Research Prospectus for Documentary

In preparation for the documentary assignment, students should complete a thoroughly considered prospectus that meets the guidelines listed below.

Documentary Project Proposal (prospectus) 

 

What is a prospectus?

A prospectus is a proposal to undertake a research project. A prospectus is a statement that briefly describes the questions, materials, and methods a researcher will use in his or her research. A prospectus indicates that the research project fits the required parameters.

What are the parts of the prospectus?

  1. A prospectus contains a clear, concise introduction to the topic of the research.
  2. A prospectus states the main research question(s) that the researcher wishes to answer.
  3. A prospectus summarizes the basic arguments that surround the research topic.
  4. A prospectus lists the basic research materials; these may be listed according to title and author, or they may include annotations. If experts in the topic are to be consulted, their names are also included. (NOTE: The list of basic research materials may not be a complete list of all materials that are finally used in the research, but should indicate the research direction and the types of materials the researcher plans to examine and study.)  Please include five potential secondary sources and a list of interviewees that you have contacted or plan to contact.
  5. Since the purpose of the documentary assignment is for students to explore a subject with openness to many perspectives, the prospectus should not indicate a thesis or argument that the writer will make in his/her film. Consider yourself the investigator. State a hypothesis, what you, think you will learn or find out by conducting this research. Remain open to being wrong.
  6. A prospectus should map out three major milestones for your project that will guide your process. Some example milestones may be 1) Complete all secondary research, write interview questions, and schedule interviews; 2) conduct all primary research and film interviews; 3) Develop storyboard, including timing, selection of music, and sequencing, and begin assembling and editing first half of documentary. Feel free to create your own milestones, as long as you plan to meet the storyboard deadline during milestone 3.

To whom is a prospectus written?
The audience for the prospectus is the reader who will determine whether or not the research project should be undertaken. This reader may be a professor, a research committee, a graduate degree committee, a funding agency, or the management of the company or agency for whom the researcher will conduct the study.  In your case, Nicole Piasecki will be your audience for the research prospectus.

In what style should a prospectus be written?
A formal style generally is preferred. The prospectus can not present the researcher’s conclusion.  Most importantly, use active voice verbs and a writer’s voice that demonstrates confidence that the research has merit. A prospectus that “sounds” dubious or not well considered typically indicates that the research project is dubious and not well considered.

How long should a prospectus be?
A prospectus needs to cover the basic points to assure the reader that the researcher plans a substantive project. Beyond that minimum, the length of the prospectus should be proportionate to that of the project. For the sake of our course, please limit your prospectus to three pages.

Fall 2012 deadlines:

  • Milestone 1: Due October 23, 2012
  • Milestone 2: Due November 6, 2012
  • Milestone 3: November 15, 2012
  • Rough Draft Due: November 27, 2012
  • Final Draft Due: December 4, 2012

About npiasecki

Instructor of Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Colorado Denver, specializing in 21st century skills, research, and creative nonfiction. Director of the Denver Writing Project, a local site of the National Writing Project's professional network for K through College educators.
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