
  • The thesis presents the solution to the problem in argument form
  • The proposal contains specific details about the costs, feasibility, acceptability, and benefits of the solution
  • The solution can resolve the problem
  • There is a process presented for the solution to be fully enacted
  • Evidence is used throughout the paper with books, references, periodicals, scholarly articles, media sources, as in the Annotated Bibliography (sources can be duplicated)
  • Clear transitions
  • 8-10 Pages (essay)
  • Cover Page
  • Abstract
  • References
  • No late papers will be accepted.
  • Submit your paper as ONE document only – NOT 4 separate documents (cover page, outline, essay, References).
  • The body of the paper should be 10 pages minimum.  Papers not meeting the 8-page minimum requirement will be docked 10% for each page it is short. The cover page, outline, and References page DO NOT count in the total page count.

This is the only essay that has AUTOMATIC FAIL restrictions

There are four instances in which your paper could be returned ungraded. They are:


  1. Plagiarism:  Any paper with plagiarized material in it will receive a zero (0). No do-overs. No rewrites. If you disagree with any findings, be prepared to take up your argument with the Dean of Academic Affairs. “It was an accident” is not a valid argument. We spent class time learning how to cite sources correctly. If you make a mistake at this point, it’s like failing the test. You get the grade you earn.
  2. Your topic doesn’t match the material created in your previous assignments.  Your paper doesn’t utilize any of the previous research and materials discovered during the course research process.
  3. The paper does not reference at least six sources including a book, periodical article, scholarly journal article, reference source, and primary research. The essay, not the reference page.
  4. Excessive errors: grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. You have access to Paperrater, Grammarly,  and Brainfuse.

Key Grading Considerations


  • APA Cover Page
  • Outline
  • Abstract
  • Problem
    1. The problem is explained briefly
    2. It is a significant problem
  • Audience
    1. It is easy to tell who you are talking to
  • The thesis is a solution thesis
  • Solution is complete
    1. Costs
    2. Feasibility
    3. Acceptability
    4. Benefits
    5. Process
  • Some opposition is addressed
  • The solution comes to a resolution of some kind
  • There is a clear conclusion
  • Evidence is used appropriately
  • APA Format
  • Grammar
  • Unity & Coherence
    1. Transitions







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