A dissertation prospectus is basically a plan for what your dissertation will be. The best way to go about writing one is to keep three goals in mind. First, explain the topic area. Second, explain why the topic is important. Finally, explain how you will structure the paper.
Professors and other faculty members can be a huge help with this process. The purpose of a dissertation prospectus is not only to let your professors know what you intend to do, but also to help you think your topic through. Your professors can help hone your focus, and working closely with them could give you the best chance that your dissertation prospectus will be accepted.
Your dissertation prospectus should contain three basic elements: background, plan, and bibliography. The background and the plan each consist of several parts that should be covered in your paper. A bibliography should always appear at the end of the paper, but you may move back and forth between parts of the other two elements as necessary.
The background for your dissertation prospectus is an examination of the current literature and research on your topic. This section is important for two reasons: it shows your readers that you understand your topic and it gives you a chance to prove that your dissertation will not just rehash existing information but will actually contribute to the field of study. The background information should also contain sources that you plan to use to help support your thesis.
Your thesis is part of the plan element of your dissertation prospectus. This is a concise description of what you plan to study. A thesis statement should be complex, so that it results in enough research and information to build a dissertation on, but not so complex that you or your readers get lost in the details.
Once you have a strong thesis, you can lay out your plan and methodology. This is a detailed description of what you plan to research and how you plan to do it. You should also include a chapter outline. Keep in mind that these sections will probably change quite a bit as your dissertation evolves.
Your final section is the bibliography. Include every source of information possible. All of the sources you mentioned in the background section should be listed here, as well as secondary sources you may have used or plan to use in your research. This is another opportunity to prove how well you understand your subject area, so be inclusive. The bibliography can sometimes be nearly as long as the body of the dissertation prospectus.