After the introduction and historiographical overview, the prospectus has three more mandatory sections: a description of methodology and sources, a chapter outline, and a bibliography. Rather than complete these sections in order, I've approached the prospectus by beginning with the historiography. Outlining how I intend for the dissertation to contribute to extant scholarship and fill in gaps in the literature helped me to refine my argument and decide on the scope of what I should study (and what topics require no duplication of effort, on my part). Having clarified the argument and scope, I am now working to outline the six chapters I plan to write for the dissertation.
This section was effortless to begin, but has been much more difficult to complete than I ever anticipated. After writing the historiographical overview, I had a very clear idea of how the chapters should chronologically progress, and what the thematic focus of each chapter should be. I also had a good sense of what questions I would attempt to answer in each chapter. Where I have gotten hung up, however, is in identifying what each chapter will argue and what case studies or sources I will use to support the argument. Obviously the prospectus is speculative, and these decisions are bound to change as archival research progresses, but your committee really wants to see that it is possible to complete a dissertation on this topic. Are there sources available that will yield a coherent narrative? Is it feasible to write a full chapter on the topic of interest, or conversely is the scope of the chapter or project too large?
I'm currently struggling with the relationship between scope and case studies. I would like to include three case studies in the dissertation, of JCCs in New York City, Los Angeles, and Miami. Unfortunately, I'm only sure that sources exist for the NYC case. The other two are merely speculative. Additionally, a majority of my advisors think it is not feasible to complete three case studies in the short time we are given to write the dissertation (3 years) and that I should focus closely on one case, especially since I am not proposing to do a comparative study. I'm now deciding whether the Los Angeles and Miami examples could be incorporated by using a secondary source base (historical studies that have already been written) rather than doing the archival research for these Centers all by myself.
I'm hoping that taking a little break from the prospectus today will help me find some perspective on this question. I'd like to finish up the chapter outline by the end of the week, because I cannot really discuss my methodology and sources until I figure out what I want to do!