This paper reports an attempt to develop a 'user-oriented' methodology for information system design that allows systems to be modeled on user criteria rather than trying to force users to become system-oriented. In response to a National Science Foundation project to change the current paper dominated proposal submission process into an electronic mail system (i. e. , EXPRESS), the authors treated the proposal submission process as a potential model for an information system. Incorporating conceptual logics from functional linguistics and Dervin's Sense-Making approach (1983), the authors describe user 'information-in-use' criteria for information system design. The synthesized methodology describes techniques for tapping aspects of the user's situational reality, the user's information seeking and information use behavior in the context of preparing a research proposal for a government funding agency. The methodology incorporates the user's dynamic perception of an information problem and generates patterns organized in temporal and spatial terms according to the user's point in the proposal submission process; the kinds of questions the user has; and the kinds of uses the user perceives s/he would put an answer to.