The proposal should have three parts:

(1) An abstract or that statement that poses a question or problem,

contextualizes that problem and conveys the stakes of engaging it. This

statement should convey the methods and perspectives that you will bring

to the question and what you will do, in order to explore it.

(2) A detailed, critical summary of what’s ‘known’ about the subject, that

identifies gaps in knowledge and research questions that you hope to

address. This section often includes summary (but highly specific)

information about what kinds of “primary” sources are available (this could

be letters, manuscriipts, print, audio, video, photographic, pictorial,

whatever). It should also include a bibliography.

(3) An expanded how you propose to address these questions. This is where

you would propose answer(s) to your research question(s), in the form of

what would eventually be the thesis statement of your paper /

essay/article/thesis/dissertation/ creative project if you were to follow

through on the proposal. It is also where you would introduce the

theoretical ideas you propose as likely to be helpful as you try to develop

answers, and where you list new sources you wish/hope/intend to find. This

section is a bit like fiction writing–it says what you can imagine doing but

also forces you to clarify your thought while inviting you to be bolder than

you would dare to be if you had to produce the paper this semester.

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