Prospectus Guidelines

Guidelines for writing a prospectus

  • Formulate an argument (1-2 paragraphs):

To produce an effective essay or thesis, you must begin with a clear and defensible argument. Having a coherent argument is essential to structuring your essay or thesis. Present your argument in the first paragraph of your prospectus.

  • Situate your argument relative to existing scholarship (1-2 paragraphs):

Your argument should make original claims that add to existing scholarship on your topic. In your prospectus, briefly discuss the most influential scholarly works on (or closely related to) your topic. Explain how your project will differ from those established works.

  • Explain how you will use primary sources (1-3 paragraphs):

Briefly identify the most significant primary sources that you will use in your project. What insights have you garnered from your preliminary survey of these sources? How do you plan to use them to support your argument?

  • Explain how you will organize the body of your essay or thesis (3 paragraphs):

The body of your essay or thesis will likely consist of three or more sections. Devote a paragraph to elaborating each of these sections. What are these sections, and how will their organization support your argument? 

  • Your concluding paragraph should reiterate how your project makes an original contribution to scholarship.

  • Finally, compile an extensive preliminary bibliography:

Your preliminary bibliography should be divided into secondary and primary sources. You need not have consulted all of the sources included in the preliminary bibliography. Try to be as comprehensive as possible. In compiling your bibliography, consult MIDCAT, America: History and Life, and sources included in the bibiographies of existing scholarship on your topic. Preliminary bibliographies should be at least 1 full page long.

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