Writing a solid Google Summer of Code Proposal

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Google Summer of Code

I’m apart of webpack, an organization that participated in Google Summer of Code in 2018 and this year (2019). In this post, I’ll share some tips on how to write a proposal that will increase your chances getting accepted. As a mentor I’ve been reviewing a lot of proposals and this is a summary of best practises.

Introduction

What are you applying to work on? What is the organization doing and what does the project you want to contribute to do? This is where you elaborate on a higher level what the project is.

After doing a short introduction of the organization and the project you want to contribute to, start with an introduction of your idea. What makes your proposal want us to accept you? What makes it unique?

Keywords:

  • Give a brief outline of the organization and project
  • Elaborate your idea and what makes it good

Description

This is probably the longest and most important section of your proposal. In the previous section, you’ve highlighted your idea, this is the section where you provide an overview of how to solve the problem.

Start with explaining the problem space and the problem you are trying to solve. After doing so, you will elaborate on how you intend to solve the problem. A non-technical anecdote is not enough. You will need to come up with a layout that explains the solution at a technical level, without going too deep.

A tips for writing these kinds of texts, is to discuss the problem as it was a select company listening what you are saying and asking you questions about problems that might arrive. Remember to split up your solution into multiple sub-sections.

Keywords:

  • Explain the problem
  • Write a technical solution
  • Explain your approach in depth and write it reflectively

Timeline

What’s your schedule? How will you come through with your proposal? Explain how you will dedicate your time during the summer to submit deliverables. This section is important, because it will be the reference to your deliverables this summer. GSoC has several phases and make sure that you write a table or an overview of what you will be doing during these phases.

For instance:

Phase 1: 28–29th of February:

  • x is implemented
  • y is fixed
  • z is zappy

These phases are evaluated by mentors and they will use your proposal as a reference to determine if you are passing or not. Do you have anything to mention that we need to know about? Are you going on holidays? How much time are you planning to use each day or week? Planning and letting the mentors know will be in your favor.

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.

~J.K Tolkien, The Hobbit

Important phases to mention:

May 6–27— Community bonding

May 27-June 24th,— Phase 1

June 28th-July 24th— Phase 2

July 24th-August 19th — Phase 3

Keywords:

  • Plan your proposal
  • Explain what you will be doing during phases

Experience

If you have contributed to the project or organization before, that is a positive thing. If so, mention how you contributed as it will show that you are motivated and know how to contribute to the project.

In this section you should write about yourself, a little like a resume but keep it relevant. Include personalia, experience, OSS experience (none is ok, that’s a reason for applying), work experience and relevant information. If you do not have much experience, a tip is to give us some examples of projects you’ve done at school and how you solved them.

Keywords:

  • Who are you? Write about yourself
  • Show us that you are qualified
  • Mention relevant OSS experience or related

Few Remarks

  • Start early with your proposal
  • Try to contribute to the organization, it has positive effect
  • Talk to mentors, ask for feedback
  • Don’t be afraid to come up with your own ideas or features you want to work on, but mention it before writing the official proposal so mentors can give feedback
  • Work hard, don’t be lazy, but have fun while doing Google Summer of Code :)

Example Structure

  • Introduction
  • Problem Space
  • Proposal Description
  • Schedule/Timeline
  • Experience/About Me

Summary

I hope this guide has helped you getting a feel of how a proposal is structured. This is not the recipe though, you can shape your proposal as you’d like as long as it is thorough and it contains relevant information. Think of it like a university report or a science report. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, happy to help.

Written by

@webpack

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