M.A. Design: Creative Work Proposal Guidelines

The Creative Work Project (CWP) Proposal describes the topic that the M.A. candidate will explore in the culminating work, whether a Creative Work or Thesis. A Creative Work usually includes a research component as well as design(s) related to the research, whereas a thesis is primarily a research/analytical document. (Most students in our program complete a Creative Work DES 894, not a thesis, DES 898.)

The proposal should raise a clear question(s) or identify a problem(s) on the basis of the background research. Subsequently, the proposal attempts to address that question or to suggests a potential solution/solutions. It is due to your committee in October of your second full time year, and upon successful review it is forwarded on to graduate studies.


  • Proposal is 15-20 pages in length (5,000-6,000 words).
  • Use American Psychological Association’s (APA) guidelines for captions, headings, footnotes and references. Consult the APA website for examples. (www.apastyle.org).
  • Annotations should be included at the end of the paper as endnotes, rather than at the bottom of the page as footnotes. You may include in-text citations in the body of your paper, following APA style.
  • Number the sections of your CWP according to the example below (I. Introduction, II Literature Review, etc.)
  • The tone is formal; (in most instances) rely on third person. (i.e. do not use “I” or “you”)


The CWP Proposal and final CWP Written Document should include/address the following:

  1. Introduction: Introduce the problem and research goals. Include 3-5 reference notes, facts and statements to establish credibility. The introduction should clear and thorough.
  2. Literature Review: Proposal demonstrates a strong literature review. This establishes a command of the existing body of knowledge about the research topic. All items referenced in the Literature Review section should be included in the Reference List.
  3. Statement of Problem: State the problem or the central question very clearly - “This research will…” (a few sentences stated very clearly). A clearly stated problem is essential to your Proposal.
  4. Anticipated Sub-Problems: Additional issues to be addressed or affected by the research.
  5. Scope and Limitations: Explain what types of questions will be excluded from the research and why.
  6. Significance of the Problem: What contribution will this research make? Why is this important or innovative? Who is affected by the outcomes, or success of the work? Use research facts about numbers involved; money involved; people involved.
  7. Tools and Methods for Gathering and Analyzing Data: What methods and data gathering tools will be used? How will they be used?
  8. Presentation of Outcomes: Creative Work. Describe the type of design or designs that you will produce as outcomes (deliverables) of your Creative work Project? The creative design response should be related to analysis and conclusions drawn from research. You may include schematic designs, prototypes, iterations, or design development here.
  9. Reference List: List all the references that you have used in your research and literature review, in APA style. Alphabetical order. X. End Notes. Use the APA format for inside reference notes, as well as final endnotes.

(Optional) Glossary of Terms: If the language used is obscure—resembles an alphabetized dictionary.

Evaluation: The CWP Proposal will be evaluated by members of the CW Committee and/or Graduate Coordinator. If the CW Committee members approve, the CWP Proposal will be forwarded to Graduate Studies in October of the second year of study. Proposals that are not satisfactorily reviewed by Committee and/or Graduate Coordinator will not be submitted to Graduate Studies until they have been improved. NOTE: Final outcomes that are surveys or reviews are not considered a valid CWP. A satisfactory CWP demonstrates the development of an original creative project in an area of design endeavor.