I should begin by saying that every time I write about my project it forces me to think more critically about what I would like to do and what areas of my work needs further development. Aside from being a stressful experience, the proposal draft made me try to put my project together in a way that made sense to me and would hopefully make sense to others. First, I realized I had more thoughts about methodology than I had initially thought. Two of the articles I have in my bibliography offer examples of how to measure rhetoric and the implementation and success of an abolitionist strategy. An article from a social scientist, Timothy Shortell, showed how to use mathematical equations to measure the frequency of rhetoric. While this is an intriguing technique I am not sure I have the expertise to use this method. Trying to write about his methods allowed me to realize how complex these methods are and I am not sure if I will be able to use this as a means of analysis for my research. Going through the different methods other historians use to analyze and interpret their sources helped me think about what I may use to best analyze my primary sources.
I also learned that I have a good base of primary sources for my project and that I need to spend a significant amount of time this summer digging through the archives and databases. I also need to spend more time going through my secondary literature. I feel I have a solid base of secondary sources, but the historiography section of the proposal is the area I felt I struggled with the most. I think this is mainly because I have not had the time to read all of my secondary sources fully. Many of my sources have been added in the last few weeks and I need to give these an in-depth reading. I hope this will allow me to better situate my work with the work of other abolitionist scholars. I am also unsure if I want to add a digital/public history aspect to my project. I think this is the best way to include a link to the modern fight against slavery, but I am not sure this is the best way to accomplish this link. In my next draft I hope to expand the historiography, further define my methodological approach(es), and determine what type of digital content i plan to include, if any.
I’m not sure either that you need a digital component, though it may be something you want to play with over the summer. I wonder if you could create a blog that you’d keep over the year, talking about the project, adding in images and analyzing them. Just a thought, but something that might be a way to represent your work in a more public forum and include the kind of analysis that your thesis will offer.
I think you will be surprised to discover that the more you research the more useful sources you will unearth. I have repeatedly believed myself to be done with finding new sources only to then discover three or four more that are highly relevant to my research and that need to be added to a footnote. This summer, as you mentioned, will be a good time for you to invest more time in reading those secondary sources and discovering even more (primary and secondary). I am quite sure you will ultimately find yourself with too many sources (which is definitely a good thing!)