What is a letter of intent?

A letter of intent is a proposal describing and explaining your intentions. The letter is a formal and professional document, focusing on a specific audience and purpose. The letter of intent is an important step in a project, as it typically must get approval before any work can begin.

Note that the term “letter of intent” is sometimes applied to types of writing that vary from the proposal-based letters of intent described here. Always review any instructions provided to you for completing the letter of intent.

*UAGC doctoral students should visit the Research Resource Center (RRC) from their student portal for specific resources on writing a letter of intent for their dissertation.

When is a letter of intent used?

A letter of intent is used in both the academic and business setting.

In the academic setting, it may be required before beginning work on a large academic research project. The letter of intent would require approval from an instructor or program chair before the research project can begin.

In the business setting, it may be requested as part of an application for employment or before working on a large business project. It may also be submitted when requesting to build a business relationship with another company. Approval of your letter of intent is needed before beginning a new employment, project, or partnership.

What is included in a letter of intent?

Instructions for an application, proposal, or project may include information on what should be included in the letter of intent. There could be varying expectations for the content and style of writing for the letter of intent depending on the project you are submitting it for. Always review and apply any specific instructions you are given.

Generally speaking, a letter of intent will include the following:

  • An introduction of why you are making this proposal. This could be a problem you have identified, a research opportunity you want to explore, a project you’d like to lead, an educational program you’d like to join, or a job opportunity you’d like to fill.
  • What you are proposing to do. Think of this as a project statement or summary. This may be referred to as a statement of purpose. What is your overall purpose? Do you plan to solve a problem, answer a research question, complete a new project, gain additional education, take on a new position?
  • What you have done to prepare and how you will complete the task. If you are proposing a solution to a problem, what is your plan for solving it? If you are answering a research question, what information do you already have, what will you still need to collect, and how will you complete the study? For a business proposal, what are the details of the project, who will be involved, and what is needed? If applying for an educational opportunity or job, what qualifications do you have and how can you be an asset to the program or organization?

Writing the Letter of Intent

If there are instructions provided for the application, proposal, or project you are working on, be sure to follow those explicitly. As a formal and professional written communication, you can also use the following tips when writing the letter of intent:

  • *UAGC doctoral students should visit the Research Resource Center (RRC) from their student portal for specific resources on writing a letter of intent for their dissertation.
  • Know your specific audience and write directly to them. Anticipate questions your audience may have and try to answer those within your writing.
  • Focus on your purpose—getting the proposal accepted so you can perform the work you are proposing. Incomplete proposals, unclear project parameters, or missing statements of purpose can lead to rejected or returned proposals.
  • Organize your writing into clear, direct, and concise paragraphs.
  • After drafting your letter of intent, revise it for completeness, clarity, and effective organization. It is a good practice to share your letter with a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor to assure that you are accomplishing what you set out to do in your writing. Polish your final draft before submitting to ensure your writing is error free.