Master of Health Studies (MHST) 607

Developing Successful Project and Program Proposals


Delivery Mode: Paced/home-study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Prerequisite: None

Faculty: Faculty of Health Disciplines

Centre: Centre for Nursing and Health Studies


Project and program proposals are well-researched, systematic plans of action, based on preset inclusion criteria. Proposals are developed in response to needs, problems, or issues requiring resources that are either insufficient or not currently available. The impetus for proposal development in health comes from a variety of sources including health care consumers, health care workers, especially front-line providers, community groups, administrators, and governments. Working effectively and efficiently within multiple contexts and with numerous processes results in genuine participation and community building, all essential for proposal development. If successful in receiving funding, the proposal serves as a contract between the applicant and the funding agency. Overall, the proposal serves as the 'architectural' plan of the proposed program or project. A well-developed plan, clearly conceptualized, thoroughly, logically, and concisely presented is the foundation of subsequent activities that guide the implementation and evaluation of the program or project and final reporting and further dissemination of findings.

MHST/NURS 607 is modelled on what you experience in developing a proposal. There are three interrelated processes occurring in the course. First, you will prepare yourself with knowledge and skills required for writing a project or program proposal. This is accomplished through your participation in weekly course activities: completing readings, engaging in forum participation, and submitting assignments. Second, based on your ongoing learning, you will carry out the steps of proposal development from beginning to end:identifying the need for the project, establishing a plan of action, identifying funding sources, and obtaining and completing the necessary forms. Finally, you will have the opportunity to critically evaluate a proposal by serving as a reviewer of a proposal submitted for funding.

Although you will work through each of the steps of proposal development, time prohibits the completion of certain aspects of the proposal development process. For instance, although you will engage in collecting evidence in support of your application, you will not actually engage in a needs assessment. Your research will serve as a basis for your proposal, but it will be a “work in progress.” As well, you will neither contact individuals nor agencies for letters of support nor will you establish committees to be involved with the project, and so on. However, you will discuss these areas hypothetically. Through your efforts in MHST/NURS 607, the processes, knowledge and skills required to demystify proposal development will occur and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful grant writer.

Course Goals

Upon completion of MHST/NURS 607 you will:

  1. Examine the skills, knowledge and processes required for successful proposal development.
  2. Develop a program or project proposal in application for funding.
  3. Explore non-profit and public sector sources of funding.
  4. Appraise a proposal submitted for funding.

Course Materials

The course materials for MHST/NURS 607 include the following items. Please note that a list of supplementary material appears in the online Study Guide.


Coley, S. M. & Scheinberg, C. A. (2014). Proposal writing (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

O'Neal-McElrath, T. (2013). Winning grants step by step (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Note: Winning Grants Step by Step (4th ed) is an eBook which you will obtain when you get access to your course on Moodle after you download VitalSource Bookshelf.


Online reading is added weekly and through the Resource Forum.

Course Structure

MHST/NURS 607 is an asynchronous online course. This means there is no predetermined time when you must log on, you are required to log on at least once a week. However, at a specified time each week, I will make an online presentation that relates to the topic of the week and the issues of the day. This presentation will include a list of discussion questions and will set the tone for the online discussion. The purpose of the weekly input is to keep everyone focused on the same topic. Once the online presentation is posted, you may add to the discussion at any time. Logging on several times a week is desirable so that discussion continues back and forth among participants.

Technical Requirements

Computer System

In order to successfully complete this course, you must own or have ready access to certain computer hardware and software programs. For complete and up-to-date information on the minimum computer requirements required to complete the graduate nursing courses, visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies technical site.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Developing the Groundwork
In Unit 1 we meet course participants and begin organizing the framework for proposal development. We focus on proposal development as both an art and a science, and learn about some of the essential components required to be successful in developing program and project proposals. We also begin the process of demystifying grant writing.

Unit 2: Discovering the World of Funders
Unit 2 begins the discovery of who, what, why, where, when and how questions related to funding. Who provides funds? What are funds provided for? To whom are funds awarded? Why are funds provided? When should funds be applied for? Where can financial resources be found? How should we approach funders? How should a proposal be prepared? We learn about funding agencies as well as how to work with these agencies short and long term.

Unit 3: Conceptualizing Problems and Needs
Proposals begin with ideas: a need is identified that results in a problem. Resources are required to address the problem. When resources are limited or unavailable a funding proposal is required. Learning to state needs and problems in terms that a funding agency understands and providing substantiation is a learned skill. Over the two weeks of Unit 3, we explore sources of evidence and background data in support of a need statement and the problem you want to address.

Unit 4: Writing Goals and Objectives
Differentiating between goals and objectives is crucial to successful proposal development. In Unit 4 we build upon the background, needs and problems to clarify our understanding of goals, which respond directly to identified problems, and objectives, the immediate desired and measurable results in achieving the goals.

Unit 5: Developing the Implementation Plan
Unit 5 addresses the 'nuts and bolts' of the proposal. Here we explore what you will do, what others will do, how and where things will be done, and within what time frame. The implementation plan is based on the foundation set in Units 1-4 and is a major activity of proposal development. You will have the opportunity to identify what it will take to make your proposal work. In other words, you will make explicit the operationalization of your project or program.

Unit 6: Planning the Evaluation
Proposal evaluation indicates the degree of success in achieving the objectives through the activities set forth in the implementation plan. In Unit 7 we review the benefits of evaluation and learn how to develop an evaluation plan. A framework for writing the evaluation plan within a proposal is provided.

Unit 7: Preparing the Budget
Everything must be costed out: everything! You will identify all supplies, equipment, personnel, in-kind contributions as well as other items. Along with this identification of resources you will research the actual costs associated with these resources in order to met your project's intended outcomes.

Unit 8: Completing the Proposal
In Unit 8 we put the finishing touches on our submissions. We identify the requirements in completing a proposal-cover letter, organizational capacity, abstract, and introduction, table of contents, title page, appendices and biography of the proposal developer. Securing letters of support are discussed. Formatting and other points related to presentation of the final proposal are included.

Unit 9: Appraising Proposals
Unit 9 draws upon all of the work done to date. What is required to develop a successful proposal is now used to critically review proposals. We will appraise a proposal submitted for funding, including its strengths and limitations, and make recommendations for improvement. As with the development of your proposal, this exercise is modeled on an expectation of health professionals having leadership responsibilities: appraising all aspects of proposal development that have direct or indirect impacts on the health and well being of others.

Unit 10: Waiting for the Appraisal and Wrap Up
Unit 10 is about what to do with those piles of files; from the time you submit your proposal until you receive the reviewers' comments. You prepare yourself for rejection, for revision, and hope, above all, for acceptance of your application. We discuss the strategies taken during this waiting period. During week 13 you are provided the opportunity to reflect over that last 13 weeks. As well, there is a formal course evaluation waiting for you to complete on-line during week 14.

Assessment Structure

In the MHS and MN:Gen programs, students must achieve an overall program GPA of 2.7 ( B- or 70 percent), to graduate. The minimum passing grade requirement for each MHS and MN:Gen course is C- (60 percent).

The following course activities will contribute to your course grade, with the percentage weighting of each activity as follows:

Participation 20%
Assignment 1: Background and Funding 15%
Assignment 2: Project or Program Proposal 40%
Assignment 3: Proposal Appraisal 20%
Resource Forum 5%
Total 100%


The assessment structure for MHST/NURS 607 indicates that 20% of your final grade will be determined by your participation in the course. Participation is inclusive of weekly Conference Forums and your Seminar Forum. It is expected that weekly you make one contribution (minimum) in the Conference Forums and ongoing contribution to the Seminar Forum.

In week 5, once you have received feedback on your proposal statement of need or problem, background and funding agency, you will be assigned to a Seminar Forum. The Seminar Forum is a student-lead forum that provides you the opportunity to present your work and receive feedback, and provide feedback on the work of others. The seminar group will focus on the content presented within the weekly Conference Forum. I will monitor each forum to ensure that each group remains on topic. The Seminar Forum focuses on proposal development and, by extension, on the critical appraisal of proposals. You are not to submit your entire proposal to the group, only each section as the course progresses, otherwise the work would be overwhelming to seminar participants.

Assignment 1: Background and Funding (15%)

This assignment provides you the opportunity to present the conceptualization of the problem you require resources to address. The assignment has the following interrelated components: the identification of the problem you will address in your proposal, a thorough review of the literature about what is known, possible solutions, and other supporting material, and a statement of need resulting from the problem. You will present a succinct statement of the problem and why it exists, and provide a concise and well researched background briefing based on a review of the literature and other evidence accessed in support of your application.

Criteria for Assessment: Your submission is not to exceed 500 words, excluding the cover sheet and references. References can include material that helps develop understanding into the background statement of need and can include a wide variety of sources such as peer-reviewed material, research based evidence as well as material from local organizations. Remember that writing a proposal is a unique art and a proposal is only as good as is the very precise communication within it. Therefore, writing counts as much as the content.

This submission is a “work in progress” and you will continue working on this section based on a) the feedback you receive and b) the ongoing evolution of your proposal.

Assignment 2: Project or Program Proposal (40%)

You will submit your completed proposal to the course instructor following the guidelines of a prototype proposal provided in class. Your proposal will be sent out to a classmate for a blind peer review (for Assignment 3). Further instructions on Assignment #2 will be forthcoming in class.

Criteria for Assessment: Assessment of proposals will focus on the adherence to the guidelines of a prototype proposal and principles of proposal writing discussed throughout the course, including comprehensiveness, completeness, clarity of ideas and conciseness. The word count for the body of the proposal is 1500 words. Writing, conceptual clarity and presentation will be critically evaluated.

Assignment 3: Proposal Appraisal (20%)

You will critically review one proposal received from a classmate. This is a blind peer review. There are two expectations. First, make your appraisal comments within the proposal. Present constructive and critical comments that demonstrate your knowledge of proposal development and that will assist the proposal developer to improve their work. Second, write a critical appraisal summary at the end of the proposal. Submit the original proposal sent to you with your comments and the critical appraisal summary to the course instructor who will send your review to the proposal developer.

Criteria for Assessment: Appraisals will focus on a thorough constructive criticism on the strengths, limitations and recommendations related to the proposal according to the evaluation criteria studied within the course. As with the proposal, excellence in writing skills is essential. Constructive comments within the proposal with suggestions, e.g., for improvement, and the critical appraisal summary are assessed. There is no limitation on the comments you make within the proposal as these are determined by the individual proposal. Realistic and constructive feedback and recommendations serve as the foundation for the summary report. Length of the critical appraisal summary: 700 words.

Resource Forum

Most resources on grant writing and securing funds are not in textbooks. The type of material you may find useful will be in a wide variety of sources, from community based newsletters, guides to proposal writing, published articles and the Internet. With the proliferation of participatory action projects, useful material is often found through women's centers, youth groups and international sources, especially from developing nations. Stretch your imagination and seek out material of interest to the class.

The purpose of the Resources Forum is to build a resource bank of information on proposal/grant writing, on foundations and other funding resources, sample proposals, and any other relevant information. Include Internet sites, refereed and non-refereed articles, and any other material you find. Although many principles are relevant between program/project and research proposals, we do not cover research proposal development in this course. Therefore, do not include research resources unless they are directly relevant to project and program development. By the end of the course you will have a very valuable gift from each other.

Post one relevant resource per week. In presenting your resources include the appropriate information so that others can access the resource. Begin your entry with a one to two sentence introduction to the value of the resource then do the following.

  1. With Internet sites, make sure the Web address is accurate.
  2. If the source is in print, include full citation APA style and how/where classmates can access the resource.
  3. If you find something that may not be accessible to others but it is a great resource, let the course instructor know to see what can be done about its accessibility.
  4. Do not repeat a resource already posted.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Updated April 28 2016 by Student & Academic Services