Approaching a Dissertation Prospectus…
First, what is a prospectus?
To put it simply, as simply as it is possible, it is a research proposal.
What is a dissertation prospectus then?
It is a document that lays out a proposal for the actual dissertation. It typically lays out a working title for the dissertation, presents the research question and statement/proposal for why this dissertation needs to be written – a justification – both in purpose and significance. This document also presents the proposal research methodology, touches on a review of the literature that will be engaged, and gives a tentative outline for the actual dissertation itself. It usually concludes with a bibliography of potential sources.
Before jumping into writing this dissertation prospectus, I needed to address three things, three key elements that I needed to define for myself in order to fully feel confident to engage in creating my prospectus: my research question, my warrant, and my claim.
Potential Research Question
This is the question that I am looking to address and potentially answer, via my argument, when I complete my dissertation.
Research Question 1.0
How can one reach a better understanding of why society, particularly American society, is so susceptible to the application of visual rhetoric and signifiers in the rendering and expression of our beliefs, values, and ideas?
Sounds simple, but its quite complicated
For those of you who are not familiar with what a warrant is…it is not a, in this case, a court ordered appearance or a document seeking your arrest. No, a warrant in the sense I am using it is an underlying assumption that one wish to validate or challenge that might be accepted or acknowledged by a society.
Warrant 2.0 (It’s already gone through 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3 versions)
Human beings have a strong inclination to respond to visual/symbolic forms (signifiers) that often communicate complicated abstract ideas and values (signified). This propensity is reflects both a visual and dramatic orientation of human communication, and within modern American culture such communication lies at the heart of popular forms of entertainment from movies, to television, to comic book superheroes.
Kenneth Burke, in his Rhetoric of Motives, notes that humans are, by our nature, “symbol using animals,” that is we respond in varied but quite powerful and distinct ways to the use of symbols as a means of communicating complicated meaning. It is said that a picture can say a thousand words, so a superhero can represent and embody a whole host of complicated and complex ideas, values, and beliefs and project those notions into a means of communication that has the potential to reach a varied audience on both conscious and unconscious levels.
In this case, my claim is kind of another way of saying my thesis, or my argument. This is my central statement, in response to my research question and aimed at either promoting or challenging my proposed warrant, that my dissertation will ultimately rest upon.
Claim 2.3 (yes, there have been other already too)
Through an understanding of how Kenneth Burke’s concept of the dramatic pentad and close application of rhetorical tropes and figures to the analysis of cultural signifiers, such as comic book superheroes, a greater understanding of how symbolic and visual communication can impact the shaping and development of human ideas and values can develop.
My aim is to apply the use of Kenneth Burke’s notions of dramatic aspect of human interaction and communication, its visual and symbolic potential, along with rhetorical analysis of selected representations of comic book superheroes to explore and flesh out just how superheroes act as cultural signifiers both the reinforce, express, and shape/change the development of our cultural ideas and values.
So, this is the starting block…now…revision, revision, revision…write, write, write…keep calm, and finish your dissertation.
Here we go…