A research prospectus is an abbreviated version of a full-blown research proposal. It is the natural next step after you have developed your research canvas. A research prospectus is a brief overview of the key components of a research study. These components together form the “DNA” of the research methodology design. The purpose is to build quality into the proposal process by getting this DNA right before launching into developing a full-blown proposal. Experience suggests that if the DNA is right, the proposal comes together much easier, is more likely to be internally consistent, and requires less rework.
A few guidelines for developing the prospectus:
- The maximum number of pages should be no more than 10. If the number of pages exceeds 10 then you have missed the point of a prospectus. The point is to create a document that is small enough that you can deal with the complexity of the methodology design.
- Avoid including any tutorial text on research methods. Focus instead on the content of the study.
- Be specific and avoid abstract descriptions.
- Even after you develop the full-blown proposal keep the prospectus up-to-date and use it to quickly test the appropriateness of changes to the proposal.
The “Acid” Test
Once the prospectus is complete and consistent ask yourself three questions:
- Will the study produce a needed and useful contribution to the body of knowledge?
- Am I passionate about the topic?
- Is it doable? As you adjust the scope to ensure that the study will make a contribution make sure that the study is doable.
Developing a research prospectus is an iterative process. The goal here is not to have everything completely determined before the literature review but rather to have a starting point to work from as the literature review unfolds. This framework is designed to facilitate and document the results of that process and help get the most from the multiple iterations. The Research Framework section on this site contains tools and techniques for the development of the nine key components.