Proposal Writing Guidance

The purpose of a proposal is to tell the conference committee what you plan to speak about, so they know that it will appeal to conference delegates and align with our themes and values. 

Perhaps more than that, though, it will help to ‘sell’ you and your work to conference delegates, and inspire them to attend your session. As such, they need to know what it’s about, why it’s important, and what they can hope to take away. 

The best way is usually the simplest way, and this is no exception. Generally you will outline a context, a problem, a solution and an outcome, ideally with implications, and these should be presented in a narrative format that guides the reader through your ideas. 

Below we provide three examples of successful proposals:

  1. 20-minute paper (can also be used as a model for 5-minute lightning talk, resource showcase, poster, or wildcard submission).
  2. 60-minute workshop
  3. Mini keynote

Tips for writing your proposal

  • Check the themes and ensure it is clear to a reader how your work aligns with the theme you’ve selected. 
  • Make sure your proposal clearly relates to Learning Development (you’d be surprised..!)
    • Detail the relevance of this to LD practice (i.e., what can delegates take away?).
    • Highlight the impact this practice had on students (e.g., did it enable students to achieve a better knowledge and understanding of teamwork?).
    • Provide detail about the mode of delivery and what makes it fit the online/f2f model.
  • Stay within the word count – please! 
  • Don’t forget your title! Make it specific.
  • Full references for any citations (not included in the word count).


It is good practice to include a statement in the proposal or to clarify if ethics is not relevant to your project (e.g., you’re presenting a resource, not research). 

20-minute paper example proposal (250-300 words)

In this presentation, we outline the collaboration between the learning developers and the librarians at a small post-92 university on the south coast of England, that was driven by a need to discover whether students would respond better to asynchronous video resources or a live workshop on campus. 

This presentation tells the story of a collaboration between our Writing Center and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment at our small, liberal-arts institution in the Midwest. Our research was motivated by two major questions: (1) Does using the writing center actually improve student writing, and if so, is this effect strong enough to mitigate the disadvantages faced by some incoming students? and (2) which students do not use the writing center, and why?

To tackle the first question, we tracked writing center use by each member of the class of 2019 during their first two years, starting in fall 2015. We then analyzed the relationships among these usage patterns, students’ entering perceptions of their own writing ability, their SAT verbal scores, their status as first-generation college students and/or non-native speakers of English, their performance in writing-rich courses, and their scores on a collegewide writing assessment.

To address the second question, we analyzed usage patterns for the entire cohort and conducted interviews with a sample of non-users. Interviews suggested that students who do not use the writing center believe that (a) writing is an individual rather than social activity, and (b) the writing center does not provide the kind of help they are seeking.

In the end, we found that visits to the writing center over several terms, rather than multiple visits during a single term, mitigated the effects of several demographic factors otherwise associated with lower grades and lower pass rates on a collegewide writing assessment. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of how these results prompted us to revise our new tutor training program, specifically, to de-emphasize “minimalist” and nondirective tutoring, especially during students’ first visits to the writing center.

60-minute workshop example proposal (250-300 words plus session outline)


What does evaluating a source involve? What aspects of the source are being evaluated? On what basis do we determine a source’s strengths and weaknesses? And how do we explain this to students who are learning the basics of critical analysis? 

The [Learning Development] team at [institution] recently developed a new online guide introducing students to critical analysis. The guide includes a selection of exercises and visual and mnemonic tools that cover the basics of critical analysis, including Bloom’s Taxonomy (Anderson et al, 2001), the Seven Pillars of Information Literacy (SCONUL, 2011), C.R.A.A.P. (Blakeslee, 2004), B.E.A.M. (Bizup, 2008), and the University of Plymouth’s (2006) Model to Generate Critical Thinking, along with a new resource called S.P.E.A.R. that focuses on how to analyse and evaluate an individual source. We developed the latter after noticing in one-to-one appointments that students appeared to find this aspect of critical analysis particularly difficult to understand. Moreover, we felt that existing tools like C.R.A.A.P. and the Seven Pillars did not provide enough clarification of how to identify a source’s strengths and weaknesses.

In this workshop, participants will consider how well these tools work in helping students understand how to evaluate a source’s analysis and, by extension, its claims. This process can differ significantly across the disciplines. As such, we will also explore how to better capture the full breadth of critical analysis at degree level, without overwhelming students who are new to the concept with its full complexities.

Session plan:

Session breakdown: [Room will be set up in group tables, with each table assigned a broad discipline area: Natural Sciences; Humanities; Social Sciences; Business Studies, etc]

10 mins: Introduction to the [institution]’s Critical Thinking guide and personal interest in what it means to critically analyse a source, especially across disciplines

15 mins: Discussion in groups: ‘A student from your table’s assigned discipline area wants your help to understand how to critically analyse and evaluate a source. What do you tell them? What tools and resources do you use?’

15 mins: Exercise in groups: ‘Here are the tools that we have included in our Critical Thinking LibGuide: how useful are they in clarifying how to identify a source’s strengths and weaknesses? What other tools would you recommend?’

15 mins: Closing: ‘How could we improve on what we have? What aspects of critical evaluation do these tools not cover? What subjects or writing genres are under-covered?’

5 mins: Plenary

Mini keynote proposal (150 words + 3 prompt questions for discussion)

The [Learning Development] team at [institution] has been developing research projects to understand the extent and potential causes of award gaps (Coulson and Loddick, 2020), (Loddick and Coulson, 2020), (Coulson, Loddick and Rice, 2021). However, the team was not prepared for other findings that emerged from this research related to the Black award gap. Firstly, Black students who engage with a tutorial can see an improvement of up to 4 sub grades. Secondly, after analysing award gap data, it revealed that the Black award gap could be reduced by 50% by eliminating non-submission of assignments.

This mini keynote will outline the projects that have been developed: a project with Black students within the Foundation degree framework to ascertain why they might not submit their assignments and a second project to engage ‘Black Student Advocates’ will also be outlined. The challenges of this work will be shared, and the following questions asked:

1) How has your institution approached the Black award gap?
2) How might you contribute to the reduction (or elimination) the Black award gap?
3) Can we eliminate the Black award gap?

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