According to the New Oxford American Dictionary App on my MacBook, a prospectus is “a printed document that advertises or describes a school, commercial enterprise, forthcoming book, etc., in order to attract or inform clients, members, buyers, or investors.”
According to the UGA Graduate School website, under the category of “Dissertation Planning,” “The major professor and advisory committee shall guide the student in planning the dissertation. The student will prepare a dissertation prospectus. When the major professor certifies that the dissertation prospectus is satisfactory, it must be formally considered by the advisory committee in a meeting with the student.”
And that’s what I’m trying to do currently – plan for a dissertation, describe a forthcoming project, and inform the five members of my committee (and myself) what the heck I’m doing. The problem is, of course, that I’m not so sure of what I’m doing.
I’ve spent the past few years focusing my academic research interests on popular American music of the 20th century, specifically country music, with an even more specific interest in alternative country music. My research to date has examined the intersections of country and punk music, and consequently, I became interested in Chicago’s Bloodshot Records (in an academic sense, I have known about them and liked the music they put out since undergrad college).
I was lucky enough to spend a solid three weeks in Chicago this summer, and although it was an amazingly fun trip on all counts, the sole purpose of that trip was to get data on Bloodshot. And I got a ton of data. I interviewed eight different people associated with the label, with at least 10-12 other folks that were suggested to me, and took over 500 photos of Bloodshot documents. Further, I got to hang out with a few of the Bloodshot folks out in the Chicago world, and visit numerous music venues and bars that have been important to Bloodshot and its artists.
The problem I now face is what do I do with that information. Admittedly, I really haven’t processed (that is, thought about much, looked at, or even considered) the information and data I gathered this summer (don’t tell Advisor, please, although a conversation with the Grand Master of Discourse aka CA last night was quite helpful). Clearly, Bloodshot Records and/or the Chicago scene will be a significant part of my dissertation, but I’m not certain if that represents the topic of my dissertation, or just a chapter, or something else entirely. In either case, how will I frame Bloodshot or what story will I tell (particularly in light of the fact that most of the label studies I’ve read are really, really boring)? If it is *just* a chapter, what are the other chapters, and what is the overall topic?
I keep thinking of the things that I find interesting: Bloodshot’s “relationship” to alt.country of the 1990’s/No Depression magazine; alt.country in relationship to punk/post-punk/indie rock; and the ideology that is swirling around all of these things, not to mention the way these things affect the music. I am also interested in what the music actually sounds like, the musicians who made the music, along with things like compilation albums, performance practice, and production.
In the meantime, I’m trying to produce intelligible pages of text for Advisor. If you happen to run into the Magical Prospectus Fairy, please tell her I need her.