Quad Chart

Often, planning is the most difficult stage of any proposal project. Brainstorming is a great technique to start coming up with ideas, but organizing ideas into a manageable format can be haphazard and not productive at times. Different techniques have been used to help with this stage of proposal development, and many are visual in nature (e.g., Gantt charts, PERT charts, etc.).

One technique that I think is useful is the quad chart. This is a one page document that is visual, as well as descriptive. I once heard someone say that until you can draw a picture of something then you do not really understand it. A quad chart is a good example of structuring a concept or idea into manageable pieces. A quad chart is divided into four parts and provides an overview of a proposed solution by illustrating expectations for content and format.

Below are two links that I use with an online class exercise:



The first link connects students to a list of examples of quad charts.  The second is an added resource for project management and contains more quad chart examples.  I provide more online notes about quad charts before assigning the following exercise. Students must complete a writing assignment, which is a Concept Paper, prior to writing their formal proposal assignments.

Below is the online class exercise that students complete at the beginning of the planning process:


  1. Open at least 3 quad charts from a NASA Energy & Water Cycle Study – Scroll down and look at the different sections to find one that is related to your major or research interest.
  2. Choose one quad chart that you think is especially well done.
  3. Send an Email to me indicating your choice.  List the section title, name, and employer.  Tell me what stands out on this quad chart from the others. Be descriptive since your input will be useful for me to focus future students to look at outstanding quad charts.

OPTIONAL: Click on the Project Management Resources link, created by Andrew G. Holmes at the University of Hull, United Kingdom. This site contains a lot of useful information, as well two quad chart templates that you may find useful as you begin planning your formal proposal for this course.

Created by Jamie Larsen