Submitting Writing Proposal

Writing a Compelling Sabbatical Proposal

The following highlights the elements of a well-prepared sabbatical proposal. By offering full transparency into how the proposal will be reviewed, the goal is to make the application process as straightforward as possible. A well-planned, good idea makes it easier to write a successful proposal.

Proposals for sabbatical leave must have a clear conceptual focus. A sabbatical proposal must be explicit about the desired results or outcomes of the project. In particular, a proposal should conform to one or more of the Objectives listed here:

  1. Promise of a significant contribution to a new or existing subject under study or problem undertaken.
  2. Expansion of skills that deepens or extends the applicant’s professional capabilities related to teaching (or for librarians, professional effectiveness), research, or creative activity.
  3. A planned effort to retrain professionally, in a manner appropriate to the applicant’s discipline and the unit’s and university’s needs.

When you prepare your proposal, keep the following general guidelines in mind:

  • Demonstrate that you have planned in advance to reach your sabbatical goals.
  • The proposal should be well written and geared toward a general audience of non-specialists. The faculty members reading your proposal come from a wide variety of disciplines. This is your idea; convey the story and its relevance to a general academic audience. 
  • Be sure to address completely all of the elements of the application in the order listed. (Following directions is an important step in a successful proposal.) 
  • Your proposal should not exceed 10 pages, excluding references and other supporting documents.

All applications for sabbatical leave must be submitted through the electronic system via the sabbatical website. You must select SUBMIT APPLICATION no later than 11:59 p.m. on September 1 to begin the Sabbatical Leave Request review process.

Guide to Completing the Proposal

You must address the following criteria in your Sabbatical Leave Proposal. A template may be downloaded and saved as a PDF document to upload into the electronic sabbatical system. The proposal should not exceed ten (10) pages, excluding references and other supporting documents.

1.   Descriptive Title for the Project (self-explanatory)

2.   Executive Summary

It is suggested that you limit your executive summary to less than a page since the overall proposal should not exceed 10 pages, excluding references and other supporting documents. It should be written to a general audience. You need to convey your sabbatical’s essence and its importance to you, your discipline, and the university. You want to be clear and compelling.

3.   Goals and Objectives

Proposals for a sabbatical leave must have a clear conceptual focus. In particular, a proposal should conform to one or more of the Objectives:

  1. Promise of a significant contribution to a new or existing subject under study or problem undertaken.
  2. Expansion of skills that deepens or extends the applicant’s professional capabilities related to teaching (or for librarians, professional effectiveness), research, or creative activity.
  3. A planned effort to retrain professionally, in a manner appropriate to the applicant’s discipline and the unit’s and university’s needs.

Applicants occasionally mix together elements of criteria 3, 4, 5 and 6 and the clarity of the proposal has suffered. Criteria 3 is the part of your proposal where you should present the big picture written for a general audience. In writing this section, keep the following points in mind:

  • What is your idea and what is it that you propose to do?
  • What are your goals and/or desired results or outcomes of the proposed work?
  • Explain clearly how your proposal addresses one or more of the objectives listed above. This appraisal should be realistic; your project need not address all of these objectives.

4.   Background and Significance of Project

This section should provide the relevant background information for a non-specialist to understand your project. The following guidelines are offered:

  • Why is this scholarship, pedagogy, creative exploration, expansion of skills, or retraining interesting/significant in the context of your field or professional development? Specifically, discuss scholarship beyond your own work.
  • Depending on the standards of your discipline, this section can take the form of a literature review, a comparison to similar projects, a description of how this fits within the broader dialogue or artistic tradition, or how it will improve your professional competence.

5.   Relevant Preparation

This section should outline and/or demonstrate the planning and preparation that has already been done toward the completion of your sabbatical project. The following guidelines are offered:

  • Show that you are/will be ready to do the work. Speak to the preparations (prior experience, expertise, connections that you have established, etc.) that you have made to this point. If a book is being written, append an outline or table of contents to demonstrate that groundwork has been laid.
  • Sabbaticals may be used to move into new areas or initiate larger projects, but in these cases it is necessary to explain briefly how you will approach this change from your previous work.  If the proposed line of scholarship, pedagogy, or creative activity represents a new focus from previous work/accomplishments as evidenced in your CV, please explain how you are prepared for this new endeavor.  The intent is to compare the scope of the project to the previous scholarly output as a way to assess if the project is reasonable as proposed.
  • Do you need approval from IRB (governing work with human subjects), IACUC (governing work with animals) and Biosafety in order to conduct your work? Please indicate this at the appropriate prompts within the sabbatical portal (no special pre-review required for IRB, as in previous years).  Approval for your sabbatical is on the condition that approval from relevant committees will be obtained prior to the start of your sabbatical.

6.   Project Plan

In this section you will explain how you will actually do the work.  This section may include detail relevant for experts in your field, but try to keep the non-specialist reader in mind. A key point is to explain why the scope of this project requires time away from teaching and service responsibilities. Many successful proposals will specifically address the following (as appropriate):

  • How will you do what you propose?
  • In what specific activities will you engage?
  • Be sure to relate this plan directly to the goals and desired outcomes presented under Goals and Objectives.
  • Explain how you will obtain external funding, if required.

7.   Timeline

This section is often neglected but it need not be a burden on the applicant. An artificial timeline (e.g., “I will write xx many pages per day”) is not a valuable exercise for the applicant or the reader; however, it is reasonable to assume that various aspects of the project will take different amounts of time. This section should demonstrate that you have thought about how long these activities should take in the context of your field. Use the following guiding ideas:

  • Be sure to include this element; reviewers need to see your timeline. Feel free to use a table or line representation depending on what makes sense for your project.
  • Describe to people unfamiliar with your work how long you anticipate certain activities will take.
  • How does your project plan fit into the available time?
  • Indicate clearly what, if any, portions of the proposed timeline have already been achieved, and what will be done during the sabbatical.

It can be helpful to the reviewers to include the planned activities of any “bookend” summer semesters in your timeline to demonstrate the long-term planning/preparation for your project. If the sabbatical leave is being used to begin a longer term project, state when you expect the whole activity to be completed.

Note: The scope of the sabbatical project should require the faculty member to have one or two (or three in the case of faculty with 12-month contracts) semesters of continuous release from normal teaching and service responsibilities. The sabbatical project should not be accomplishable in shorter intervals with other forms of assistance available.

8.   Benefit to one’s own or other units.

In a short paragraph, tie your project into other aspects of your work on campus. A clear relationship between the proposed sabbatical leave and a proposer’s academic unit should be demonstrated. These connections are often easily made and the applicant need not write extensively here. The connection may be (but is not limited to) one of the following:

  • Does the proposed work connect to your teaching or pedagogical development?
  • Does it connect to your current or a developing scholarly trajectory?
  • Does it have a positive impact on other units in an interdisciplinary way?

If your project is to benefit a unit other than your home unit, describe that situation. Attach signed, written verification of that benefit from the head of that other unit.

9.   References/Literature Cited. (Not included in the 10 page limit)

It is expected that most proposals will involve substantial discussion of issues raised by others in the field and will require extensive references to bibliographic sources. Please list all sources of information, published or unpublished (e.g., manuscripts, websites, and personal communications), cited in the text. The bibliography may be annotated, but it should NOT be considered a body of footnotes to the Project Description. 

Sabbatical Proposal Template

Guide to Other Required Information

The following items may need to be uploaded to complete your sabbatical proposal in the electronic system. Be sure to have documents saved as a PDF file and ready to upload as needed.

Supporting Documents

1.   Curriculum Vitae (not to exceed 5 pages)- Required

Attach a condensed copy of your CV focused on your scholarly or creative accomplishments, especially those most relevant to the nature of the proposed workIf your normal CV exceeds 5 pages, please condense it to this length by eliminating some of the information not relevant to your sabbatical application.

2.   Arrangements with people at other institutions

If your project depends on the help of collaborators, is occurring at another institution or location, or involves the use of facilities at another location, you must provide a letter from the parties involved to document any agreement about these arrangements. This letter (or these letters) should:

  • If possible, be on letterhead; if not, they should come from a verifiable professional email address.
  • Demonstrate that the writer understands the proposer’s expectations. This should align with your expectations that you have detailed in the project plan and demonstrate a broad understanding of what the project entails. A letter that only acknowledges that you are coming to an institution does not demonstrate that it will be able to provide what you need to succeed.
  • If the letter is not in English, please provide translation.
  • For books, indicate interest of potential publisher if available. You may append correspondence.

3.    Other supporting documentation

Supporting documents may include:

  • Book outline or table of contents in support of criteria 6.
  • Bibliography or reading list

You are not required to solicit additional letters of support for your proposal. However, if there is some extraordinary circumstance that you feel requires additional supporting letters or documentation it could be included here. This is not a place to attach reprints of papers, scholarly writings or past creative works.

4.   Previous Sabbatical Report

If you had a previous sabbatical, the final report submitted at the conclusion of your leave must be submitted.

Page last modified May 4, 2023