Proposal vs. Report

What's the Difference?

A proposal and a report are both written documents that serve different purposes. A proposal is a persuasive document that outlines a plan or idea and seeks approval or funding for its implementation. It typically includes an introduction, problem statement, objectives, methodology, timeline, and budget. On the other hand, a report is a factual document that presents information or findings on a specific topic or project. It provides a detailed analysis of the subject matter, including research, data, and recommendations. While a proposal focuses on convincing the reader to support a particular initiative, a report aims to inform and provide insights based on research and analysis.


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PurposeOutlines a plan or idea to be implementedPresents findings or results of research or investigation
FormatTypically includes sections like introduction, objectives, methodology, timeline, and budgetMay include sections like introduction, methodology, findings, analysis, and conclusion
AudienceIntended for decision-makers or stakeholders who will evaluate and approve the proposalIntended for readers who are interested in the research or investigation conducted
ContentIncludes details about the proposed project, its benefits, and potential risksIncludes information about the research process, data collected, analysis, and conclusions drawn
LengthCan vary depending on the complexity of the proposal, typically several pagesCan vary depending on the scope of the report, typically several pages to a few dozen pages
ObjectiveTo persuade the audience to approve and support the proposed planTo inform the audience about the research findings and provide recommendations if applicable
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Further Detail


When it comes to written communication in various professional settings, two common types of documents that are often encountered are proposals and reports. While both serve distinct purposes, they share some similarities as well. In this article, we will explore the attributes of proposals and reports, highlighting their differences and similarities, and discussing their unique characteristics.

Purpose and Audience

One of the primary distinctions between proposals and reports lies in their purpose and intended audience. A proposal is typically created to suggest a plan of action, request funding or resources, or propose a solution to a problem. It aims to persuade the reader to take a specific course of action. On the other hand, a report is designed to present factual information, findings, or analysis on a particular topic. Its purpose is to inform and provide insights to the reader, often without a call to action.

Proposals are commonly directed towards decision-makers, stakeholders, or potential clients who have the authority to approve or reject the proposed plan. The audience for reports, however, can vary widely depending on the context. Reports may be intended for colleagues, supervisors, clients, or even the general public, depending on the nature of the information being presented.

Structure and Format

Another significant difference between proposals and reports lies in their structure and format. Proposals typically follow a specific format that includes sections such as an executive summary, introduction, problem statement, proposed solution, budget, timeline, and conclusion. These sections are organized in a logical sequence to present a persuasive argument.

Reports, on the other hand, may have a more flexible structure depending on the purpose and context. They often include sections such as an introduction, methodology, findings, analysis, conclusions, and recommendations. However, the specific sections and their order may vary based on the type of report and the organization's guidelines.

Both proposals and reports may include supporting materials such as charts, graphs, tables, or appendices to provide additional information or evidence. However, the inclusion of these elements is more common in reports, where data visualization and supporting evidence play a crucial role in conveying the information effectively.

Tone and Language

The tone and language used in proposals and reports also differ to some extent. Proposals often adopt a persuasive and assertive tone, aiming to convince the reader of the proposed idea's value and benefits. The language used in proposals is typically more formal and professional, focusing on presenting a compelling argument and showcasing the writer's expertise.

Reports, on the other hand, tend to have a more objective and neutral tone. The language used in reports is generally more factual and concise, focusing on presenting information accurately and objectively. While the writer's expertise is still important, the emphasis is more on providing an unbiased analysis or summary of the topic at hand.

Research and Analysis

Both proposals and reports often require research and analysis, but the extent and focus of these activities can vary. Proposals typically involve conducting research to identify the problem, understand the target audience, and gather evidence to support the proposed solution. The analysis in proposals is often centered around the potential benefits, feasibility, and cost-effectiveness of the proposed plan.

Reports, on the other hand, may involve more extensive research and analysis, depending on the topic and purpose. Reports often require gathering data, conducting surveys or interviews, and analyzing the information to draw meaningful conclusions. The analysis in reports is focused on interpreting the data, identifying trends, and providing insights or recommendations based on the findings.


In conclusion, proposals and reports are two distinct types of written communication that serve different purposes and target different audiences. Proposals aim to persuade and convince the reader to take a specific course of action, while reports focus on presenting factual information and analysis. The structure, tone, language, and research involved in each document type also differ to some extent. Understanding the attributes of proposals and reports is essential for effective communication in various professional settings, enabling individuals to tailor their writing to the specific needs and expectations of their audience.

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