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7.6: Proposal Arguments

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  • Audio Version (June 2020):

    Proposal arguments attempt to push for action of some kind. They answer the question "What should be done about it?"

    In order to build up to a proposal, an argument needs to incorporate elements of the other kinds of argument. It will need to define a problem or a situation that calls for action. It needs to make an evaluation argument to convince readers that the problem is bad enough to be worth addressing. In most cases, it will need to make causal arguments about the roots of the problem and the good effects of the proposed solution. Here are some elements you may want to include in a proposal argument:

    Common elements of proposal arguments

    Background on the problem, opportunity, or situation 

    Often occurring just after the introduction, the background section discusses what has brought about the need for the proposal—what problem, what opportunity exists for improving things, what the basic situation is. For example, management of a chain of daycare centers may need to ensure that all employees know CPR because of new state mandates requiring it, or an owner of pine timber land in eastern Oregon may want to make sure the land can produce saleable timber without destroying the environment.

    While the named audience of the proposal may know the problem very well, writing the background section is useful in demonstrating your particular view of the problem. If you cannot assume readers know the problem, you will need to spend more time convincing them that the problem or opportunity exists and that it should be addressed.

    Description of the proposed solution

    Here you want to define the nature of what you are proposing.


    In some proposals, you will need to explain how you will go about completing the proposed work. This acts as an additional persuasive element; it shows the audience you have a sound, thoughtful approach to the project. Also, it serves to demonstrate that you have the knowledge of the field to complete the project.

    Feasibility of the project

    Convince the readers that the project can be done: enough time, money, and will can be found to make it happen. You may want to compare the proposal to other proposals that have been carried out in the past to show that if those could be done, this can be done too.

    Benefits of the proposal

    Most proposals briefly discuss the advantages or benefits that will come from the solution proposed. Discussing these will involve making causal arguments that predict how implementing the proposal will cause good results.

    Sample annotated proposal argument 

    The sample essay "Why We Should Open Our Borders" by student Laurent Wenjun Jiang can serve as an example. Annotations point out how Jiang uses several proposal argument strategies.  

    Practice Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Find a proposal argument that you strongly support.  Browse news and opinion websites, or try The Conversation. Once you have chosen a proposal, read it closely and look for the elements discussed in this section.  Do you find enough discussion of the background, methods, feasibility, and benefits of the proposal? Discuss at least one way in which you think the proposal could be revised to be even more convincing.


    Parts of this section on proposal arguments were adapted from Technical Writing, which was derived in turn by Annemarie Hamlin, Chris Rubio, and Michele DeSilva, Central Oregon Community College, from Online Technical Writing by David McMurrey – CC: BY 4.0.