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Prospectus Guidelines

How to create a research plan

Published onDec 25, 2020
Prospectus Guidelines

The prospectus is the plan for your research paper and contains, in paragraph form, all of the elements of the research paper. It is probably the most important, and often the most difficult, assignment to write. Its purpose is to help you to organize your research into an argument: to formulate your thesis, counterarguments, and rebuttal, and to plan how you will use your sources to provide the evidence you need to support your claims. Remember that your prospectus is a planning document, not a final draft; you are free to make substantial changes if further research shows you that you need to do so.

Guidelines for Writing a Prospectus:

Write a 3-page overview of your research paper. Your project may still be incomplete, but don’t worry about that; just do as much as you can with the research you’ve conducted so far.

Your prospectus should be based on research using scholarly sources, must be written in expository prose, and should do the following:

  • Include an engaging title

  • Introduce your topic:

    • Establish the historical context.

    • Specify the particular person or people, practice, institution, event, artifact, and/or phenomenon that you will be investigating.

  • Address the conceptual problem you observed in your research.

  • Include at least a few of the observations that have led you to pose your question.

  • Explicitly state the research question that your paper will address

  • Acknowledge and cite other scholars’ work on your topic and consider alternative interpretations or answers to the question (potential counterarguments).

  • Propose your own arguable claim (your working thesis).

  • Discuss the main points that you will address and the evidence that you will use as you develop your thesis.

  • Comment on the significance of both your topic and your thesis.

  • Your prospectus should contain very few, if any, direct quotations, but you should refer to and footnote (Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition, full note style) the scholars whose work you have consulted and you should summarize at least some of the evidence you will be using to support your argument.

  • Your prospectus should include a Bibliography (no annotations) with a minimum of 5 scholarly sources and 2 primary sources. It is ok if your sources are different from the ones that you used in the Annotated Bibliography.


  • Header top left single spaced: Name/Course/ Professors/Date

  • Title (centered)

  • 12 point font, standard typeface (such as Times New Roman)

  • Double-spaced with 1-inch margins

  • Page numbers top right

  • Footnotes and Bibliography formatted in Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition full note style.

Prospectus Template for Getting Started

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