My guess is you are chomping at the bit to begin writing. If I may….I am going to ask you to slow down, and get a good idea of your topic before writing the prospectus in a single session. In order to get something down on paper, you must have read a lot around your topic, and have many conceptual foundations in place. To help with this, I’ve divided up the pre-prospectus stage into several steps of pre-thinking. These “steps” are all for qualitative studies and reference Maxwell’s book, “Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach.” How fast you move through these will depend on you, and how confident and focused you are with your topic.
Send me your ideas! I know they’re all jumbled in your head, but get them down so we can begin really pulling out what we can use. Use the “Doctoral litmus test” as you focus your ideas. And don’t forget that your research topic must be innovative.
Further Focus your ideas (Qualitative)
Take the feedback I’ve given you, and determine how what you want to study fits into a large scheme. Use Maxwell (2013) chapter 1 as a way to help organize our ideas. Consider making a web map (mind map/ concept map) or a chart to help you determine how your research ideas may fit into:
Framework (conceptual or theoretical)
Methods: Keep very basic
Determine your Goals (Qualitative)
Using Maxwell Chapter 2: Further identify your goals. There are three types; Personal, practical, and intellectual. Either add these to you’re the graphic you already made, or simply do the Exercise 2.1: Researcher Identity Memo pg. 34.
Better Determine the Conceptual Framework for your Study (Qualitative)
Read Maxwell Chapter 3: Conceptual framework. “The function of the theory is to inform the rest of your design—to help you to assess and refine your goals, develop realistic and relevant research questions, select appropriate methods, and identify potential validity threats to your conclusions. It also helps to justify your research” (Maxwell 2013; pg. 40-41). Complete “Using Exercise 3.1: Creating a Concept Map for Your Study” pg. 62.
Further Tweak your Research Questions (Qualitative)
Read Maxwell Chapter 4:
Now that you’ve got a feel for how your research may fit into the larger picture, tweak your research questions to align with the problem you’ve identified. Use Maxwell (2013) chapter 4 while working on this.
Put together a document of just your research questions, and give me metacognition comments to go with them. Why you like certain ones, why you don’t. Which ones you feel are the most important, what phrasing you particularly like, which ones you want help clarifying etc..
Then go look at dissertations (or published articles) that use a similar methodology that you are currently moving towards. Don’t read the dissertation cover to cover, but look at research questions, and compare them to your own. See if this changes how you view your own questions. Then add to your research question document, providing additional versions of the research questions you’ve already written. Add the metacognition commentary on these as well, being sure to clarify which you like best out of everything you’ve written.
Once you’ve done this, you’ll move on to writing a first draft of the prospectus.