The best way that I got started on my prospectus was to follow the guidelines on a handout by Peg Syverson, a professor at UT. The handout listed six parts to a prospectus, which I think could be used in almost any field:
- Statement of the Problem
- Review of Literature
- Sources of Data
- Outline of Chapters
- Implications of the Project
I was taking a couple of classes at the time, so I used to wake up on Friday mornings (when nothing else too urgent was happening) and write one section quickly, to the best of my ability. It would take me a couple of hours. My first draft of the prospectus was 16 pages—so about 2.5 pages per section. Some sections were very short—I just wrote until I ran out of gas. In six weeks, I had a first draft, which I then polished up and showed to my advisers. (That took a few more weeks–in this planning stage, intimidation tends to make one work slow.)
After talking to my advisers, I understood that my “Review of Literature” section was not anything like what it was supposed to be. They also gave substantial critiques of my “Methodology” section. I ended up rewriting almost the entire thing, making substantial content changes in every section. But that first draft really helped me focus on the weak areas of my plan. It also gave me a ton of confidence to have something written.