Writing a topic proposal represents a major part of computer-science projects in high school, college and graduate school. When you develop an idea for your university capstone project or master's thesis, you'll be required to submit a topic proposal to your professors. Jobs in academic and industrial fields require such proposals when pitching new projects. Learning how to write a thorough and concise topic proposal is a life skill that you will be called upon to use throughout your career.
Write an introduction. This should include an overview of the concepts, terms and issues involved with your project. Place your project in the greater context of computer science or mathematics by starting with a more general scope, then zeroing in on more specific concerns related to your topic. For a project involving a more efficient database algorithm, for example, start off with an overview of how such algorithms work in general.
Clarify the specific problem or concern that your project will address. The goal of computer science projects, as with any original research, is to identify an area of the field which has been ignored or understudied, and then contribute a solution to that problem. Include a brief literature review outlining the work which has been done previously, then show that your project will contribute an original solution by explaining how the project resolves a previously unaddressed problem. Present your solution in a concise research statement, which will guide the rest of your proposal.
Record your research methods. Provide details of the algorithms and program logic you plan on using. Include a timeline and budget, if necessary, for your project. For short-term class projects, allow two to three months for completion. Give yourself six months to a year for longer projects, such as a capstone project or master's thesis.
Cite your sources in a bibliography. Include all sources used in formulating your literature review at the beginning of the proposal. Use American Psychological Association (APA) style, which is the preferred citation format for computer science, as well as the hard sciences and engineering.
Avoid plagiarism. When in doubt, cite a source. Also, invest the time it takes to be sure that your work is original. Read other project proposals and reports to be sure that you're making an original contribution to the field.
- Earlham College, Matt Christian: Computer Science Project Proposal -- Implementing a Genetic Algorithm to Optimize Database Queries Involving Numerous Joins
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne: Writing a Research Proposal
- Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University: Computer Science -- Literary Styles and Their Application
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