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Creating Stronger AECT Convention Proposals
Suggestions from the
Program Planning Committee

Many organizations’ annual conventions are highly competitive and one needs to submit a strong proposal in order to get onto the program. AECT sets a high expectation for the quality of our convention program. Acceptance rates vary from year to year but clearly the proposal process has become much more competitive in recent years across all categories: posters, roundtables, workshops, and concurrent sessions.

But what makes a strong proposal? That is, what appeals to reviewers and program planners? What do they look for and how can you develop the strongest proposal possible?

Here, we offer 15 principles (in no particular order) and each principle is followed by specific tips to strengthen your proposal. We include tips about both style and substance, including how to make your proposal more visually appealing. While some of these tips will require a little bit of technical know-how (like how to insert HTML codes in the online proposal submission form), you can implement most of these principles with little additional effort.

Principle 1: A strong proposal is one that matches the Call for Proposals and is well matched to program initiatives and themes.
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Principle 2: : Proposals that comply with the stated submission requirements are much more likely to be accepted.
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Principle 3: Reviewers tend to infer that the properties of the proposal will be the properties of the presenter or presentation.
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Principle 4: A strong proposal has few errors and looks polished and professional.
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Principle 5: Strong proposals have the potential to interest more people.
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Principle 6: A strong proposal is well organized and logical.
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While organization isn’t the same as content, a poorly organized proposal may leave the reviewer confused or cause the reviewer to miss your point. In a competitive proposal pool, a well-organized proposal is much more likely to be accepted than a poorly organized proposal, even if the poorly organized one has better content. If the proposal guidelines specify an order for the elements of your proposal (as is the case for the Present@Distance and the Featured Research Papers), follow that order. To assure you don’t leave anything out, print out the order and put a checkmark beside each element as you include it. If that order is not obvious, consider including the name of the element as a header if you think the reviewer might miss that you have begun addressing a new element. Simply labeling the element is not enough, however. You need to be sure to talk about that element and not lots of other things. So, if the element is “methodology,” talk about the methods you used, not about conceptual issues related to the literature or why what you did was important. Focus is important and an unfocused proposal will feel poorly organized.

If you are given quite a lot of leeway in what order to use, try to choose the organization that seems best matched to the type of presentation you want to make. For example, if you want to present your *research* study, consider an organization like: Problem/Need for the Study, Methods, Analyses and Findings, and some combination of Interpretations, Conclusions, Recommendations, and Future Research. If you hope to present on a promising *practice* (such as a way to organize online classes, a way to teach history through iMovie, or how service learning projects can enhance preservice teacher preparation –to name just a few), consider something like: Problems with Current Practice, What the New Practice Offers, Key Issues in Implementing the New Practice, and Lessons Learned/Recommendations. If you hope instead to present a discussion of some *new issue* (such as how military training meets or does not meet the needs of a modern military force, or the role of technology in system change, or important issues in literacy support in libraries today –once again just to name a few), consider an organization like: The State of X (with X being the issue), Why X Is Important, Potential Social/Political/Economic/Philosophical (pick one or more) Concerns, and Suggested Avenues for Addressing X.

While these organizations are simply suggestions, what all have in common is that they try to create a logical connection between the elements of the proposal and they should help you focus on a small section of the proposal at a time. If you have understood their intent, you can create your own organizational plan. The key is to focus within each section on the element to be discussed and to order those elements in such a way that a reader (reviewer) can follow the logical sequence of your thinking.

Principle 7: Strong proposals use proper English expression and grammar.
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Principle 8: Proposals that make a real contribution are more appealing than ones that do not.
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Principle 9: A strong proposal is well-informed.
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Principle 10: Strong proposals make clear what their objectives are.
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Principle 11: A proposal submitted to the proper division is more likely to be accepted.
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Principle 12: A strong proposal describes what will occur during the presentation.
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Principle 13:: Research studies in progress are less likely to be accepted
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Principle 14: A proposal that chooses the right delivery format and requests the appropriate amount of time is more likely to be accepted than one that does not.
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Principle 15:: Deadlines matter.
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Final Comments


Clearly we do not wish to impair your creativity, nor restrict your freedom. Our goal is to build a strong convention program. A strong convention program supports and enhances the strength of the organization. But we recognize that a strong program begins with strong proposals. We hope this guide helps you produce the strongest proposal you can and that you make it onto the convention program. Please respect the volunteer reviewers’ and planners’ time. The more closely you follow these guidelines and clearly aid the reviewers in understanding your proposal, the better your chances for acceptance.