How to Write a Proposal for a Computer Science Topic

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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.

  • Computer
  • Word processing software

1 Write an introduction

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.

2 Clarify the specific problem or concern

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.

3 Record your research methods

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.

4 Cite your sources in a bibliography

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.

Kevin Blankinship began writing professionally in 2010. His work is featured online, focusing on business, technology, physical fitness, education and religion. Blankinship holds a bachelor's and a master's degree in comparative literature and is pursuing a doctorate in Arabic language and literature from the University of Chicago.