We – Active Youth – have prepared lots of useful resources for project writing. However, there was no single post with everything in one place. Not until now. We are presenting to you the ultimate project writing guide. It includes all: from project planning to what to do when you are done filling-in your application.
Following this checklist will make project writing a more creative and rewarding process. Also, your proposals will likely score higher points and become more impactful. What is not to like?
Est. reading time: 10 minutes
Briefly: a complete project writing guide (from planning to submission). It is a summary, but we provide links for further reading (more details) on every step along the project writing journey.
Naturally, we start with 1) what is recommend before starting to fill-in your project application. However, you can skip (click on the links) to 2) tips when writing the project application; or 3) three crucial steps after you finish writing.
6 steps to take before you start project writing
Project proposal planning is simply crucial to write a decent project. In fact, proper preparation (before you start writing) will allow you to:
- make your projects more impactful
- boost the project success rate
- make project proposal writing an easier and happier process
- save you time and resources
Why? The project plan will be a well-developed brainchild of yours (if you follow the 6 steps below). Meaning that you will have the key details, and you will just need to elaborate on those when writing. No more making stuff up as you go.
Note: below we are giving a summarised information. However, at the end of this section you will find a link to a very detailed post about project planning process.
1. Frame your project problem
Every project proposal needs to address a certain problem or a few of them. Thus, to write a good project you need to understand them thoroughly.
A well-formulated problem needs to have a clear context (in 1 sentence), which may answer the following:
- When & where the problem arises?
- For whom is this problem acute?
- Has anyone tried to solve it? How?
Also, you need to show why is it relevant (in 2 sentences), which may require to answer the following:
- What will happen if the problem is not solved?
- If it is not solved, who/what will be harmed?
- Is this problem seen in other contexts?
- Why this problem needs to be solved?
Admittedly, to be able to properly formulate the problem(s), you might need to do some learning and researching (which bring us to the 2nd step).
2. Learn & research about the problem (make sure it is real)
Firstly, you need to be sure that the problem is real (and not perceived). Hence, the key of your research should be to find evidence that the issue exists. Below you can find the main guiding principles on how to do it right.
- Do not assume – find out instead
- You need evidence instead of beliefs
- Avoid confirmation bias – actively look for evidence that may counter your beliefs
- Do not confuse: my needs (or my organisation’s needs, my partners’ needs) and the target group’s needs
Once you have collected enough facts and confirmed that the problem is real, you should be able to move on to the next phase – interpretation. This entails:
- Formulating your problem (see above)
- Creating a problem tree
- Creating a stakeholder map (optional)
3. Lay the project’s logical framework (Impact – outcomes – outputs – activities) & brainstorm the activities
Your proposal’s logic should follow the following order:
- what it is the main goal (impact) of your project
- which outcomes are necessary to reach that goal
- what outputs/results/products will help to achieve those objectives
- what activities will produce those outputs/results
Thus, you should start from the main goal / impact and go backwards, as shown in the illustration below:
Once you set up your (basic) logical framework, you can go all out with brainstorming for potential activities (to create as many ideas as possible) and then choose the most suitable ones.
Making project’s objectives SMART
Outcome(s) & output(s) are recommended to be SMART:
- Specific and narrow
- Measurable – defined with indicators, which will prove you’ve made progress
- Achievable – reasonable to accomplish within the duration of the project
- Relevant – aligned with the main goal of the project
- Time-bound – with clear/realistic end-dates (e.g. the end of the project)
4. Visualise the project plan (how everything links up)
To unlock your best ideas for the activities and products you might need to draw your project plan (i.e. the logical framework). Because by visualising it you:
- can get a quick overview of the big picture
- have more space to think / you think more creatively, i.e., are not limited to words only
- get to a deeper layer, e.g. it may be easier to see links (or lack thereof) between your proposed activities, outputs, and the expected outcomes
How to visualise the project plan?
The project proposal needs to have a beginning and the end. To put it differently, it could be imagined as a chain of linked-up activities and results. One leading to the other until you reach the impact – from A to Z. Hence, we would recommend visualising the project plan accordingly.
To see how this works in practice, check out this example:
5. Ask for feedback & make revisions
Having a visual project plan makes it a lot easier to ask for feedback from your colleagues, target groups and/or other relevant stakeholders (e.g. partners in the project). That is because they will be able to see the overview / big picture right away.
Note that you would still need to explain the rationale of the project to them. This will not only get them on the same page, but will also give you a chance to see whether the proposal (as it is) makes sense. Because just like with drawing, verbal explaining can unlock yet another layer of understanding for you (i.e. once you make your idea vocal, you will see it differently).
6. Create a timeframe & finalise
Last step before project writing is to give your plan a timeframe. For this we recommend making the so-called GANTT chart. Check out an example:
Why bother with GANTT chart?
Project’s timeframe may help to reveal:
- deficiencies in the project plan. E.g., some activity might not have enough time for it / too many activities at the same time, etc.
- extra capacity for additional activities/outputs
Once you are happy with how your project’s timeframe looks like, you should move on to the next phase – the actual project writing. Congratulations the planning is done!
Need more information, concrete examples, and tools for project design? Then read a detailed post about the 6 project planning steps.
5 things to remember while you write the project proposal
Our team has read, fixed and submitted hundreds of project applications. That is why we have seen the most common mistakes & don’ts when project writing. 5 tips below will help you to avoid those.
Note, that this is a quick summary. Once again at the end of this section you will find links to learn all about top project writing tips & tricks.
1. Have the project’s goal in mind when you are writing
This cannot be said too many times. Knowing your goal, means having a plan. It is simply a lifesaver when project writing. A project plan will allow to see the bigger picture, as well as not to lose the project’s main goal (which should always be your bottom-line).
You can learn more about project planning above.
2. Shun complicated words/sentences
Remember the evaluators (of project applications) are people and they prefer readable stuff. It is proven that shorter sentences are easier to read and understand.
The same goes for words. Simple stuff (and everyday language) is much better. To put it differently, using lots of fancy words will not give you extra points in project writing.
3. Be concrete – avoid unnecessary information / empty words
Vague words/statements (for example, word ‘some’) tell the reader (or, indeed, the evaluator) that you are not sure what you are writing about. Change them (i.e., make them more concrete).
4. Use bullet-points, numbering and formatting
It is worth using anything that help the evaluator find the information he/she is looking for. Bullet points or numbering is, thus, a very useful hack in Erasmus project writing.
Other formatting ideas that help readability
- using CAPS to focus attention of the reader
- bolded text (if the application form allows it)
- underlining important parts of text, etc. (if allowed by application)
Not sure what we mean? Check out this sample text:
5. Reread your answers and make sure there is a logical structure (intro – main body – end)
A golden rule in project writing: rereading your answer from the start to the end is not a waste of time. This will give you a chance to:
- find typos
- fix inconsistencies
- as well as to check whether the paragraphs (parts of your answer) are logically linked to one before / one after
Looking for more project writing tips & tricks? Check out an expanded list or our very own project writing online course.
After you finish the project application: 3 crucial steps
So, you have finished your project application? Congratulations! Right now, there are two options really: either to submit (and hope for the best); or to make sure your project proposal gets the maximum score possible. We prefer the latter because we want our ideas to get funded (so do you, right?). But enough cheap talk, let us get down to the last bit of this project writing guide. 3 exact steps to be taken after you finish writing:
1. Reread your finished project application
Let me repeat once more: revising is never a waste of time. Thus, when you are done writing, take some time off. But then get back and reread your application on the next day. This always leads to a significant improvement.
2. Ask someone to evaluate your application (using the official evaluation table)
Another fool-proof way to boos your project’s score is to:
- Get the project call’s evaluation / score table (these are normally publicly available)
- Ask e.g., your colleague to read your project and evaluate it according to the table (as well as provide comments on the given score)
Once you get the score and comments, you can get a much better idea of:
- What is good (and perhaps should be highlighted more)
- What is not clear (and should be clarified)
- If anything is still missing (and should be included to improve the application), etc.
3. Update, finalise and submit
Last step is just to update the application accordingly and click that sweet submission button. You have done all you could, so get yourself a favourite beverage and enjoy a deserved relaxation.
Looking for advice/support for your project proposal?
Let us know, we will always provide a consultation at no cost. If needed we can help to write the project proposal as well. Learn more here.
If the idea of your project is relevant to our organisation, we would be keen to contribute/work together. Not sure if we would fit in? Check out our PIF (partner information file) or simply drop us a message.
Any more tips for project writing?
We recommend our online courses (on grant writing) or these project writing resources: