A prospectus should clearly state the topic of the proposed research and what questions and problems the work proposes to address and answer. Since the dissertation must be an original contribution to learning, the prospectus should make clear how the proposed work develops, challenges or departs from past research.
It should demonstrate that the student has a sufficient and critical command of the historiography and the present state of the field. It should make clear what languages, methodologies, and theories the student will use when examining the sources.
The prospectus should identify the sources to be used and their locations. A tentative outline of chapters should provide some sense of the work’s overall plan and structure. A tentative schedule in the prospectus should estimate how much time the various aspects of research, travel to collections, writing and revision will take. The text of the prospectus cannot be longer than ten pages. A bibliographical essay listing primary and secondary sources and unpublished doctoral and master’s research may be included, but should appear as an appendix.
The prospectus should include all of the following six components:
1. Statement of Problem, Research Question or Thesis
Research begins with the discovery of a problem needing solution, an answered question, a claim needing proof or a topic that will advance knowledge and understanding. Specify the problem, question, claim or topic to be investigated.
2. Summary Review of Scholarship Relevant to the Dissertation
Briefly summarize what is already known about the problem, question, claim or topic to be investigated. If it has been previously researched, specify what is distinctive about the proposed study.
3. Significance of the Research
Indicate why the research should be considered important or worthwhile. Specify how it will contribute to knowledge.
Indicate the manner in which the problem, question, claim or topic to be investigated will be researched and show why this is an appropriate method.
5. Tentative Outline
In a brief outline or list of chapter titles, indicate what each chapter will cover.
6. Preliminary Bibliography
Are sufficient resources for the research project readily available? Please include a listing of both primary and secondary sources to be consulted.