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History Research Guide: Home

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Welcome to the library guide for History!

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Developing a Research Question

1. Select a topic that genuinely interests you. Look at course readings, class notes, Google, Wikipedia, CQ Researcher or Credo Reference for initial ideas.

2. Consider the scope of your topic.
If it is too narrow, you might have trouble finding enough information.
If it too broad, you can be overwhelmed with information.

3. Turn your focused topic into a research question. It should be a question that will have a concrete, specific and measurable answer that has not already been definitively answered (you want to contribute something new to the discussion!).

Questions to guide the development of your research question:

  • Is it focused enough to be covered in my paper or project?
  • Is there enough literature available on this topic?
  • What is the question that my research is answering?
  • Am I genuinely interested in this topic?
  • Is my topic going to be new and interesting to my audience?

Keywords

Brainstorming keywords for your topic will help you refine your topic, find the most information about your topic and save you time by helping you search databases in a more efficient and systematic way.

Why? Different authors will refer to the same concept in different ways. Having a comprehensive list of keywords to search will help you find more information about your topic!

1. Pick out the main ideas in your research question. For example, the main ideas in this research question are in bold: “How did Mormons influence the settling of the American West?"

2. Take each of your main ideas and brainstorm as many synonyms, related words, acronyms, initialisms, and spelling variants as you can. For example, for Mormons:

  • Latter-day Saints
  • Saints
  • LDS
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

3. Do this for each of your main ideas. Searching all the variants you can come up with will give you a broader selection of relevant information. It might help to make a chart to keep track of which combinations you have searched for.

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