PCH 593 - Special Project Seminar
Professor Jung's Guidelines
for Writing the Special Project Proposal
Sections 1 & 2

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Purpose: This page contains some additional guidance to the writing of your Special Project Proposal. It is meant to supplement the Department's Special Project Guidelines document, the Department's syllabus for this course, and my supplemental syllabus. All these documents should provide you with what you should keep in mind when you write your drafts. However, I think there is a need for more specific directions. So, the purpose of this document is to provide you with that. E-mail me your thoughts about this.
Special Note: I wrote these guidelines specifically for the students I am currently advising for this Special Project Seminar. For everyone else, you are welcome to read these guidelines, and if they help you in understanding the requirements, well, that's great. However, you should check with your Special Project Advisor concerning what s/he expects from you.
What is the Special Project? In brief, you will be developing a communications product for a specific agency. Before you develop this product, you will need to conduct research and gather some data that will provide the input you need to develop the prototype. Once you develop the prototype, you will need to conduct a pilot study/test. At this point you will gather additional data (feedback) that will help you refine the product. In the end, you will have a written report and a tangible product.

  • Always use APA format.
  • Always check your grammar and spelling before you hand in your drafts. Microsoft Word has spell and grammar checks. Learn to use these great tools.
  • I will penalize if APA format is not used and if I have to correct spelling and grammar.
  • I like subheadings. It helps me to find where everything is.


Though your Agency Preceptor may have already told you what s/he wants you to develop for the agency, you have to remember that the Special Project, as an academic exercise, means you will be approaching the Special Project as a "Research and Development Project." This means that before a specific product is finally agreed upon (at the completion of the proposal stage), you would have applied a scientific approach towards developing a defensible rationale as to why the product should take the form it will finally take. This means that the title of your proposal should be written as:

To develop a communications product for "Agency Name" to "increase, enhance, improve a health behavior" by/for/among a "target population"

Example: To Develop a Communications Product for Shoreline Services, Inc. to Enhance the Agency's Ability to Ensure High-risk Individuals are Appropriately Followed Up



The purpose of this section is to provide the conceptual basis for your proposal. The perspective should be general in nature, but should become more specific towards the end. You should include:

  • A statement about the importance of Health to Quality of Life;
  • How the disease/issue you are addressing impacts on the quality of life of those affected;
  • Why the disease/issue is a Public Health problem as defined by national standards, such as Healthy People 2010. If you can't find it in Healthy People 2010, then maybe you should think of something that is included.
  • Some statistics about how this Public Health Problem impacts Society in terms of cost, burden, etc.
  • What solutions are in place (nationally, state-wide and locally) to address this Public Health Problem.
  • How the agency you are developing a communications product for is addressing the problem.

Statement of the Problem

The purpose of this section is to provide a clear description of what your Special Project will be addressing. The perspective should be specific in nature. You should include:

  • A description of how the agency is addressing the Public Health Problem is inadequate, and requires change.
  • How your Special Project will produce, or facilitate the change needed so the agency will become more effective in addressing the problem.

Goals & Objectives

The purpose of this section is to provide concise statements about how you will be developing the communications product to approach the problem you (along with the Agency Preceptor) have identified. The perspective should be conceptual in nature. Though you will not need to state how you will be achieving these goals, it may be helpful for you to think about what you will be doing to accomplish these goals. Examples of what you should include:

  • Health-Outcome Goal: "To ensure those individuals identified with high-risk factors are appropriately followed up in a timely manner."
    • Health-Outcome Objective: "By March, 2002, "Your name" will develop a computerized tool to electronically store all data relevant to conduct timely follow up of high-risk individuals."
  • Behavioral/Evironmental-Impact Goal: "To provide Agency management with the follow-up status of high-risk individuals."
    • Behavioral/Environmental-Impact Objective: "By February, 2001, "Your name" will conduct a product development survey to gather data from key Agency staff about what information Agency management would like to see regarding follow-up status.
  • PER-Impact Goal: "To enhance the ability of those in management to make decisions about the success of follow-up activites for high-risk individuals."
    • PER-Impact Objective: "By April, 2002, "Your name" will administer a product evaluation survey, as part of a pilot test of the communications tool, to Agency management to evaluate the usefulness of sample reports generated by the computerized tool prototype."

You should include a "Process Goal." Actually, the title of your proposal should be able to serve as your Process Goal.

You will need an objective for the Process Goal. This should take the form of:

By May, 2001, and given the requirements set forth in the proposal, "Your name" will develop a "communications product" for "Agency name" that will conform to all conditions set forth in the approved Special Project Proposal.

Description of the Host Agency

This section should include a comprehensive description of the Agency that you will be developing a communications product for. You should include:

  • Mission, goals, objectives of the organization;
  • A brief history of the organization;
  • How the agency is funded, its annual budget;
  • How decisions are made;
  • What kinds of services they provide;
  • What kinds of resources they have.

Definition of Terms

Define, in alphabetical order, all terms you will be using in your Special Project. Cite references used.


This section should be written as if your reader decided to read ONLY this section to find out what Section One is all about. Therefore, it should be written like you would write an "Executive Summary."

REITERATE why the problem you have chosen to address is a Public Health problem (as defined by Healthy People 2010), and how this problem is currently being addressed. Describe how the agency you are developing the communications product is addressing the problem, and how your Special Project will help the agency to better address the problem.


Make sure all citations are in APA format. Online APA resources can be found on the APA Info Page.



The purpose of this section is to show that you have completed an exhaustive review of the literature and other sources of information that show you have a thorough understanding of the purpose for developing the communications product you are proposing to do. Write a brief paragraph about Section 1 and what you will be writing about in Section 2.

Problem Analysis

The purpose of this section is to describe the problem your Special Project product will address. The perspective should be somewhat specific to the problem you are trying to address, and the agency you are working with. You should include:

  • A description of what the problem is that the Agency would like to see your product address.
    • From a behavioral standpoint, do they want you to educate a specific audience they haven't been able to reach, for whatever reason? Is this compromising their ability to achieve their mission?
    • From an environmental standpoint, do they want you to change something about the setting's conditions? Are they missing a tool, system, strategy, guidelines, protocol, whatever - that is compromising their ability to achieve their mission?

  • Depending on whether it is a behavioral or environmental problem, talk about what lead up to the problem (these are the direct and indirect precursors. Direct would be immediately preceding, and Indirect would be something not so obvious - like effects from a media campaign, or bad press).
    • For behavioral, why are they having such a hard time reaching this particular audience? Is it because of cultural incompetence? Inappropriate reading level materials? Did the demographics of the clientele change?
    • For environmental, how come nobody ever thought about it till now? Why did it all of a sudden become so important that it has to be addressed? Did something happen to the organization? New management?

  • Depending on whether it is a behavioral or environmental problem, talk about what would happen if the problem does not get resolved (this is your direct and indirect consequences. Direct would be like an immediate outcome, and indirect would be a long-term outcome, or even an unforeseen outcome because it may not be directly related to the particular problem at hand, but because you now have a public health outlook, you can see it coming)
    • For behavioral, if that particular audience doesn't receive the intervention (your product), what will happen? If the problem continues, what other problems could or would result?
    • For environmental, if you don't develop the product for the agency, what will happen to the organization? If the problem continues, what larger problem(s) will occur because the problem you are proposing to address is not addressed?

  • In making your case, try and get support from the research literature.
    • For behavioral, what health education theories are there about working with different populations? What does it have to say about health behavioral change, communication, motivation, etc. Why does the audience have to change their behavior anyway? What if they don't?
    • For environmental, what organizational theories are there about what makes an effective organization, an efficient workplace? What standards are there for a productive organization? What happens when an organization continues to function below par?

  • End this section summarizing your findings with your understanding of how the problem came to be and if it doesn't get addressed with your product what additional problems you foresee will occur. Make a case for the importance of developing the product for the agency. Note: Your ability to foresee potential outcomes should be research and/or theory-based. Even if you may have gut feelings about the future (impending doom) that may well come true, I would consider them to be unsupported if there is nothing but gut feelings.

Environmental Analysis

The purpose of this section is to describe how the problem your Special Project product plans to address affects or impacts the communities your agency interfaces with. You can think of "community" as constituencies that include your primary target population and secondary target populations. Community can also be conceptualized as your audience (See Section 3).

For example, if you are developing a product to educate a population, then this population is your primary target population and your community, for purposes of the Special Project. If you are developing a product for an agency that would improve their ability to achieve their mission, then the agency is your primary target population. In this case, the people your agency is serving is then the community, and your secondary target population. This community (or, audience), however, would include all parties that could possibly be impacted by your product.

Let's say you are developing a product for a particular division or unit of your agency. Then you can think of the agency's other divisions and units as populations you need to consider. Thus, "community" (or, audience) would include all constituencies that may benefit or lose something as a result of your product.

These constitutencies include people you should think of including in your product development and/or evaluation surveys for purposes of gathering input, and/or feedback. Basically, you want their "buy-in" so they will not build resistance to your product. This should become clearer when you conduct audience research for Section 3. Thus, the perspective should be somewhat comprehensive in nature. You should include:

  • Opportunities for change in the community. In this section you should present an epidemiological analysis of the health problem your project plans to address. You should describe the health problem using the parameters of person, place and time, and present such health statistics as prevalence, incidence, and any statistics reported to meet the Healthy People 2010 objective(s) you have stated in Section One. Include the impact this health problem has on society, in terms of health costs, socio-economic costs, etc.

    Also, include discussion about when your agency gets your completed product, how will the agency have a greater impact on the community they serve, and the communities they are part of? Or, how will they better serve their community? Think broad public health and health outcomes. Think benefits for all citizens of all "communities."

  • Supports for change in the community. Think product acceptance. Who in this "community" will benefit most from your product? What community groups will most likely adopt the use of the product? Why?
  • Barriers to change in the community. Who in the "community" will lose something as a result of your product? For example, if the group you will reach with your product has an advocacy group, how accepting do you think that group will be when their advocacy activities are no longer needed? Or, if you are developing something for an agency, think of how the product could change the existing relationships within the agency.
  • Describe relevant socioeconomic-political features of the community. If the area is economically depressed, what factors do you need to consider in trying to make a change? Who are the stakeholders and community leaders? If you are proposing soemthing for an agency, think organizational structure.
  • Community's channels of communications. What groups or agencies does your agency usually interface with? What groups or agencies should they think of nurturing ties with? How do they disseminate their ideas and services now? How can they do it better? How well do all the departments in the agency work together?
  • End this section by making a case for the viability of your product by showing all the external support you will get for your product. Show how your product will not die in-house.

Resource Analysis

The purpose of this section is to provide a description of what resources you will have to develop and evaluate (pilot test) your product.

  • Types and extent of resources available in the agency. Talk about what kind of access you will have to materials you will need to develop the product, the equipment you will need to create whatever data collection instruments you will need for the product development and product evaluation phases of your Special Project.
  • Types and extent of resources available in the community. Talk about what kind of access you will have to groups or people you may want to collect data from for the product development and product evaluation phases. How will you have this access? Is it because of your employment status? Do you have a boss who will grant you access? (Get him/her to write a letter granting this kind of permission and include it in the Appendix).
  • Some nice words about your advisor, preceptor and other experts in the field that you have access to for advice, assistance, technical support will go a long way to supporting your claim that you have the resources you will need to complete your Special Project.
  • End the section by summarizing the access you will have to do what you have to do to complete the Special Project.

Analysis of Prior Similar and Related Efforts

The purpose of this section is to show that you have done an extensive, exhaustive (probably exhausting) review of the literature. This is the section where you compare and contrast your research findings of what others have done (and published about) that is similar and related to what you are planning to do.

  • Let's face it, you are not the first person in the world to think of the "intervention" you (along with your preceptor) have in mind, although you will probably be the first person to do so for the particular agency you are working with. Therefore, it has to have been done before by others, probably in different settings, with different populations, with slightly different tools. It is unacceptable to say that no research was found, especially now that there is the Internet. Make sure whatever you find on the Internet is appropriately cited in APA format.
  • If you do this section right, I will be able to tell how grounded you are with your Special Project. You will need this research for Section 5, at which time you will have to explain the plausibility of successful implementation (like, because it's been successfully done before by so-and-so, in a such-and-such setting, with a so-and-so population). And, you would be able to talk about any potential problems that might be encountered because so-and-so, at such-and-such setting ran into problems with a so-and-so population. The point is, you have done all you could to develop a product that is based on the best theories, techniques, strategies and approaches reported and found in the research literature. This section should include:
    • Nature and scope of previous and similar efforts. For example, such an intervention was used at blah-blah-blah, and at blah-blah-blah. You can summarize a whole string of research findings if you group similar findings together. You only need to go into extensive detail for research that is DIFFERENT FROM the rest. Let's say, 6 studies found the use of enhancing self-efficacy to be useful in motivating people to adopt a new behavior, and one concludes it makes no difference. Explain why that study came to such a conclusion and why there was this discrepancy (different setting, age group, whatever, etc.)
    • Theoretical bases of previous efforts. Talk about the health behavioral, or whatever theories were used to develop, implement and evaluate interventions in the literature. For example, for a particular type of intervention, all the research seems to show that Locus of Control was the theory most researchers used and found favorable. Why is that so? Draw some conclusions about that. Also, cite references to theories other researchers may have used but found to be inadequate, or possibly somewhat useful but only in certain instances. Be comprehensive, but report it concisely.
    • Note the successes and failures of previous efforts. Basically, this review should help you to determine which theory or theories you will be using with your Special Project, whether it is for explaining or justifying why you are doing what you will be doing either during the development or evaluation of the product. Keep your eyes open for potential data collection tools you can use, or adapt for use, with your Special Project.
    • If you are planning on using an eclectic theory just to be different, you better have enough research to support this stance in this section. You will have to show why it's going to work for you when nobody, or, few researchers have found it worked for them, under research conditions. Of course, you can be a trailblazer, but be ready to support it with research.
    • In essence, I would much rather see you use a theory that's been shown to be useful for researchers (who make their living testing theories) and apply it to your Special Project, since that would be the rational way to approaching problem-solving. And, if it doesn't work with your Special Project, well, then you will have plenty to write about in Section 5. If you start off with an unproven theory, it will only be uphill all the way. Why make it hard on yourself?

  • End this section with a thoughtful review of what works, what doesn't work, and which theories seem to work best for similar or related interventions reported in the literature. Conclude by stating which or what theories you will be using with your Special Project AND why.

Competency Analysis

The purpose of this section is to show you have the expertise to complete this Special Project.

  • If you have an up-to-date resume, then that should do it. If you don't, then maybe you should update it. A good resume should reflect the capacities, training and credentials you have that will make you the top choice to complete this Special Project you are proposing to do. In Public Health, nothing looks better for a grant proposal than a well-written resume.
  • Do include a short narrative (at least 3 sentences) highlighting your strengths, and then reference your resume (See Appendix ....).

Feasibility of the Proposed Project

  • The purpose of this section is to write up a comprehensive and coherent statement of your findings based on all the analyses you have performed, as they pertain to the topic of your Special Project. You should be able to show your command of the issues surrounding the agency, community, the resources you have at your disposal, and an in-depth understanding of what has already been done that is similar or somewhat related to what you plan to do. After all this, you should be able to show that you are the exact person for the job (immaculate resume).


This section should be written as if your reader decided to read ONLY this section to find out what Section Two is all about. Therefore, it should be written like you would write an "Executive Summary."

REITERATE what the problem is, how it came to be, what will happen if it doesn't get addressed, community factors you need to consider (the good and the bad), the resources you will have, what has already been done by others to address the problem, the theories that work best, and the one(s) you will be using (along with why), and how you have all the skills needed to get it done.




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Published on the Net: October 8, 2000
Updated: 12/25/2022 R193

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