Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Haas Scholars Program

Proposal Format

Haas Scholars Program: Guidelines for Your Project Proposal

Please review these guidelines and policies before beginning to write your Haas Scholars proposal. If you have questions, and/or would like to review some sample proposals and budget formats, email the Program Director at haas_scholars@berkeley.edu.

Do not exceed 1,500 words, or a maximum of five pages, double-spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman font, 1″ margins. Longer proposals are inconsiderate to the selection committee and risk not being reviewed in their entirety or even not being circulated.

Your proposal should contain the following five sections:

  • Statement of Purpose
  • Background and Justification
  • Project Plan
  • Qualifications
  • Budget

What should you cover in each section?  Read on!

Statement of Purpose (175 wds max.)

Your Haas Scholars project proposal should begin with a short summary (abstract) of the entire proposal. You should state your final product (honors thesis, etc.), research question/creative objective clearly, telling us why it is an important topic to investigate, explaining how your project builds on and departs from previous research on the topic, and providing a high-level overview of what you will do to carry out your project (your methodology).

Background and Justification (1.5–2 p.)

In this section, give us all of the relevant background information we need to understand what your research question is and why it is worthy of study.  Do not take the reader on a “forced march” through all of the scholarly literature ever written on your topic, but do show that you are well-versed in the relevant literature, and give a clear sense of how your topic speaks to existing scholarly work. Also tell us why your proposed project is needed–does it fill a gap in the literature? Build on previous theory? In short, this section should discuss why your question is an important one, what others have done to find an answer, and what has not yet been addressed. Essentially, this section will show where your proposed project fits into the scholarly conversation on your subject.

Project Plan (1.5–2 p.)

The project plan section tells us exactly what you will do to carry out your project. How will you go about answering your central research question, or accomplishing the creative objectives that you described in the previous section? Be specific and detailed! Some applicants find it useful to break the project down into phases (i.e., what you hope to accomplish every two weeks). The selection committee recognizes that your plan will likely change once you get started, but the best way to be prepared for change is to prepare a plan in advance. Show the selection committee that you have a clear idea of what you will do if you are funded. How will you select cases? What will constitute “data” for your project, and how will you go about collecting it? How will you analyze and interpret the data you collect? You may want to also address why the methodology you have chosen is best suited to your research question.

Qualifications (half a page max.)

Now that you have convinced the selection committee that your project is important and feasible, tell them why YOU are the best person to carry it out.  Consider relevant courses (especially methodology/lab skills), previous research or work experience, and any specific language or technical skills you will need to use. If your project will rely on support from other people–access to archives, interview subjects, or datasets–try to arrange their support in advance and mention that you have secured their help in this section. (Even better if you can also include their letters of support with your application.)  In short, the selection committee wants to fund students who are ready to “hit the ground running,” so show them that you have the necessary skills and training to get started on your project immediately if selected.


Tell us the essential bibliography (approx. 10 references) you drew on for your proposal, in particular the sources you’ve cited in the background and justification section. This section does not count toward your word limit. 

For more detailed hints on how to approach each section, visit the proposal-writing resources page of research.berkeley.edu, and attend a “How to Write a Proposal” workshop (times/dates here).