Basically, a prospectus gives some "general directionals" about the ideas you want to investigate and the areas you'll be looking into. It also gives you an idea of what research you've already done and what you still need to do. Usually, a prospectus answers:
The last part involves a bibliography, a list of the books, articles, etc. that you may not have had time to read yet, but which still look promising in terms of providing information for your paper.
Length of a prospectus is determined by the topic and course, but in general one to two pages of text is sufficient.
A rough example of a prospectus follows.
Henry David Thoreau wrote "In wilderness is the preservation of the world." It seems that as the 90s get underway, we've come back to this idea. But upon looking at what's left of the wilderness, we've found a need not just to "preserve" what's left in national parks and refuges, but to restore the wilderness. Among the various proposals to that effect, one stands out: the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone. I've never heard a wolf howl, never even seen one at a zoo. But I do remember a controversy from my days in New Jersey, when a proposal was made to introduce wolves in the Great Swamp area. Letters from both sides, vehement articles, and pictures of the messed up ecosystem, with its diseased and starving deer population, convinced me that man's wildlife management is much more inefficient and costly than nature's. For me, the recent controversial suggestion to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone National Park has brought this whole issue up again. It also raises some other related questions: Should we bring wolves back into a park? What are the dangers? The benefits? Could they find their way back on their own? Wouldn't that be more advantageous? Are wolves a necessary part of the wilderness? Or are the folktales about them true--they're only vicious killers? For this paper, I plan to investigate the controversy over the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, focusing on what's involved in the reintroduction of a species to an area, and then apply this information to the idea of reintroducing wolves to Baxter State Park in Maine.
So far I've been doing general research on wolves, reading Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowatt, a book which illustrates wolf behaviors. Although these wolves are from the Arctic, I believe the information on wolf behavior will help me as I start to review the arguments concerning wolves and Yellowstone. I've just finished a Newsweek article, "Return of the Wolf," and a Wilderness (magazine for the Wilderness Society) article, "The Old Wildlife." While the former concentrates on Yellowstone, the latter article takes a look at the general role that wolves play in the wild; it gives information about what wolves will and won't prey on, establishing in an objective way the necessity of having wolves in the food chain.
I still need to find a copy of the Endangered Species Act, for that plays a definite role in limiting what park rangers can and can't do once wolves are established in a national park. I've found several books on the wolves of Isle Royale, a natural home to wolves in Michigan for the past twenty years, and I hope these books will provide information that will dispel some of the panic that wolf folklore inspires. I need to further investigate both sides of the Yellowstone controversy, and have sent away through interlibrary loan for specific articles from that area's local newspapers. I also want to talk with several rangers and directors from Yellowstone: William Penn Mott, J. W. Baxter, and Chad Little. Finally, I need to do some research on wolves in Baxter, and I hope that my conversation this afternoon with a ranger will provide me with that information.
Allen, Durward Leon. Wolves of Minong: their vital role in a wild community. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979.
Bailey, Vernon. Destruction of wolves and coyotes: results obtained during 1907. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1908.
Bailey, Vernon. Directions for the destruction of wolves and coyotes. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1908.
Begley, Sharon, Larry Wilson, Mary Hager, and Peter Annin. "Return of the Wolf." Newsweek. 12 August 1991: 44-50.
Klinghammer, Erich. Symposium on the Behavior and Ecology of Wolves. 23-24 May 1975. Wilmington, NC. New York: Garland STPM Press, 1979.
Little, Charles. "The Old Wildlife." Wilderness. Summer 1991: 10-17.
Mech, L. David. The Wolf: the ecology and behaviour of an endangered species. New York: Natural History Press, 1970.
Mech, L. David. The wolves of Isle Royale. Washington, DC: US GPO, 1966.
Mowat, Farley. Never Cry Wolf. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963.
Peters, Roger. Dance of the wolves. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1985.