3. Writing a Prospectus

A prospectus is a short summary of, and rationale for, your paper topic. It consists of a few standard components, described below, that can serve double-duty as the first draft of your paper’s introduction. Address the following in 1–2 pages.

Subject Matter: Introduce your topic (object) that will be the focus of your paper. You are the expert and you want the reader to become familiar with the topic; therefore provide a clear and concise description of the object and any historical facts that you think are necessary for the reader to know at this stage.

State of the Literature: What have scholars said about your topic? Synthesize the literature in your annotated bibliography. You may review the scholarship in chronological order or you may thematically group your sources. It is not necessary to mention every single piece of scholarship. It is your job, as the current expert, to evaluate which sources are most critical to your topic. If your topic has little-to-no scholarship, then you can also make mention of this fact and summarize what you can.

State of the Question: Identify a question that scholars have not addressed—or have inadequately addressed—in regards to your topic. How will the resolution of this question help us better understand your topic? Finding this question is the most difficult task for any paper. It is impossible to do this without consultation with your professor.

Method: How will you address the State of the Question? Identify the aspects of the object you will examine. Identify the comparanda that you will incorporate into your examination. Identify the primary textual sources that may inform your research. Identify secondary scholarship that you will need to read.

Thesis: It is too early in the process for you to have a thesis sentence. But you should start identifying some possible outcomes that may result from your research. How do these possible outcomes relate to the State of the Question?