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:
1. What is the problem, why is it hard?
2. How is it solved today?
3. What is the new technical idea; why can we succeed now?
4. What is the impact if successful?
5. How will the program be organized?
6. How will intermediate results be generated?
7. How will you measure progress?
8. What will it cost?
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).
After leaving ARPA, Heilmeier went on to head research departments
at TI, GE Aero, and Bellcore. (This version of Heilmeier's Catechism
was adapted from one
put online by Gio