Book by: Lawrence F. Locke, Waneen Wyric Spirduso & Stephen J. Silverman
Review by: Emily Liverman
Russian and East European Institute
Indiana University Bloomington


For anyone, particularly advisors, who want to be able to help students with grant, dissertation, and thesis proposals, this book is a great resource. It provides a thorough overview of the proposal process, from conception to submission, and includes many useful tables, timelines, and flow charts to assist proposal writers. The authors’ advice ranges from the general, like the basic function of a proposal (p. 3-24), to the very specific, like “Components Appropriate for Inclusion in the Title” (p. 134-135).

This book is valuable for the novice proposal writer, with suggestions to help the novice think through the process in its entirety and write a coherent proposal that meets the stated requirements. It is also useful for the experienced proposal writer, with more nuanced information, like the annotated example proposals that illustrate the advice they give in the book (Part III, p. 227-348). In addition, the authors frequently point the reader to additional resources, such as the list of potential sources for information on mixed method designs (p. 122-124), the student research-specific list of Schlachter guides (p. 171), and the list of resources discussing issues around the use of human subjects (p. 29).

The authors go beyond the nuts and bolts of writing a pretty proposal, adhering to guidelines, and what should be in the proposal itself. They describe the entire preparation process, starting with considerations like the research question and research ethics. In Chapter 3, they discuss the ideal process that leads to a dissertation or thesis proposal, and then discuss the realities or challenges that a student might encounter. Challenges include needing to take semesters’ worth of classes to refine an interest area or being unable to find an advisor whose research interest or experience is a decent match to the student’s.

The authors do not restrict themselves to discussions of the proposal writing process, but include advice on how to organize and prepare an oral presentation (p. 137-147) and helps to demystify locating funding sources both internal and external to one’s university home (p. 163-165, 174). Additionally, they stress the importance of learning from rejection (p. 187).

I recommend this book to advisors as a tool to help them counsel students on proposals. On the whole, it gives general advice on the proposal process, inclusive of formulating a research question and developing a research proposal, as well as more specific advice. Moving through the book, an advisor would be able to utilize the tables and flowcharts as one tool to evaluate a student’s draft proposal and help them refine it. The annotated example proposals, which display a variety of research paradigms and disciplines, are particularly useful for seeing what the authors’ advice looks like in practice. In addition, the clearly delineated chapters and sections make targeting needed advice easy. One of the best quick use features of this book would be the “Special Tips (and Encouragement) for Students” subsection (p. 191-195). If an advisor or student only has 15 minutes with the book, I recommend reading this section to get a good idea of the preparation one needs to write a successful proposal, as well as guidance on how to craft one.

Proposals That Work: A Guide for Planning Dissertations and Grant Proposals. (2013). Book by Lawrence F. Locke, Waneen Wyric Spirduso & Stephen J. Silverman. Review by Emily Liverman. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 408 pp. Price $65.00, (Paperback) ISBN 978-1-452-21685-0 

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