Guidelines for a Prospectus

The prospectus should be typed, double-spaced, preferably about 10 pages in length or more, exclusive of preliminary outline and bibliography.

I. The PROSPECTUS is a formal statement about your chosen topic of research. It should contain an explanation of the larger historical concerns which make your topic worth doing. You will also be able to present questions that you will be asking of your sources. Lastly, it asks you to present some tentative conclusions and perhaps a thesis. It should contain the following components.

  • A. A discussion of the general topic. Describe your subject briefly, place it in an historical context, and state its significance to the larger historical issue(s).
  • B. A definition of the "problem" that you are confronting, including a few questions that you will ask in an attempt to solve the problem. You should present tentative conclusions and even a thesis statement. The purpose here is to see how you are conceptualizing your problem and how you might get at some answers. Keep in mind that any conclusions and/or a thesis which you propose are tentative at this point. All will probably be revised as you proceed with your research.
  • C. Historiography. Your prospectus should include a survey of the historiography of the topic and themes which you plan to cover. It should be a significant part of the prospectus. You should discuss how and why your research will contribute to the existing literature. Does it fill a gap? Does it add a new perspective? If so, what?
  • D. A discussion of your sources. Describe the primary sources that you will use for each part of your work.

II. A PRELIMINARY OUTLINE  should be included with the prospectus. Follow traditional outline form. The outline should not be TOO detailed but it should offer general topics and subtopics. It should enable you to approach your topic and present your material in an effective, organized way. Remember that it is tentative; you will revise it as you proceed.

III. The last part of this prospectus is a more detailed WORKING ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY composed of two parts: sources which you have in your possession, and sources which you have not yet obtained but intend to use.

  • A. For sources in your possession: Divide the bibliography into primary and secondary sources. Use complete bibliographical information for each entry and follow standard form. Remember to alphabetize by author's last name or the appropriate title word. For each entry, or groups of entries, briefly annotate the sources.B. For sources which you have not yet obtained but intend to use: Do exactly the same as for Part A except you do not have to annotate the entries. Give some indication about the availability and likely access of the sources you plan to consult, especially archival sources.

IV. A tentative time table. This should include the number of weeks or months you expect each stage of your labors to cover. Most everything takes longer than you expect!

V. A one-paragraph Summary.

VI. A cover page with:

  • A. proposed title;
  • B. signature of major professor;
  • C. signatures of all committee members including outside representative.