Chip MacGregor

June 16, 2012

Do I cite sources in a proposal?


Jane wrote to ask, “What is the industry standard for citing sources in a proposal?”

The standard is pretty much the same as in a book — you want to cite your sources adequately. Sure, a proposal isn’t going to be published, so you don’t have all the same legal requirements that you do in a book, but you still want to make sure you cite the words correctly, you identify the source, and you give enough information that a reasonable person could pursue the source and confirm your citation.

So if you’re doing a nonfiction book that touches on the American Civil War, and you cite some facts from Bruce Catton’s Mr. Lincoln’s Army, you’d want to cite the source (at least offer the author’s name and the title of the book). If this were to make it to an actual printed book for sale on store shelves, you’d need more detail — publisher, date, page number. But for a proposal, at least make sure to cite your sources.

I mention this because I recently received two proposals that made wild, over-the-top claims, and offered no evidence to buttress their position — so I was supposed to take their word for it that “everybody knows [a certain political figure] is gay.” Well, I’m sorry, but everybody does NOT know that. And the person, if in fact gay, has never come out of the closet to say she is. Unfortunately, that proposition was essential for the book to work, so in context the author really needed to provide some source for the statement. Otherwise, it was nothing more than innuendo, and undercut the entire project.


Share :

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.