When George Heilmeier was the director of ARPA in the mid 1970s, he had a standard set of questions he expected every proposal for a new research program to answer. These have been called the Heilmeier Catechism. It’s a good exercise to answer these questions for an individual research project, too, both for yourself and as a way to convey to others what you hope to accomplish. So here they are:
Of course, if you are proposing a small effort, like a class project or MS thesis, some of these questions should be adapted and modified (e.g., #5 and #8)
George H. Heilmeier,
- What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon.
- How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice?
- What’s new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful?
- Who cares? If you’re successful, what difference will it make?
- What are the risks and the payoffs?
- How much will it cost? How long will it take?
- What are the midterm and final “exams” to check for success?