HIST H270 What is History?

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  • Develop a Research Question
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  • Scholarly vs Popular
  • Thesis Statements

Developing a Research Question

From Laurier Library. 

Selecting and Narrowing a Topic

When starting out on your research, it is important to choose a research topic that is not only of interest to you, but can also be covered effectively in the space that you have available. You may not know right away what your research question is - that's okay! Start out with a broad topic, then conduct some background research to explore possibilities and narrow your topic to something more manageable.    

Choose an interesting general topic.  If you’re interested in your topic, others probably will be too! And your research will be a lot more fun. Once you have a general topic of interest, you can begin to explore more focused areas within that broad topic. 

Gather background information.  Do a few quick searches in OneSearch@IU  or in other relevant sources.  See what other researchers have already written to help narrow your focus.  

  • What subtopics relate to the broader topic? 
  • What questions do these sources raise?
  • What piques your interest? What might you like to say about the topic? 

Consider your audience.  Who would be interested in this issue? For whom are you writing? 

Adapted from: George Mason University Writing Center. (2008). How to write a research question. Retrieved from  http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/writing-resources/wc-quick-guides  

From Topic to Research Question

Once you have done some background research and narrowed down your topic, you can begin to turn that topic into a research question that you will attempt to answer in the course of your research.  Keep in mind that your question may change as you gather more information and as you write. However, having some sense of your direction can help you evaluate sources and identify relevant information throughout your research process. 

Explore questions.

  • Ask open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your general topic.  
  • Consider the “so what?” of your topic. Why does this topic matter to you? Why should it matter to others?

Evaluate your research question. Use the following to determine if any of the questions you generated would be appropriate and workable for your assignment. 

  • Is your question clear? Do you have a specific aspect of your general topic that you are going to explore further?   
  • Is your question focused? Will you be able to cover the topic adequately in the space available?   
  • Is your question sufficiently complex? (cannot be answered with a simple yes/no response, requires research and analysis)

Hypothesize.  Once you have developed your research question, consider how you will attempt to answer or address it. 

  • If you are making an argument, what will you say?  
  • Why does your argument matter?  
  • What kinds of sources will you need in order to support your argument?  
  • How might others challenge your argument?

Adapted from: George Mason University Writing Center. (2008). How to write a research question. Retrieved from http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/writing-resources/wc-quick-guides

Sample Research Questions

A good research question is clear, focused, and has an appropriate level of complexity. Developing a strong question is a process, so you will likely refine your question as you continue to research and to develop your ideas.  

Unclear : Why are social networking sites harmful?

Clear:  How are online users experiencing or addressing privacy issues on such social networking sites as MySpace and Facebook?

Unfocused:  What is the effect on the environment from global warming?

Focused:  How is glacial melting affecting penguins in Antarctica?

Simple vs Complex

Too simple:  How are doctors addressing diabetes in the U.S.?

Appropriately Complex:   What are common traits of those suffering from diabetes in America, and how can these commonalities be used to aid the medical community in prevention of the disease?

Adapted from: George Mason University Writing Center. (2008). How to write a research question. Retrieved from  http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/writing-resources/wc-quick-guides

General online reference sources.

Reference sources like dictionaries and encylopedias provide general information about various subjects. They also include definitions that may help you break down your topic and understand it better. Sources includes in these entries can be springboards for more in-depth research.

A note on citation: Reference sources are generally not cited since they usually consist of common knowledge (e.g. who was the first United States President).  But if you're unsure whether to cite something it's best to do so. Specific pieces of information and direct quotes should always be cited. 

Database of encyclopedias and specialized reference sources.

Encyclopedias and specialized reference resources in: Arts, Biography, History, Information and Publishing, Law, Literature, Medicine, Multicultural Studies, Nation and World, Religion, Science, Social Science

The online equivalent of the printed Encyclopedia Britannica and more. A fully searchable and browsable collection of authoritative references, including Britannica's latest article database, hundreds of recent articles not found in the print Britannica. Thousands of illustrations; references to biographies, geography and yearbooks are available.

Why Use References Sources

Reference sources are a great place to begin your research. They can help you:

  • gain an overview of a topic
  • explore potential research areas
  • identify key issues, publications, or authors in your research area

From here, you can narrow your search topic and look at more specialized sources.

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UCLA History Department

Steps for Writing a History Paper

Writing a history paper is a process.  Successful papers are not completed in a single moment of genius or inspiration, but are developed over a series of steps.  When you first read a paper prompt, you might feel overwhelmed or intimidated.  If you think of writing as a process and break it down into smaller steps, you will find that paper-writing is manageable, less daunting, and even enjoyable.  Writing a history paper is your opportunity to do the real work of historians, to roll up your sleeves and dig deep into the past.

What is a History paper?

History papers are driven by arguments.  In a history class, even if you are not writing a paper based on outside research, you are still writing a paper that requires some form of argument.  For example, suppose your professor has asked you to write a paper discussing the differences between colonial New England and colonial Virginia.  It might seem like this paper is straightforward and does not require an argument, that it is simply a matter of finding the “right answer.”  However, even here you need to construct a paper guided by a larger argument.  You might argue that the main differences between colonial New England and Virginia were grounded in contrasting visions of colonization.  Or you might argue that the differences resulted from accidents of geography or from extant alliances between regional Indian groups.  Or you might make an argument that draws on all of these factors.  Regardless, when you make these types of assertions, you are making an argument that requires historical evidence.  Any history paper you write will be driven by an argument demanding evidence from sources.

History writing assignments can vary widely–and you should always follow your professor’s specific instructions–but the following steps are designed to help no matter what kind of history paper you are writing.  Remember that the staff of the History Writing Center is here to assist you at any stage of the writing process.

  • Sometimes professors distribute prompts with several sub-questions surrounding the main question they want you to write about.  The sub-questions are designed to help you think about the topic.  They offer ideas you might consider, but they are not, usually, the key question or questions you need to answer in your paper.  Make sure you distinguish the key questions from the sub-questions.  Otherwise, your paper may sound like a laundry list of short-answer essays rather than a cohesive argument. A helpful way to hone in on the key question is to look for action verbs, such as “analyze” or “investigate” or “formulate.”  Find such words in the paper prompt and circle them.  Then, carefully consider what you are being asked to do.  Write out the key question at the top of your draft and return to it often, using it to guide you in the writing process.  Also, be sure that you are responding to every part of the prompt.  Prompts will often have several questions you need to address in your paper.  If you do not cover all aspects, then you are not responding fully to the assignment.  For more information, visit our section, “Understanding Paper Prompts.”
  • Before you even start researching or drafting, take a few minutes to consider what you already know about the topic.  Make a list of ideas or draw a cluster diagram, using circles and arrows to connect ideas–whatever method works for you.  At this point in the process, it is helpful to write down all of your ideas without stopping to judge or analyze each one in depth.  You want to think big and bring in everything you know or suspect about the topic.  After you have finished, read over what you have created.  Look for patterns or trends or questions that keep coming up.  Based on what you have brainstormed, what do you still need to learn about the topic?  Do you have a tentative argument or response to the paper prompt?  Use this information to guide you as you start your research and develop a thesis.
  • Depending on the paper prompt, you may be required to do outside research or you may be using only the readings you have done in class.  Either way, start by rereading the relevant materials from class.  Find the parts from the textbook, from the primary source readings, and from your notes that relate to the prompt. If you need to do outside research, the UCLA library system offers plenty of resources.  You can begin by plugging key words into the online library catalog.  This process will likely involve some trial and error.  You will want to use search terms that are specific enough to address your topic without being so narrow that you get no results.  If your keywords are too general, you may receive thousands of results and feel overwhelmed.  To help you narrow your search, go back to the key questions in the essay prompt that you wrote down in Step 1.  Think about which terms would help you respond to the prompt.  Also, look at the language your professor used in the prompt.  You might be able to use some of those same words as search terms. Notice that the library website has different databases you can search depending on what type of material you need (such as scholarly articles, newspapers, books) and what subject and time period you are researching (such as eighteenth-century England or ancient Rome).  Searching the database most relevant to your topic will yield the best results.  Visit the library’s History Research Guide for tips on the research process and on using library resources.  You can also schedule an appointment with a librarian to talk specifically about your research project.  Or, make an appointment with staff at the History Writing Center for research help.  Visit our section about using electronic resources as well.
  • By this point, you know what the prompt is asking, you have brainstormed possible responses, and you have done some research.  Now you need to step back, look at the material you have, and develop your argument.  Based on the reading and research you have done, how might you answer the question(s) in the prompt?  What arguments do your sources allow you to make?  Draft a thesis statement in which you clearly and succinctly make an argument that addresses the prompt. If you find writing a thesis daunting, remember that whatever you draft now is not set in stone.  Your thesis will change.  As you do more research, reread your sources, and write your paper, you will learn more about the topic and your argument.  For now, produce a “working thesis,” meaning, a thesis that represents your thinking up to this point.  Remember it will almost certainly change as you move through the writing process.  For more information, visit our section about thesis statements.  Once you have a thesis, you may find that you need to do more research targeted to your specific argument.  Revisit some of the tips from Step 3.
  • Now that you have a working thesis, look back over your sources and identify which ones are most critical to you–the ones you will be grappling with most directly in order to make your argument.  Then, annotate them.  Annotating sources means writing a paragraph that summarizes the main idea of the source as well as shows how you will use the source in your paper.  Think about what the source does for you.  Does it provide evidence in support of your argument?  Does it offer a counterpoint that you can then refute, based on your research?  Does it provide critical historical background that you need in order to make a point?  For more information about annotating sources, visit our section on annotated bibliographies. While it might seem like this step creates more work for you by having to do more writing, it in fact serves two critical purposes: it helps you refine your working thesis by distilling exactly what your sources are saying, and it helps smooth your writing process.  Having dissected your sources and articulated your ideas about them, you can more easily draw upon them when constructing your paper.  Even if you do not have to do outside research and are limited to working with the readings you have done in class, annotating sources is still very useful.  Write down exactly how a particular section in the textbook or in a primary source reader will contribute to your paper.
  • An outline is helpful in giving you a sense of the overall structure of your paper and how best to organize your ideas.  You need to decide how to arrange your argument in a way that will make the most sense to your reader.  Perhaps you decide that your argument is most clear when presented chronologically, or perhaps you find that it works best with a thematic approach.  There is no one right way to organize a history paper; it depends entirely on the prompt, on your sources, and on what you think would be most clear to someone reading it. An effective outline includes the following components: the research question from the prompt (that you wrote down in Step 1), your working thesis, the main idea of each body paragraph, and the evidence (from both primary and secondary sources) you will use to support each body paragraph.  Be as detailed as you can when putting together your outline.

If you have trouble getting started or are feeling overwhelmed, try free writing.  Free writing is a low-stakes writing exercise to help you get past the blank page.  Set a timer for five or ten minutes and write down everything you know about your paper: your argument, your sources, counterarguments, everything.  Do not edit or judge what you are writing as you write; just keep writing until the timer goes off.  You may be surprised to find out how much you knew about your topic.  Of course, this writing will not be polished, so do not be tempted to leave it as it is.  Remember that this draft is your first one, and you will be revising it.

A particularly helpful exercise for global-level revision is to make a reverse outline, which will help you look at your paper as a whole and strengthen the way you have organized and substantiated your argument.  Print out your draft and number each of the paragraphs.  Then, on a separate piece of paper, write down each paragraph number and, next to it, summarize in a phrase or a sentence the main idea of that paragraph.  As you produce this list, notice if any paragraphs attempt to make more than one point: mark those for revision.  Once you have compiled the list, read it over carefully.  Study the order in which you have sequenced your ideas.  Notice if there are ideas that seem out of order or repetitive.  Look for any gaps in your logic.  Does the argument flow and make sense?

When revising at the local level, check that you are using strong topic sentences and transitions, that you have adequately integrated and analyzed quotations, and that your paper is free from grammar and spelling errors that might distract the reader or even impede your ability to communicate your point.  One helpful exercise for revising on the local level is to read your paper out loud.  Hearing your paper will help you catch grammatical errors and awkward sentences.

Here is a checklist of questions to ask yourself while revising on both the global and local levels:

– Does my thesis clearly state my argument and its significance?

– Does the main argument in each body paragraph support my thesis?

– Do I have enough evidence within each body paragraph to make my point?

– Have I properly introduced, analyzed, and cited every quotation I use?

– Do my topic sentences effectively introduce the main point of each paragraph?

– Do I have transitions between paragraphs?

– Is my paper free of grammar and spelling errors?

  • Congratulate yourself. You have written a history paper!

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Introduction to History: Creating a Hypothesis

  • Research Skills
  • Creating a Hypothesis
  • Timelines & Chronology
  • Primary & Secondary Sources
  • Bias & Perspective

how to write a research question history

Source:  Markus Winkler  (2020)

Historians begin any historical inquiry by asking big questions. From these big questions, historians develop a hypothesis (a theory) about who, what, where and why certain events took place. These questions then help to frame the process of inquiry and act as a guide for the collection of evidence. Read through the resources below to learn more about creating a hypothesis.

  • Developing research questions (Monash University, n.d.) This guide from Monash University takes you through the step by step process for creating a good research question.
  • Creating a hypothesis (History Skills, n.d.) This article provides some examples of how to create a historical research hypothesis.
  • Asking good questions (William Cronon, 2009, March 23) Developing good research questions is an essential first step of every research project, because good research questions focus your work and provide direction for your next steps. The purpose of this page is to help you learn how to create research questions from general topics, and to give you useful tips for refining your questions during the research process.

how to write a research question history

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  • Last Updated: Apr 13, 2022 8:42 PM
  • URL: https://library.norwood.vic.edu.au/introductiontohistory

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Formulating a Research Question

Whether for a Proseminar paper, a doctoral dissertation or a large-scale research project, the task of formulating a research question stands at the beginning of every academic assignment. A research question must be developed in relation to the existing research and the available source material and should be modified throughout the research and writing process.

What to Consider When Formulating a Research Question

A historical research question is formulated on the basis of the existing research and an appropriate academic approach and is answered by consulting a range of relevant sources. Developing a pertinent research question along these lines is a demanding task which must be constantly practiced over the course of your degree. Finding appropriate sources represents a particular challenge; the most interesting of research questions is of little value when you can find no relevant sources to answer it. You should thus make an effort to find pertinent sources from as early a stage as possible; one option is to look for references to stimulating sources among your seminar notes or reading lists. A research question can also be developed by testing arguments or research methods from your secondary reading on source material which has seldom been examined before or which you can easily access. This will mean that you will not have to formulate a new research question from scratch.

Bear in mind the following key factors when formulating a research question:

The Existing Research and Appropriate Academic Approaches

A research question is developed on the basis of the available research literature. For example, ask yourself: “Which findings have been made and which debates have taken place in relation to my research topic? Which aspects and viewpoints have been overlooked in the process? In relation to which points, if at all, are existing arguments unconvincing?” Historical research can be understood as an ongoing debate: by deciding on a research question, historians select the debates in which they would like to participate and the kind of contributions which they would like to make to these.    

Available Sources

Sources lay the foundations for every historical insight. They make the investigation of concrete questions possible, but they also set the limits of what can be researched: a topic for which no relevant sources exist cannot be pursued. On the other hand, very large or overly complex source collections can also complicate research.

A Model Research Question

The following template illustrates how a research question can be formulated on the basis of the existing research, the available sources and an appropriate academic approach:

In research on phenomenon AB, CD’s views have long been regarded as definitive. Recently, however, CD’s argument has come under increasing criticism, especially from EF, who places more emphasis on GH. By examining source material IJ and by following approach KL, I would like to investigate whether more recently devised methods can lead to a more conclusive explanation than that offered by CD. In doing so, I rely primarily on the following literature: MN

The Development of a Research Question as a Circular Process

A research question is generally developed in a circular process. An initial idea or the selection of a topic or object of research steers your investigation in a particular direction. After working your way through the introductory literature (typically in the form of encyclopaedia and handbook articles ) and assessing potential sources, you will then be in a position to formulate a preliminary research question. This will shape your subsequent research and help you to evaluate which literature is and is not relevant.

You should refine your research question as your research progresses. As such, your literature research , literature analysis , source research and source analysis will all be engaged in a constant exchange with your research question. While the latter steers your research in a particular direction, it will also be influenced by the results of your research. For example, it can often be the case that key aspects relating to your topic only become apparent after you have already formulated your research question. It can also become clear during your research that a lack of relevant sources may leave certain questions unanswerable.

This back-and-forth between formulating a research question and conducting research can continue indefinitely, since each new answer to one aspect of your research question throws up new questions of its own. It is therefore important that you draw boundaries around every piece of research which you conduct and that these are made clear to your readers, for example in your introduction. These boundaries can relate to your topic itself (which aspects can be investigated, which must be overlooked?), the time period under investigation, and/or the secondary literature to be consulted. Important to consider here is how much time you have to complete your study.

A useful technique when working on a research question can be to maintain a written list of important themes which emerge from your literature and source research. These can take the form of findings, suppositions and/or open questions recorded as a series of claims to be subjected to more stringent subsequent analysis. This intermediate step can help to ease the transition from research to writing .

Narrowing Down Your Research Question

Narrowing down your research question marks a crucial step towards writing a successful academic paper; a research question which is too broad can cause you to become lost in a sea of literature and sources. A (Pro)Seminar paper is always focused on a narrow research question. A handbook article , in contrast, primarily seeks to provide broad background knowledge (e.g. “England in the Late Middle Ages”). In practice, a research question can never actually be too narrowly defined and should, as a rule, be spatially, temporally and thematically circumscribed. This means that a research question should focus on a particular topic as it relates to a specific time period and/or geographical area, as is often indicated in a study’s (sub-)title.

-       “The wave of strikes in the Basel chemical industry in the immediate post-war period.”

-       “Which similarities and differences were there between communist movements in Switzerland and those in other countries at the end of the Second World War?”

“How does the conception of an 'Industrial Revolution’ change in relation to sources from rural parts of the German-speaking world?”

Characteristics of a Good Research Question

A good research question fulfils several of the following criteria:

  • It awakes the author’s interest.
  • It is relevant to the topic under investigation.
  • It aims to distinguish itself from or refute the results of previous research (e.g. “previous studies argue that…, in contrast this study posits that…”). Alternatively, it seeks to establish a link between topics or debates which have hitherto been seen in isolation from one another, or it attempts to fill a gap in the existing research.
  • It includes a claim which can be debated or discussed.
  • It allows a conclusion to be drawn.
  • It is written in the form of a question or an assertion.
  • It comprises a main question (and related sub-questions)
  • It is precisely formulated.
  • It is stated succinctly (in approximately 10 lines or fewer).
  • It connects with related topics and contexts and opens up further points of discussion.
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History: Developing a topic or research question

Suggested steps for developing a topic or question.

   Image courtesy of William Cronon's Learning to Do Historical Research: A Primer

how to write a research question history

  • Use the sources -- primary and secondary -- to guide the development of a topic or research question.  
  • Search for primary documents. Historical research consists primarily of constructing arguments based on primary documents. You will want to spend significant time exploring which documents are available that are related to your topic. These documents may include photographs, newspaper or magazine articles, recordings, public records, and so on. As always, consult a librarian if you are unsure where to start.  
  • Read scholarly literature (secondary sources). Reading academic literature is critical for you to identify the questions that have not yet been sufficiently studied, to locate your topic within a particular context, and to ask further questions. If you are uncertain how to find the books and articles you may need, you should ask a librarian for help.
  • Example:  I am studying _________________because I want to know_______________in order to help my readers understand____________________.   
  • Research is an iterative process .  As you discover new information or ideas, you may need to redo your database searches to locate additional primary and secondary sources.  By constantly reviewing what you have found and learning, you can continually revise, develop new ideas, and make improvements.  
  • Talk to professors and librarians.
  • Ask questions at every step to help you decide where to take your research next.
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How to Write a History Research Paper

  • How do I pick a topic?
  • But I can’t find any material…

Research Guide

Writing guide.

See also: How to Write a Good History Essay

1. How do I pick a topic?

Picking a topic is perhaps the most important step in writing a research paper. To do it well requires several steps of refinement. First you have to determine a general area in which you have an interest (if you aren’t interested, your readers won’t be either). You do not write a paper “about the Civil War,” however, for that is such a large and vague concept that the paper will be too shallow or you will be swamped with information. The next step is to narrow your topic. Are you interested in comparison? battles? social change? politics? causes? biography? Once you reach this stage try to formulate your research topic as a question. For example, suppose that you decide to write a paper on the use of the films of the 1930’s and what they can tell historians about the Great Depression. You might turn that into the following question: “What are the primary values expressed in films of the 1930’s?” Or you might ask a quite different question, “What is the standard of living portrayed in films of the 1930’s?” There are other questions, of course, which you could have asked, but these two clearly illustrate how different two papers on the same general subject might be. By asking yourself a question as a means of starting research on a topic you will help yourself find the answers. You also open the door to loading the evidence one way or another. It will help you decide what kinds of evidence might be pertinent to your question, and it can also twist perceptions of a topic. For example, if you ask a question about economics as motivation, you are not likely to learn much about ideals, and vice versa.

2. But I can’t find any material…

No one should pick a topic without trying to figure out how one could discover pertinent information, nor should anyone settle on a topic before getting some background information about the general area. These two checks should make sure your paper is in the realm of the possible. The trick of good research is detective work and imaginative thinking on how one can find information. First try to figure out what kinds of things you should know about a topic to answer your research question. Are there statistics? Do you need personal letters? What background information should be included? Then if you do not know how to find that particular kind of information, ASK . A reference librarian or professor is much more likely to be able to steer you to the right sources if you can ask a specific question such as “Where can I find statistics on the number of interracial marriages?” than if you say “What can you find on racial attitudes?”

Use the footnotes and bibliographies of general background books as well as reference aids to lead you to special studies. If Carleton does not have the books or sources you need, try ordering through the library minitex. Many sources are also available on-line.

As your research paper takes shape you will find that you need background on people, places, events, etc. Do not just rely on some general survey for all of your background. Check the several good dictionaries of biography for background on people, or see if there is a standard book-length biography. If you are dealing with a legal matter check into the background of the judges who make the court decision and the circumstances surrounding the original incident or law. Try looking for public opinions in newspapers of the time. In other words, each bit of information you find should open the possibility of other research paths.

Learn to use several research techniques. You cannot count on a good research paper coming from browsing on one shelf at the library. A really pertinent book may be hidden in another section of the library due to classification quirks. The Readers’ Guide (Ref. A13 .R4) is not the only source for magazine articles, nor the card catalog for books. There are whole books which are listings of other books on particular topics. There are specialized indexes of magazine articles. Modern History Journals are indexed in the Social Studies and Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .R282) before 1976 After 1976 use the Social Sciences Index (REF A13 .S62) and the Humanities Index (Ref. A13 .H85). See also Historical Abstracts (Ref. D1 .H5). Reference Librarians would love to help you learn to use these research tools. It pays to browse in the reference room at the library and poke into the guides which are on the shelves. It also pays to browse the Internet.

3. Help! How do I put this together?

A. preliminary research:.

If you do not already have a general background on your topic, get the most recent good general source on the topic and read it for general orientation. On the basis of that reading formulate as clearly focused question as you can. You should generally discuss with your professor at that point whether your question is a feasible one.

B. Building a Basic Bibliography:

Use the bibliography/notes in your first general source, MUSE, and especially Historical Abstracts on cd-rom in the Library Reading Room (the computer farthest to the left in the front row as you walk past the Reference Desk — or ask there). If there is a specialized bibliography on your topic, you will certainly want to consult that as well, but these are often a bit dated.

C. Building a Full Bibliography:

Read the recent articles or chapters that seem to focus on your topic best. This will allow you to focus your research question quite a bit. Use the sources cited and/or discussed in this reading to build a full bibliography. Use such tools as Historical Abstracts (or, depending on your topic, the abstracts from a different field) and a large, convenient computer-based national library catalog (e.g. the University of California system from the “Libs” command in your VAX account or the smaller University of Minnesota library through MUSE) to check out your sources fully. For specific article searches “Uncover” (press returns for the “open access”) or possibly (less likely for history) “First Search” through “Connect to Other Resources” in MUSE can also be useful.

D. Major Research:

Now do the bulk of your research. But do not overdo it. Do not fall into the trap of reading and reading to avoid getting started on the writing. After you have the bulk of information you might need, start writing. You can fill in the smaller gaps of your research more effectively later.

A. Outline:

Write a preliminary thesis statement, expressing what you believe your major argument(s) will be. Sketch out a broad outline that indicates the structure — main points and subpoints or your argument as it seems at this time. Do not get too detailed at this point.

B. The First Draft:

On the basis of this thesis statement and outline, start writing, even pieces, as soon as you have enough information to start. Do not wait until you have filled all the research gaps. Keep on writing. If you run into smaller research questions just mark the text with a searchable symbol. It is important that you try to get to the end point of this writing as soon as possible, even if you leave pieces still in outline form at first and then fill the gaps after you get to the end.

Critical advice for larger papers: It is often more effective not to start at the point where the beginning of your paper will be. Especially the introductory paragraph is often best left until later, when you feel ready and inspired.

C. The Second Draft:

The “second draft” is a fully re-thought and rewritten version of your paper. It is at the heart of the writing process.

First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it. After that break, read it over with a critical eye as you would somebody else’s paper (well, almost!). You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative. It is likely to wander; your perspective and usually even the thesis seemed to change/develop as you wrote. Don’t despair. That is perfectly normal even for experienced writers (even after 40 years and a good deal of published work!). You will be frustrated. But keep questioning your paper along the following lines: What precisely are my key questions? What parts of my evidence here are really pertinent to those questions (that is, does it help me answer them)? How or in what order can I structure my paper most effectively to answer those questions most clearly and efficiently for my reader?

At this point you must outline your paper freshly. Mark up your first draft, ask tough questions whether your argument is clear and whether the order in which you present your points is effective! You must write conceptually a new paper at this point, even if you can use paragraphs and especially quotes, factual data in the new draft.

It is critical that in your new draft your paragraphs start with topic sentences that identify the argument you will be making in the particular paragraph (sometimes this can be strings of two or three paragraphs). The individual steps in your argument must be clearly reflected in the topic sentences of your paragraphs (or a couple of them linked).

D. The Third or Final Draft:

You are now ready to check for basic rules of good writing. This is when you need to check the diction, that is, the accuracy and suitability of words. Eliminate unnecessary passive or awkward noun constructions (active-voice, verbal constructions are usually more effective); improve the flow of your transitions; avoid repetitions or split infinitives; correct apostrophes in possessives and such. Make the style clear and smooth. Check that the start of your paper is interesting for the reader. Last but not least, cut out unnecessary verbiage and wordiness. Spell-check and proof-read.

– Diethelm Prowe, 1998

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Research Topics Versus Research Questions

You will often begin by selecting a research topic, then defining a research question within this topic to investigate. What's the difference?

A simple topic is too broad. For example:

  • African Americans and the Civil War may be a broad topic that interests you, but this is not yet a question you can attempt to answer.
  • How did African American participation in the Union and Confederate armies change during the course of the war? is one example of a research question you might create from the previous topic.
  • How were African Americans participating in the Civil War in eastern Kentucky in June of 1864? is one example of a question which relates to the previous topic, but which is too narrow in scope to be reasonable.

As you explore scholarly secondary sources and historical primary sources, you may need to periodically re-evaluate your research question to ensure that it is neither too broad nor too narrow.

  Robert C. Williams suggests that a research question might:

  • "ask how or why an event happened (causation, explanation)"
  • "ask what the consequences were of a particular event"
  • "discuss the intellectual origins of a particular idea"
  • "ask what the cultural context of an event was";
  • "ask whether or not an individual was responsible for a certain act"
  • "ask about the social history of a political event"
  • "quantify broad trends in a society at a particular time" (52)

  Source: Williams, Robert C. The Historian's Toolbox: A Student's Guide to the Theory and Craft of History . Second ed. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2007.

Additional Resources for Selecting Topics

The following books can suggest topic ideas.

Consulting a special encyclopedia in your area of history may also inspire you with ideas for topics and research questions.

Another approach is to start with the primary sources that are available and work backwards to a research question. Browse through sources from the "Primary Sources" tab (or similar). What questions do the documents raise for you? (Maybe regarding the people who created them, the culture in which they were created, etc.) Your research might seek to answer one of your questions.

how to write a research question history

Tips for Choosing Research Topics

  • Start with something that interests you. Extreme boredom will make it harder to stay motivated.  
  • Jenny Presnell recommends choosing a topic "that exemplifies a larger phenomenon. For instance, you may be following the current debates on the changing family in twenty-first century America and want to explore what families were like in a different place and time" (8).  

This list of tips owes credit to: Presnell, Jenny L. The Information-Literate Historian: A Guide to Research for History Students . New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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First think about historical topics that interest you broadly. Then, gather background information by reading encyclopedias, major books on the topics, and then add focus with a research question.

Qualities of good historical questions.

  • Open-ended, asks "how" and "why" questions about your general topic
  • Considers causes or effects
  • Is argumentative and uses interpretations based on the evidence)
  • Appropriate specificity (think who, where, when)
  • Consider the "so what?" of your topic. Why does this topic matter to you? Why should it matter to others?
  • Reflect on the questions you have considered. Identify one or two questions you find engaging and which could be explored further through research.

Example: "How did white and African-American defense plant workers create and think about interracial relationships during World War II?"

  • This question investigates broad issues - interracial romance, sexual identity - but within a specific context - World War II and the defense industry.

WARNING: Avoid selecting a topic that is too broad: "How has war affected sex in America?" is too broad. It would take several books to answer this question.

A good question is narrow enough so that you can find a persuasive answer to it in time to meet the due date for this class paper. A good historical question also demands an answer that is not just yes or no. Why and how questions are often good choices, and so are questions that ask you to compare and contrast a topic in different locations or time periods; so are questions that ask you to explain the relationship between one event or historical process and another.

Adapted from: George Mason University Writing Center, (2008) " How to write a research question ," and Brown, " Writing about History ."

Connecting your interpretation to previous work by other historians:

Once you have a topic in mind, you need to find out what other scholars have written about your topic. If they've used the same sources you were thinking of using and reached the same conclusions, there's no point in repeating their work, so you should look for another topic.

Most of the time, though, you'll find that other scholars have used different sources and/or asked different questions, and that reading their work will help you place your own paper in perspective. When you are writing your paper, you will cite these historians - both their arguments about the material, and also (sometimes) their research findings.

Example: "As Tera Hunter has argued concerning Atlanta's laundresses, black women workers preferred work outside the homes of their white employers"(and then you would cite Hunter in a footnote, including page numbers).

Adapted from: Brown, " Writing about History ."

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing Historical Research [without getting hysterical!] In addition to being a scholarly investigation, research is a social activity intended to create new knowledge. Historical research is your informed response to the questions that you ask while examining the record of human experience. These questions may concern such elements as looking at an event or topic, examining events that lead to the event in question, social influences, key players, and other contextual information. This step-by-step guide progresses from an introduction to historical resources to information about how to identify a topic, craft a thesis and develop a research paper. Table of contents: The Range and Richness of Historical Sources Secondary Sources Primary Sources Historical Analysis What is it? Who, When, Where, What and Why: The Five "W"s Topic, Thesis, Sources Definition of Terms Choose a Topic Craft a Thesis Evaluate Thesis and Sources A Variety of Information Sources Take Efficient Notes Note Cards Thinking, Organizing, Researching Parenthetical Documentation Prepare a Works Cited Page Drafting, Revising, Rewriting, Rethinking For Further Reading: Works Cited Additional Links So you want to study history?! Tons of help and links Slatta Home Page Use the Writing and other links on the lefhand menu I. The Range and Richness of Historical Sources Back to Top Every period leaves traces, what historians call "sources" or evidence. Some are more credible or carry more weight than others; judging the differences is a vital skill developed by good historians. Sources vary in perspective, so knowing who created the information you are examining is vital. Anonymous doesn't make for a very compelling source. For example, an FBI report on the antiwar movement, prepared for U.S. President Richard Nixon, probably contained secrets that at the time were thought to have affected national security. It would not be usual, however, for a journalist's article about a campus riot, featured in a local newspaper, to leak top secret information. Which source would you read? It depends on your research topic. If you're studying how government officials portrayed student activists, you'll want to read the FBI report and many more documents from other government agencies such as the CIA and the National Security Council. If you're investigating contemporary opinion of pro-war and anti-war activists, local newspaper accounts provide a rich resource. You'd want to read a variety of newspapers to ensure you're covering a wide range of opinions (rural/urban, left/right, North/South, Soldier/Draft-dodger, etc). Historians classify sources into two major categories: primary and secondary sources. Secondary Sources Back to Top Definition: Secondary sources are created by someone who was either not present when the event occurred or removed from it in time. We use secondary sources for overview information, to familiarize ourselves with a topic, and compare that topic with other events in history. In refining a research topic, we often begin with secondary sources. This helps us identify gaps or conflicts in the existing scholarly literature that might prove promsing topics. Types: History books, encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, and academic (scholarly) articles are secondary sources. To help you determine the status of a given secondary source, see How to identify and nagivate scholarly literature . Examples: Historian Marilyn Young's (NYU) book about the Vietnam War is a secondary source. She did not participate in the war. Her study is not based on her personal experience but on the evidence she culled from a variety of sources she found in the United States and Vietnam. Primary Sources Back to Top Definition: Primary sources emanate from individuals or groups who participated in or witnessed an event and recorded that event during or immediately after the event. They include speeches, memoirs, diaries, letters, telegrams, emails, proclamations, government documents, and much more. Examples: A student activist during the war writing about protest activities has created a memoir. This would be a primary source because the information is based on her own involvement in the events she describes. Similarly, an antiwar speech is a primary source. So is the arrest record of student protesters. A newspaper editorial or article, reporting on a student demonstration is also a primary source. II. Historical Analysis What is it? Back to Top No matter what you read, whether it's a primary source or a secondary source, you want to know who authored the source (a trusted scholar? A controversial historian? A propagandist? A famous person? An ordinary individual?). "Author" refers to anyone who created information in any medium (film, sound, or text). You also need to know when it was written and the kind of audience the author intend to reach. You should also consider what you bring to the evidence that you examine. Are you inductively following a path of evidence, developing your interpretation based on the sources? Do you have an ax to grind? Did you begin your research deductively, with your mind made up before even seeing the evidence. Historians need to avoid the latter and emulate the former. To read more about the distinction, examine the difference between Intellectual Inquirers and Partisan Ideologues . In the study of history, perspective is everything. A letter written by a twenty- year old Vietnam War protestor will differ greatly from a letter written by a scholar of protest movements. Although the sentiment might be the same, the perspective and influences of these two authors will be worlds apart. Practicing the " 5 Ws " will avoid the confusion of the authority trap. Who, When, Where, What and Why: The Five "W"s Back to Top Historians accumulate evidence (information, including facts, stories, interpretations, opinions, statements, reports, etc.) from a variety of sources (primary and secondary). They must also verify that certain key pieces of information are corroborated by a number of people and sources ("the predonderance of evidence"). The historian poses the " 5 Ws " to every piece of information he examines: Who is the historical actor? When did the event take place? Where did it occur? What did it entail and why did it happen the way it did? The " 5 Ws " can also be used to evaluate a primary source. Who authored the work? When was it created? Where was it created, published, and disseminated? Why was it written (the intended audience), and what is the document about (what points is the author making)? If you know the answers to these five questions, you can analyze any document, and any primary source. The historian doesn't look for the truth, since this presumes there is only one true story. The historian tries to understand a number of competing viewpoints to form his or her own interpretation-- what constitutes the best explanation of what happened and why. By using as wide a range of primary source documents and secondary sources as possible, you will add depth and richness to your historical analysis. The more exposure you, the researcher, have to a number of different sources and differing view points, the more you have a balanced and complete view about a topic in history. This view will spark more questions and ultimately lead you into the quest to unravel more clues about your topic. You are ready to start assembling information for your research paper. III. Topic, Thesis, Sources Definition of Terms Back to Top Because your purpose is to create new knowledge while recognizing those scholars whose existing work has helped you in this pursuit, you are honor bound never to commit the following academic sins: Plagiarism: Literally "kidnapping," involving the use of someone else's words as if they were your own (Gibaldi 6). To avoid plagiarism you must document direct quotations, paraphrases, and original ideas not your own. Recycling: Rehashing material you already know thoroughly or, without your professor's permission, submitting a paper that you have completed for another course. Premature cognitive commitment: Academic jargon for deciding on a thesis too soon and then seeking information to serve that thesis rather than embarking on a genuine search for new knowledge. Choose a Topic Back to Top "Do not hunt for subjects, let them choose you, not you them." --Samuel Butler Choosing a topic is the first step in the pursuit of a thesis. Below is a logical progression from topic to thesis: Close reading of the primary text, aided by secondary sources Growing awareness of interesting qualities within the primary text Choosing a topic for research Asking productive questions that help explore and evaluate a topic Creating a research hypothesis Revising and refining a hypothesis to form a working thesis First, and most important, identify what qualities in the primary or secondary source pique your imagination and curiosity and send you on a search for answers. Bloom's taxonomy of cognitive levels provides a description of productive questions asked by critical thinkers. While the lower levels (knowledge, comprehension) are necessary to a good history essay, aspire to the upper three levels (analysis, synthesis, evaluation). Skimming reference works such as encyclopedias, books, critical essays and periodical articles can help you choose a topic that evolves into a hypothesis, which in turn may lead to a thesis. One approach to skimming involves reading the first paragraph of a secondary source to locate and evaluate the author's thesis. Then for a general idea of the work's organization and major ideas read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. Read the conclusion carefully, as it usually presents a summary (Barnet and Bedau 19). Craft a Thesis Back to Top Very often a chosen topic is too broad for focused research. You must revise it until you have a working hypothesis, that is, a statement of an idea or an approach with respect to the source that could form the basis for your thesis. Remember to not commit too soon to any one hypothesis. Use it as a divining rod or a first step that will take you to new information that may inspire you to revise your hypothesis. Be flexible. Give yourself time to explore possibilities. The hypothesis you create will mature and shift as you write and rewrite your paper. New questions will send you back to old and on to new material. Remember, this is the nature of research--it is more a spiraling or iterative activity than a linear one. Test your working hypothesis to be sure it is: broad enough to promise a variety of resources. narrow enough for you to research in depth. original enough to interest you and your readers. worthwhile enough to offer information and insights of substance "do-able"--sources are available to complete the research. Now it is time to craft your thesis, your revised and refined hypothesis. A thesis is a declarative sentence that: focuses on one well-defined idea makes an arguable assertion; it is capable of being supported prepares your readers for the body of your paper and foreshadows the conclusion. Evaluate Thesis and Sources Back to Top Like your hypothesis, your thesis is not carved in stone. You are in charge. If necessary, revise it during the research process. As you research, continue to evaluate both your thesis for practicality, originality, and promise as a search tool, and secondary sources for relevance and scholarliness. The following are questions to ask during the research process: Are there many journal articles and entire books devoted to the thesis, suggesting that the subject has been covered so thoroughly that there may be nothing new to say? Does the thesis lead to stimulating, new insights? Are appropriate sources available? Is there a variety of sources available so that the bibliography or works cited page will reflect different kinds of sources? Which sources are too broad for my thesis? Which resources are too narrow? Who is the author of the secondary source? Does the critic's background suggest that he/she is qualified? After crafting a thesis, consider one of the following two approaches to writing a research paper: Excited about your thesis and eager to begin? Return to the primary or secondary source to find support for your thesis. Organize ideas and begin writing your first draft. After writing the first draft, have it reviewed by your peers and your instructor. Ponder their suggestions and return to the sources to answer still-open questions. Document facts and opinions from secondary sources. Remember, secondary sources can never substitute for primary sources. Confused about where to start? Use your thesis to guide you to primary and secondary sources. Secondary sources can help you clarify your position and find a direction for your paper. Keep a working bibliography. You may not use all the sources you record, but you cannot be sure which ones you will eventually discard. Create a working outline as you research. This outline will, of course, change as you delve more deeply into your subject. A Variety of Information Sources Back to Top "A mind that is stretched to a new idea never returns to its original dimension." --Oliver Wendell Holmes Your thesis and your working outline are the primary compasses that will help you navigate the variety of sources available. In "Introduction to the Library" (5-6) the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers suggests you become familiar with the library you will be using by: taking a tour or enrolling for a brief introductory lecture referring to the library's publications describing its resources introducing yourself and your project to the reference librarian The MLA Handbook also lists guides for the use of libraries (5), including: Jean Key Gates, Guide to the Use of Libraries and Information Sources (7th ed., New York: McGraw, 1994). Thomas Mann, A Guide to Library Research Methods (New York: Oxford UP, 1987). Online Central Catalog Most libraries have their holdings listed on a computer. The online catalog may offer Internet sites, Web pages and databases that relate to the university's curriculum. It may also include academic journals and online reference books. Below are three search techniques commonly used online: Index Search: Although online catalogs may differ slightly from library to library, the most common listings are by: Subject Search: Enter the author's name for books and article written about the author. Author Search: Enter an author's name for works written by the author, including collections of essays the author may have written about his/her own works. Title Search: Enter a title for the screen to list all the books the library carries with that title. Key Word Search/Full-text Search: A one-word search, e.g., 'Kennedy,' will produce an overwhelming number of sources, as it will call up any entry that includes the name 'Kennedy.' To focus more narrowly on your subject, add one or more key words, e.g., "John Kennedy, Peace Corps." Use precise key words. Boolean Search: Boolean Search techniques use words such as "and," "or," and "not," which clarify the relationship between key words, thus narrowing the search. Take Efficient Notes Back to Top Keeping complete and accurate bibliography and note cards during the research process is a time (and sanity) saving practice. If you have ever needed a book or pages within a book, only to discover that an earlier researcher has failed to return it or torn pages from your source, you understand the need to take good notes. Every researcher has a favorite method for taking notes. Here are some suggestions-- customize one of them for your own use. Bibliography cards There may be far more books and articles listed than you have time to read, so be selective when choosing a reference. Take information from works that clearly relate to your thesis, remembering that you may not use them all. Use a smaller or a different color card from the one used for taking notes. Write a bibliography card for every source. Number the bibliography cards. On the note cards, use the number rather than the author's name and the title. It's faster. Another method for recording a working bibliography, of course, is to create your own database. Adding, removing, and alphabetizing titles is a simple process. Be sure to save often and to create a back-up file. A bibliography card should include all the information a reader needs to locate that particular source for further study. Most of the information required for a book entry (Gibaldi 112): Author's name Title of a part of the book [preface, chapter titles, etc.] Title of the book Name of the editor, translator, or compiler Edition used Number(s) of the volume(s) used Name of the series Place of publication, name of the publisher, and date of publication Page numbers Supplementary bibliographic information and annotations Most of the information required for an article in a periodical (Gibaldi 141): Author's name Title of the article Name of the periodical Series number or name (if relevant) Volume number (for a scholarly journal) Issue number (if needed) Date of publication Page numbers Supplementary information For information on how to cite other sources refer to your So you want to study history page . Note Cards Back to Top Take notes in ink on either uniform note cards (3x5, 4x6, etc.) or uniform slips of paper. Devote each note card to a single topic identified at the top. Write only on one side. Later, you may want to use the back to add notes or personal observations. Include a topical heading for each card. Include the number of the page(s) where you found the information. You will want the page number(s) later for documentation, and you may also want page number(s)to verify your notes. Most novice researchers write down too much. Condense. Abbreviate. You are striving for substance, not quantity. Quote directly from primary sources--but the "meat," not everything. Suggestions for condensing information: Summary: A summary is intended to provide the gist of an essay. Do not weave in the author's choice phrases. Read the information first and then condense the main points in your own words. This practice will help you avoid the copying that leads to plagiarism. Summarizing also helps you both analyze the text you are reading and evaluate its strengths and weaknesses (Barnet and Bedau 13). Outline: Use to identify a series of points. Paraphrase, except for key primary source quotations. Never quote directly from a secondary source, unless the precise wording is essential to your argument. Simplify the language and list the ideas in the same order. A paraphrase is as long as the original. Paraphrasing is helpful when you are struggling with a particularly difficult passage. Be sure to jot down your own insights or flashes of brilliance. Ralph Waldo Emerson warns you to "Look sharply after your thoughts. They come unlooked for, like a new bird seen on your trees, and, if you turn to your usual task, disappear...." To differentiate these insights from those of the source you are reading, initial them as your own. (When the following examples of note cards include the researcher's insights, they will be followed by the initials N. R.) When you have finished researching your thesis and you are ready to write your paper, organize your cards according to topic. Notecards make it easy to shuffle and organize your source information on a table-- or across the floor. Maintain your working outline that includes the note card headings and explores a logical order for presenting them in your paper. IV. Begin Thinking, Researching, Organizing Back to Top Don't be too sequential. Researching, writing, revising is a complex interactive process. Start writing as soon as possible! "The best antidote to writer's block is--to write." (Klauser 15). However, you still feel overwhelmed and are staring at a blank page, you are not alone. Many students find writing the first sentence to be the most daunting part of the entire research process. Be creative. Cluster (Rico 28-49). Clustering is a form of brainstorming. Sometimes called a web, the cluster forms a design that may suggest a natural organization for a paper. Here's a graphical depiction of brainstorming . Like a sun, the generating idea or topic lies at the center of the web. From it radiate words, phrases, sentences and images that in turn attract other words, phrases, sentences and images. Put another way--stay focused. Start with your outline. If clustering is not a technique that works for you, turn to the working outline you created during the research process. Use the outline view of your word processor. If you have not already done so, group your note cards according to topic headings. Compare them to your outline's major points. If necessary, change the outline to correspond with the headings on the note cards. If any area seems weak because of a scarcity of facts or opinions, return to your primary and/or secondary sources for more information or consider deleting that heading. Use your outline to provide balance in your essay. Each major topic should have approximately the same amount of information. Once you have written a working outline, consider two different methods for organizing it. Deduction: A process of development that moves from the general to the specific. You may use this approach to present your findings. However, as noted above, your research and interpretive process should be inductive. Deduction is the most commonly used form of organization for a research paper. The thesis statement is the generalization that leads to the specific support provided by primary and secondary sources. The thesis is stated early in the paper. The body of the paper then proceeds to provide the facts, examples, and analogies that flow logically from that thesis. The thesis contains key words that are reflected in the outline. These key words become a unifying element throughout the paper, as they reappear in the detailed paragraphs that support and develop the thesis. The conclusion of the paper circles back to the thesis, which is now far more meaningful because of the deductive development that supports it. Chronological order A process that follows a traditional time line or sequence of events. A chronological organization is useful for a paper that explores cause and effect. Parenthetical Documentation Back to Top The Works Cited page, a list of primary and secondary sources, is not sufficient documentation to acknowledge the ideas, facts, and opinions you have included within your text. The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers describes an efficient parenthetical style of documentation to be used within the body of your paper. Guidelines for parenthetical documentation: "References to the text must clearly point to specific sources in the list of works cited" (Gibaldi 184). Try to use parenthetical documentation as little as possible. For example, when you cite an entire work, it is preferable to include the author's name in the text. The author's last name followed by the page number is usually enough for an accurate identification of the source in the works cited list. These examples illustrate the most common kinds of documentation. Documenting a quotation: Ex. "The separation from the personal mother is a particularly intense process for a daughter because she has to separate from the one who is the same as herself" (Murdock 17). She may feel abandoned and angry. Note: The author of The Heroine's Journey is listed under Works Cited by the author's name, reversed--Murdock, Maureen. Quoted material is found on page 17 of that book. Parenthetical documentation is after the quotation mark and before the period. Documenting a paraphrase: Ex. In fairy tales a woman who holds the princess captive or who abandons her often needs to be killed (18). Note: The second paraphrase is also from Murdock's book The Heroine's Journey. It is not, however, necessary to repeat the author's name if no other documentation interrupts the two. If the works cited page lists more than one work by the same author, include within the parentheses an abbreviated form of the appropriate title. You may, of course, include the title in your sentence, making it unnecessary to add an abbreviated title in the citation. > Prepare a Works Cited Page Back to Top There are a variety of titles for the page that lists primary and secondary sources (Gibaldi 106-107). A Works Cited page lists those works you have cited within the body of your paper. The reader need only refer to it for the necessary information required for further independent research. Bibliography means literally a description of books. Because your research may involve the use of periodicals, films, art works, photographs, etc. "Works Cited" is a more precise descriptive term than bibliography. An Annotated Bibliography or Annotated Works Cited page offers brief critiques and descriptions of the works listed. A Works Consulted page lists those works you have used but not cited. Avoid using this format. As with other elements of a research paper there are specific guidelines for the placement and the appearance of the Works Cited page. The following guidelines comply with MLA style: The Work Cited page is placed at the end of your paper and numbered consecutively with the body of your paper. Center the title and place it one inch from the top of your page. Do not quote or underline the title. Double space the entire page, both within and between entries. The entries are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name or by the title of the article or book being cited. If the title begins with an article (a, an, the) alphabetize by the next word. If you cite two or more works by the same author, list the titles in alphabetical order. Begin every entry after the first with three hyphens followed by a period. All entries begin at the left margin but subsequent lines are indented five spaces. Be sure that each entry cited on the Works Cited page corresponds to a specific citation within your paper. Refer to the the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (104- 182) for detailed descriptions of Work Cited entries. Citing sources from online databases is a relatively new phenomenon. Make sure to ask your professor about citing these sources and which style to use. V. Draft, Revise, Rewrite, Rethink Back to Top "There are days when the result is so bad that no fewer than five revisions are required. In contrast, when I'm greatly inspired, only four revisions are needed." --John Kenneth Galbraith Try freewriting your first draft. Freewriting is a discovery process during which the writer freely explores a topic. Let your creative juices flow. In Writing without Teachers , Peter Elbow asserts that "[a]lmost everybody interposes a massive and complicated series of editings between the time words start to be born into consciousness and when they finally come off the end of the pencil or typewriter [or word processor] onto the page" (5). Do not let your internal judge interfere with this first draft. Creating and revising are two very different functions. Don't confuse them! If you stop to check spelling, punctuation, or grammar, you disrupt the flow of creative energy. Create; then fix it later. When material you have researched comes easily to mind, include it. Add a quick citation, one you can come back to later to check for form, and get on with your discovery. In subsequent drafts, focus on creating an essay that flows smoothly, supports fully, and speaks clearly and interestingly. Add style to substance. Create a smooth flow of words, ideas and paragraphs. Rearrange paragraphs for a logical progression of information. Transition is essential if you want your reader to follow you smoothly from introduction to conclusion. Transitional words and phrases stitch your ideas together; they provide coherence within the essay. External transition: Words and phrases that are added to a sentence as overt signs of transition are obvious and effective, but should not be overused, as they may draw attention to themselves and away from ideas. Examples of external transition are "however," "then," "next," "therefore." "first," "moreover," and "on the other hand." Internal transition is more subtle. Key words in the introduction become golden threads when they appear in the paper's body and conclusion. When the writer hears a key word repeated too often, however, she/he replaces it with a synonym or a pronoun. Below are examples of internal transition. Transitional sentences create a logical flow from paragraph to paragraph. Iclude individual words, phrases, or clauses that refer to previous ideas and that point ahead to new ones. They are usually placed at the end or at the beginning of a paragraph. A transitional paragraph conducts your reader from one part of the paper to another. It may be only a few sentences long. Each paragraph of the body of the paper should contain adequate support for its one governing idea. Speak/write clearly, in your own voice. Tone: The paper's tone, whether formal, ironic, or humorous, should be appropriate for the audience and the subject. Voice: Keep you language honest. Your paper should sound like you. Understand, paraphrase, absorb, and express in your own words the information you have researched. Avoid phony language. Sentence formation: When you polish your sentences, read them aloud for word choice and word placement. Be concise. Strunk and White in The Elements of Style advise the writer to "omit needless words" (23). First, however, you must recognize them. Keep yourself and your reader interested. In fact, Strunk's 1918 writing advice is still well worth pondering. First, deliver on your promises. Be sure the body of your paper fulfills the promise of the introduction. Avoid the obvious. Offer new insights. Reveal the unexpected. Have you crafted your conclusion as carefully as you have your introduction? Conclusions are not merely the repetition of your thesis. The conclusion of a research paper is a synthesis of the information presented in the body. Your research has led you to conclusions and opinions that have helped you understand your thesis more deeply and more clearly. Lift your reader to the full level of understanding that you have achieved. Revision means "to look again." Find a peer reader to read your paper with you present. Or, visit your college or university's writing lab. Guide your reader's responses by asking specific questions. Are you unsure of the logical order of your paragraphs? Do you want to know whether you have supported all opinions adequately? Are you concerned about punctuation or grammar? Ask that these issues be addressed. You are in charge. Here are some techniques that may prove helpful when you are revising alone or with a reader. When you edit for spelling errors read the sentences backwards. This procedure will help you look closely at individual words. Always read your paper aloud. Hearing your own words puts them in a new light. Listen to the flow of ideas and of language. Decide whether or not the voice sounds honest and the tone is appropriate to the purpose of the paper and to your audience. Listen for awkward or lumpy wording. Find the one right word, Eliminate needless words. Combine sentences. Kill the passive voice. Eliminate was/were/is/are constructions. They're lame and anti-historical. Be ruthless. If an idea doesn't serve your thesis, banish it, even if it's one of your favorite bits of prose. In the margins, write the major topic of each paragraph. By outlining after you have written the paper, you are once again evaluating your paper's organization. OK, you've got the process down. Now execute! And enjoy! It's not everyday that you get to make history. VI. For Further Reading: Works Cited Back to Top Barnet, Sylvan, and Hugo Bedau. Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing: A Brief Guide to Argument. Boston: Bedford, 1993. Brent, Doug. Reading as Rhetorical Invention: Knowledge,Persuasion and the Teaching of Research-Based Writing. Urbana: NCTE, 1992. Elbow, Peter. Writing without Teachers. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Gibladi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 4th ed. New York: Modern Language Association, 1995. Horvitz, Deborah. "Nameless Ghosts: Possession and Dispossession in Beloved." Studies in American Fiction , Vol. 17, No. 2, Autum, 1989, pp. 157-167. Republished in the Literature Research Center. Gale Group. (1 January 1999). Klauser, Henriette Anne. Writing on Both Sides of the Brain: Breakthrough Techniques for People Who Write. Philadelphia: Harper, 1986. Rico, Gabriele Lusser. Writing the Natural Way: Using Right Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. Los Angeles: Houghton, 1983. Sorenson, Sharon. The Research Paper: A Contemporary Approach. New York: AMSCO, 1994. Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. New York: MacMillan, 1979. Back to Top This guide adapted from materials published by Thomson Gale, publishers. For free resources, including a generic guide to writing term papers, see the Gale.com website , which also includes product information for schools.

how to write a research question history

  • Researching

How to write a research rationale

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When you are doing a research assessment piece in History, you’ll often be asked to write a rationale. This is particularly true for the source investigation assessment piece.

What is a ‘rationale’?

A rationale is a written explanation about your research task that helps your teacher understand the decisions you made before beginning your source research .

A research rationale is a statement that explains the reasons behind conducting a particular research study.

It outlines the background, context, and significance of the research and why it is important to answer the main inquiry question.

A rationale seeks to answer three questions:

  • Why have you chosen this particular topic to research?
  • What questions do you specifically want answered as a result of your research?
  • How do you plan on finding the best sources during your research?

How to write a rationale

Based upon the three questions mentioned above, your rationale should have three distinct sections that answer each one.

Please note that you can answer all three in a single paragraph, but the examples below will show them as three separate paragraphs.

Part 1: Explain your topic choice

You should explain as clearly as possible why this particular subject interested you.

Don’t just say “it is interesting”: give specific reasons why.

The more precise you are, the better your mark will be. 

Useful sentence starters for explaining topic choice:

  • I was curious to discover…
  • I wanted to know…
  • I was confused by…
  • I always wanted to know…
  • I have always been fascinated by…
  • I am particularly interested in…
  • I was surprised to learn that … and I wanted to know more

Example explanation of topic choice:

Imperial Japan’s decision to surrender at the end of World War II seemed like a historical anomaly based upon what we learned in class about the Japanese ideologies behind bushido and the samurai. I wanted to know to what degree the atomic bombs had an influence upon the ultimate decision to surrender. I specifically want to know what the Japanese primary sources said at the time of the events to see their perspective. In particular, want to know if Emperor Hirohito left any documents that explained his decisions.  

Part 2: Explain your research questions

You need to explain the steps that helped you to create your Key Inquiry Question and Sub-Questions .

Remember that these questions should constantly be refined to include specific historical terms and information that you found during your background research .

Explain to your teacher why you have included specific information in your research questions.

Useful sentence starters for explaining research questions:

  • The three specific aspects that I wanted to focus upon are…
  • I knew that I had to develop my understanding of…
  • My background research focused upon…

Example explanation of research questions:

Since I wanted to focus my research on the Japanese primary sources, my Key Inquiry Question is primarily about the role that the atomic bombs had upon the emperor’s decision to surrender at the end of World War II. I guess that there may not be a lot of primary sources written by the emperor himself, so I have formed three separate questions to look at his decisions from different angles. My first question focuses on what Japanese primary sources said at the time, including the emperor. My second question looks at how contemporary Japanese historians interpret this event. Finally, my third question seeks to understand how western historians understand Hirohito’s motivations.

Part 3: Explain how you will find your sources

You need to explain what strategies you have to help you find great sources to answer your research questions.

In this section, you want to specifically name the databases, museums or other research resources you know you will utilise to find the best sources on your topic.

It may also be useful to specifically name important historians or primary sources that you know in advance that you’ll need to read closely to help answer your questions.

Useful sentence starters for explaining source research:

  • I have chosen to use…
  • One of the best sources I found was…
  • The most important sources I have use are…
  • To ensure I had a range of perspectives I…
  • It was important to include as one of my sources…

Example explanation of source research: 

I knew that finding Japanese primary sources was going to be hard, as I fear that many of them have not been translated into English. As a result, I am going to start my research by looking at what western historians say by gathering some academic articles from the JSTOR database. I hope that these historians will reference some translated Japanese primary sources and that will lead me to some great resources. After that, I know that the Tokyo Museum website has some primary source documents that may be of use to me, so look through their resources. Finally, during my background research, I stumbled across the prominent Japanese historian, Suzuki, who focuses a lot on this period, so I want to find out what his opinion is of these events. I believe that these resources should give me ample information to help answer my research questions.

Word limit advice

Answering all of these sections in a limited word count can be a challenge.

Therefore, don’t waste space on things that don’t matter, such as simply describing a historical event or person, or talking about simplistic decision-making choices (such as “I just really like wars”).

The rationale’s purpose is to explain your decision-making process. Therefore, if what you’re saying is not relevant, don’t waste space talking about it.

Example rationale

After learning about Ned Kelly in class, I was fascinated to discover that historians disagree about his motivations. What I wanted to learn about is the role that racist attitudes towards the Irish in colonial Australia had upon his life. I don’t know much about the social division between the English and Irish in Australian history, so I want to see how people who lived during these events described Ned Kelly, in order to see if racism was an important factor.

As a result, I have written my Key Inquiry Question to focus on the representation of Ned Kelly in the popular media. To help answer this, I have written my sub-questions to focus on different media types: my first question asks about how the newspapers reported on Kelly; my second is about how he is mentioned in religious sermons of the day; and my third question focuses on his representation in public posters, such as the ‘wanted’ signs for his arrest.

Since my questions are focused heavily on the primary sources, I know that I will have to start my source research on the Trove newspaper database website. This will allow me to quickly find newspaper reports about the main events in Kelly’s life. Secondly, I know that I will have trouble finding church sermons and public posters, so I will have to look for museum websites that may have these resources already, such as the Museum of Victoria and the State Library of New South Wales. I know that they often have educational resources for teachers that include primary sources. Finally, I know from my background research that Manning Clark has done a lot of research on Kelly’s life, so I hope he will mention important primary sources that can help me out, including the Jerilderie Letter.

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Examples

Research Question

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how to write a research question history

A research question serves as the foundation of any academic study, driving the investigation and framing the scope of inquiry. It focuses the research efforts, ensuring that the study addresses pertinent issues systematically. Crafting a strong research question is essential as it directs the methodology, data collection, and analysis, ultimately shaping the study’s conclusions and contributions to the field.

What is a Research Question?

A research question is the central query that guides a study, focusing on a specific problem or issue. It defines the purpose and direction of the research, influencing the methodology and analysis. A well-crafted research question ensures the study remains relevant, systematic, and contributes valuable insights to the field.

Types of Research Questions

Research questions are a crucial part of any research project. They guide the direction and focus of the study. Here are the main types of research questions:

1. Descriptive Research Questions

These questions aim to describe the characteristics or functions of a specific phenomenon or group. They often begin with “what,” “who,” “where,” “when,” or “how.”

  • What are the common symptoms of depression in teenagers?

2. Comparative Research Questions

These questions compare two or more groups or variables to identify differences or similarities.

  • How do the academic performances of students in private schools compare to those in public schools?

3. Correlational Research Questions

These questions seek to identify the relationships between two or more variables. They often use terms like “relationship,” “association,” or “correlation.”

  • Is there a relationship between social media usage and self-esteem among adolescents?

4. Causal Research Questions

These questions aim to determine whether one variable causes or influences another. They are often used in experimental research.

  • Does a new teaching method improve student engagement in the classroom?

5. Exploratory Research Questions

These questions are used when the researcher is exploring a new area or seeking to understand a complex phenomenon. They are often open-ended.

  • What factors contribute to the success of start-up companies in the tech industry?

6. Predictive Research Questions

These questions aim to predict future occurrences based on current or past data. They often use terms like “predict,” “forecast,” or “expect.”

  • Can high school GPA predict college success?

7. Evaluative Research Questions

These questions assess the effectiveness or impact of a program, intervention, or policy .

  • How effective is the new community outreach program in reducing homelessness?

8. Ethnographic Research Questions

These questions are used in qualitative research to understand cultural phenomena from the perspective of the participants.

  • How do cultural beliefs influence healthcare practices in rural communities?

9. Case Study Research Questions

These questions focus on an in-depth analysis of a specific case, event, or instance.

  • What were the critical factors that led to the failure of Company X?

10. Phenomenological Research Questions

These questions explore the lived experiences of individuals to understand a particular phenomenon.

  • What is the experience of living with chronic pain?

Research Question Format

A well-formulated research question is essential for guiding your study effectively. Follow this format to ensure clarity and precision:

  • Begin with a broad subject area.
  • Example: “Education technology”
  • Define a specific aspect or variable.
  • Example: “Impact of digital tools”
  • Decide if you are describing, comparing, or investigating relationships.
  • Example: “Effectiveness”
  • Identify who or what is being studied.
  • Example: “High school students”
  • Formulate the complete question.
  • Example: “How effective are digital tools in enhancing the learning experience of high school students?”
Sample Format: “How [specific aspect] affects [target population] in [context]?” Example: “How does the use of digital tools affect the academic performance of high school students in urban areas?”

Research Question Examples

Research questions in business.

  • “What are the primary factors influencing customer loyalty in the retail industry?”
  • “How does employee satisfaction differ between remote work and in-office work environments in tech companies?”
  • “What is the relationship between social media marketing and brand awareness among small businesses?”
  • “How does implementing a four-day workweek impact productivity in consulting firms?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in consumer behavior post-COVID-19 in the e-commerce sector?”
  • “Why do some startups succeed in attracting venture capital while others do not?”
  • “How effective is corporate social responsibility in enhancing brand reputation for multinational companies?”
  • “How do decision-making processes in family-owned businesses differ from those in publicly traded companies?”
  • “What strategies do successful entrepreneurs use to scale their businesses in competitive markets?”
  • “How does supply chain management affect the operational efficiency of manufacturing firms?”

Research Questions in Education

  • “What are the most common challenges faced by first-year teachers in urban schools?”
  • “How do student achievement levels differ between traditional classrooms and blended learning environments?”
  • “What is the relationship between parental involvement and student academic performance in elementary schools?”
  • “How does the implementation of project-based learning affect critical thinking skills in middle school students?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in the use of artificial intelligence in education?”
  • “Why do some students perform better in standardized tests than others despite similar instructional methods?”
  • “How effective is the flipped classroom model in improving student engagement and learning outcomes in high school science classes?”
  • “How do teachers’ professional development programs impact teaching practices and student outcomes in rural schools?”
  • “What strategies can be employed to reduce the dropout rate among high school students in low-income areas?”
  • “How does classroom size affect the quality of teaching and learning in elementary schools?”

Research Questions in Health Care

  • “What are the most common barriers to accessing mental health services in rural areas?”
  • “How does patient satisfaction differ between telemedicine and in-person consultations in primary care?”
  • “What is the relationship between diet and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in adults?”
  • “How does regular physical activity influence the recovery rate of patients with cardiovascular diseases?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in the use of wearable technology for health monitoring?”
  • “Why do some patients adhere to their medication regimen while others do not despite similar health conditions?”
  • “How effective are community-based health interventions in reducing obesity rates among children?”
  • “How do interdisciplinary team meetings impact patient care in hospitals?”
  • “What strategies can be implemented to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in healthcare settings?”
  • “How does nurse staffing level affect patient outcomes in intensive care units?”

Research Questions in Computer Science

  • “What are the key features of successful machine learning algorithms used in natural language processing?”
  • “How does the performance of quantum computing compare to classical computing in solving complex optimization problems?”
  • “What is the relationship between software development methodologies and project success rates in large enterprises?”
  • “How does the implementation of cybersecurity protocols impact the frequency of data breaches in financial institutions?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in blockchain technology applications beyond cryptocurrency?”
  • “Why do certain neural network architectures outperform others in image recognition tasks?”
  • “How effective are different code review practices in reducing bugs in open-source software projects?”
  • “How do agile development practices influence team productivity and product quality in software startups?”
  • “What strategies can improve the scalability of distributed systems in cloud computing environments?”
  • “How does the choice of programming language affect the performance and maintainability of enterprise-level software applications?”

Research Questions in Psychology

  • “What are the most common symptoms of anxiety disorders among adolescents?”
  • “How does the level of job satisfaction differ between remote workers and in-office workers?”
  • “What is the relationship between social media use and self-esteem in teenagers?”
  • “How does cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) affect the severity of depression symptoms in adults?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?”
  • “Why do some individuals develop resilience in the face of adversity while others do not?”
  • “How effective are mindfulness-based interventions in reducing stress levels among college students?”
  • “How does group therapy influence the social skills development of children with autism spectrum disorder?”
  • “What strategies can improve the early diagnosis of bipolar disorder in young adults?”
  • “How do sleep patterns affect cognitive functioning and academic performance in high school students?”

More Research Question Examples

Research question examples for students.

  • “What are the primary study habits of high-achieving college students?”
  • “How do academic performances differ between students who participate in extracurricular activities and those who do not?”
  • “What is the relationship between time management skills and academic success in high school students?”
  • “How does the use of technology in the classroom affect students’ engagement and learning outcomes?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in online learning platforms for high school students?”
  • “Why do some students excel in standardized tests while others struggle despite similar study efforts?”
  • “How effective are peer tutoring programs in improving students’ understanding of complex subjects?”
  • “How do different teaching methods impact the learning process of students with learning disabilities?”
  • “What strategies can help reduce test anxiety among middle school students?”
  • “How does participation in group projects affect the development of collaboration skills in university students?”

Research Question Examples for College Students

  • “What are the most common stressors faced by college students during final exams?”
  • “How does academic performance differ between students who live on campus and those who commute?”
  • “What is the relationship between part-time employment and GPA among college students?”
  • “How does participation in study abroad programs impact cultural awareness and academic performance?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in college students’ use of social media for academic purposes?”
  • “Why do some college students engage in academic dishonesty despite awareness of the consequences?”
  • “How effective are university mental health services in addressing students’ mental health issues?”
  • “How do different learning styles affect the academic success of college students in online courses?”
  • “What strategies can be employed to improve retention rates among first-year college students?”
  • “How does participation in extracurricular activities influence leadership skills development in college students?”

Research Question Examples in Statistics

  • “What are the most common statistical methods used in medical research?”
  • “How does the accuracy of machine learning models compare to traditional statistical methods in predicting housing prices?”
  • “What is the relationship between sample size and the power of a statistical test in clinical trials?”
  • “How does the use of random sampling affect the validity of survey results in social science research?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in the application of Bayesian statistics in data science?”
  • “Why do some datasets require transformation before applying linear regression models?”
  • “How effective are bootstrapping techniques in estimating the confidence intervals of small sample data?”
  • “How do different imputation methods impact the results of analyses with missing data?”
  • “What strategies can improve the interpretation of interaction effects in multiple regression analysis?”
  • “How does the choice of statistical software affect the efficiency of data analysis in academic research?”

Research Question Examples in Socialogy

  • “What are the primary social factors contributing to urban poverty in major cities?”
  • “How does the level of social integration differ between immigrants and native-born citizens in urban areas?”
  • “What is the relationship between educational attainment and social mobility in different socioeconomic classes?”
  • “How does exposure to social media influence political participation among young adults?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in family structures and their impact on child development?”
  • “Why do certain communities exhibit higher levels of civic engagement than others?”
  • “How effective are community policing strategies in reducing crime rates in diverse neighborhoods?”
  • “How do socialization processes differ in single-parent households compared to two-parent households?”
  • “What strategies can be implemented to reduce racial disparities in higher education enrollment?”
  • “How does the implementation of public housing policies affect the quality of life for low-income families?”

Research Question Examples in Biology

  • “What are the primary characteristics of the various stages of mitosis in eukaryotic cells?”
  • “How do the reproductive strategies of amphibians compare to those of reptiles?”
  • “What is the relationship between genetic diversity and the resilience of plant species to climate change?”
  • “How does the presence of pollutants in freshwater ecosystems impact the growth and development of aquatic organisms?”
  • “What are the emerging trends in the use of CRISPR technology for gene editing in agricultural crops?”
  • “Why do certain bacteria develop antibiotic resistance more rapidly than others?”
  • “How effective are different conservation strategies in protecting endangered species?”
  • “How do various environmental factors influence the process of photosynthesis in marine algae?”
  • “What strategies can enhance the effectiveness of reforestation programs in tropical rainforests?”
  • “How does the method of seed dispersal affect the spatial distribution and genetic diversity of plant populations?”

Research Question Examples in History

  • “What were the key social and economic factors that led to the Industrial Revolution in Britain?”
  • “How did the political systems of ancient Athens and ancient Sparta differ in terms of governance and citizen participation?”
  • “What is the relationship between the Renaissance and the subsequent scientific revolution in Europe?”
  • “How did the Treaty of Versailles contribute to the rise of Adolf Hitler and the onset of World War II?”
  • “What are the emerging perspectives on the causes and impacts of the American Civil Rights Movement?”
  • “Why did the Roman Empire decline and eventually fall despite its extensive power and reach?”
  • “How effective were the New Deal programs in alleviating the effects of the Great Depression in the United States?”
  • “How did the processes of colonization and decolonization affect the political landscape of Africa in the 20th century?”
  • “What strategies did the suffragette movement use to secure voting rights for women in the early 20th century?”
  • “How did the logistics and strategies of the D-Day invasion contribute to the Allied victory in World War II?”

Importance of Research Questions

Research questions are fundamental to the success and integrity of any study. Their importance can be highlighted through several key aspects:

  • Research questions provide a clear focus and direction for the study, ensuring that the researcher remains on track.
  • Example: “How does online learning impact student engagement in higher education?”
  • They establish the boundaries of the research, determining what will be included or excluded.
  • Example: “What are the effects of air pollution on respiratory health in urban areas?”
  • Research questions dictate the choice of research design, methodology, and data collection techniques.
  • Example: “What is the relationship between physical activity and mental health in adolescents?”
  • They make the objectives of the research explicit, providing clarity and precision to the study’s goals.
  • Example: “Why do some startups succeed in securing venture capital while others fail?”
  • Well-crafted research questions emphasize the significance and relevance of the study, justifying its importance.
  • Example: “How effective are public health campaigns in increasing vaccination rates among young adults?”
  • They enable a systematic approach to inquiry, ensuring that the study is coherent and logically structured.
  • Example: “What are the social and economic impacts of remote work on urban communities?”
  • Research questions offer a framework for analyzing and interpreting data, guiding the researcher in making sense of the findings.
  • Example: “How does social media usage affect self-esteem among teenagers?”
  • By addressing specific gaps or exploring new areas, research questions ensure that the study contributes meaningfully to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Example: “What are the emerging trends in the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare?”
  • Clear and precise research questions increase the credibility and reliability of the research by providing a focused approach.
  • Example: “How do educational interventions impact literacy rates in low-income communities?”
  • They help in clearly communicating the purpose and findings of the research to others, including stakeholders, peers, and the broader academic community.
  • Example: “What strategies are most effective in reducing youth unemployment in developing countries?”

Research Question vs. Hypothesis

Chracteristics of research questions.

Chracteristics of Research Questions

Research questions are fundamental to the research process as they guide the direction and focus of a study. Here are the key characteristics of effective research questions:

1. Clear and Specific

  • The question should be clearly articulated and specific enough to be understood without ambiguity.
  • Example: “What are the effects of social media on teenagers’ mental health?” rather than “How does social media affect people?”

2. Focused and Researchable

  • The question should be narrow enough to be answerable through research and data collection.
  • Example: “How does participation in extracurricular activities impact academic performance in high school students?” rather than “How do activities affect school performance?”

3. Complex and Analytical

  • The question should require more than a simple yes or no answer and should invite analysis and discussion.
  • Example: “What factors contribute to the success of renewable energy initiatives in urban areas?” rather than “Is renewable energy successful?”

4. Relevant and Significant

  • The question should address an important issue or problem in the field of study and contribute to knowledge or practice.
  • Example: “How does climate change affect agricultural productivity in developing countries?” rather than “What is climate change?”

5. Feasible and Practical

  • The question should be feasible to answer within the constraints of time, resources, and access to information.
  • Example: “What are the challenges faced by remote workers in the tech industry during the COVID-19 pandemic?” rather than “What are the challenges of remote work?”

6. Original and Novel

  • The question should offer a new perspective or explore an area that has not been extensively studied.
  • Example: “How do virtual reality technologies influence empathy in healthcare training?” rather than “What is virtual reality?”
  • The question should be framed in a way that ensures the research can be conducted ethically.
  • Example: “What are the impacts of privacy laws on consumer data protection in the digital age?” rather than “How can we collect personal data more effectively?”

8. Open-Ended

  • The question should encourage detailed responses and exploration, rather than limiting answers to a simple yes or no.
  • Example: “In what ways do cultural differences affect communication styles in multinational companies?” rather than “Do cultural differences affect communication?”

9. Aligned with Research Goals

  • The question should align with the overall objectives of the research project or study.
  • Example: “How do early childhood education programs influence long-term academic achievement?” if the goal is to understand educational impacts.

10. Based on Prior Research

  • The question should build on existing literature and research, identifying gaps or new angles to explore.
  • Example: “What strategies have proven effective in reducing urban air pollution in European cities?” after reviewing current studies on air pollution strategies.

Benefits of Research Question

Research questions are fundamental to the research process and offer numerous benefits, which include the following:

1. Guides the Research Process

A well-defined research question provides a clear focus and direction for your study. It helps in determining what data to collect, how to collect it, and how to analyze it.

Benefit: Ensures that the research stays on track and addresses the specific issue at hand.

2. Clarifies the Purpose of the Study

Research questions help to articulate the purpose and objectives of the study. They make it clear what the researcher intends to explore, describe, compare, or test.

Benefit: Helps in communicating the goals and significance of the research to others, including stakeholders and funding bodies.

3. Determines the Research Design

The type of research question informs the research design, including the choice of methodology, data collection methods, and analysis techniques.

Benefit: Ensures that the chosen research design is appropriate for answering the specific research question, enhancing the validity and reliability of the results.

4. Enhances Literature Review

A well-crafted research question provides a framework for conducting a thorough literature review. It helps in identifying relevant studies, theories, and gaps in existing knowledge.

Benefit: Facilitates a comprehensive understanding of the topic and ensures that the research is grounded in existing literature.

5. Focuses Data Collection

Research questions help in identifying the specific data needed to answer them. This focus prevents the collection of unnecessary data and ensures that all collected data is relevant to the study.

Benefit: Increases the efficiency of data collection and analysis, saving time and resources.

6. Improves Data Analysis

Having a clear research question aids in the selection of appropriate data analysis methods. It helps in determining how the data will be analyzed to draw meaningful conclusions.

Benefit: Enhances the accuracy and relevance of the findings, making them more impactful.

7. Facilitates Hypothesis Formation

In quantitative research, research questions often lead to the development of hypotheses that can be tested statistically.

Benefit: Provides a basis for hypothesis testing, which is essential for establishing cause-and-effect relationships.

8. Supports Result Interpretation

Research questions provide a lens through which the results of the study can be interpreted. They help in understanding what the findings mean in the context of the research objectives.

Benefit: Ensures that the conclusions drawn from the research are aligned with the original aims and objectives.

9. Enhances Reporting and Presentation

A clear research question makes it easier to organize and present the research findings. It helps in structuring the research report or presentation logically.

Benefit: Improves the clarity and coherence of the research report, making it more accessible and understandable to the audience.

10. Encourages Critical Thinking

Formulating research questions requires critical thinking and a deep understanding of the subject matter. It encourages researchers to think deeply about what they want to investigate and why.

Benefit: Promotes a more thoughtful and analytical approach to research, leading to more robust and meaningful findings.

How to Write a Research Question

Crafting a strong research question is crucial for guiding your study effectively. Follow these steps to write a clear and focused research question:

Identify a Broad Topic:

Start with a general area of interest that you are passionate about or that is relevant to your field. Example: “Climate change”

Conduct Preliminary Research:

Explore existing literature and studies to understand the current state of knowledge and identify gaps. Example: “Impact of climate change on agriculture”

Narrow Down the Topic:

Focus on a specific aspect or issue within the broad topic to make the research question more manageable. Example: “Effect of climate change on crop yields”

Consider the Scope:

Ensure the question is neither too broad nor too narrow. It should be specific enough to be answerable but broad enough to allow for thorough exploration. Example: “How does climate change affect corn crop yields in the Midwest United States?”

Determine the Research Type:

Decide whether your research will be descriptive, comparative, relational, or causal, as this will shape your question. Example: “How does climate change affect corn crop yields in the Midwest United States over the past decade?”

Formulate the Question:

Write a clear, concise question that specifies the variables, population, and context. Example: “What is the impact of increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns on corn crop yields in the Midwest United States from 2010 to 2020?”

Ensure Feasibility:

Make sure the question can be answered within the constraints of your resources, time, and data availability. Example: “How have corn crop yields in the Midwest United States been affected by climate change-related temperature increases and precipitation changes between 2010 and 2020?”

Review and Refine:

Evaluate the question for clarity, focus, and relevance. Revise as necessary to ensure it is well-defined and researchable. Example: “What are the specific impacts of temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns on corn crop yields in the Midwest United States from 2010 to 2020?”

What is a research question?

A research question is a specific query guiding a study’s focus and objectives, shaping its methodology and analysis.

Why is a research question important?

It provides direction, defines scope, ensures relevance, and guides the methodology of the research.

How do you formulate a research question?

Identify a topic, narrow it down, conduct preliminary research, and ensure it is clear, focused, and researchable.

What makes a good research question?

Clarity, specificity, feasibility, relevance, and the ability to guide the research effectively.

Can a research question change?

Yes, it can evolve based on initial findings, further literature review, and the research process.

What is the difference between a research question and a hypothesis?

A research question guides the study; a hypothesis is a testable prediction about the relationship between variables.

How specific should a research question be?

It should be specific enough to provide clear direction but broad enough to allow for comprehensive investigation.

What are examples of good research questions?

Examples include: “How does social media affect academic performance?” and “What are the impacts of climate change on agriculture?”

Can a research question be too broad?

Yes, a too broad question can make the research unfocused and challenging to address comprehensively.

What role does a research question play in literature reviews?

It helps identify relevant studies, guides the search for literature, and frames the review’s focus.

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IB History IA: 60 Examples and Guidance

Charles Whitehouse

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme program offers a variety of assessments for students, including Internal Assessments (IAs), which are pieces of coursework marked by students’ teachers. The History Internal Assessment (IA) is an essential component of the course and accounts for 20% of the final grade for Higher Level students and 25% for Standard Level students - although it is the same task for both levels.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know about the IB History IA, including the structure, assessment criteria, and some tips for success.

What is the History IA?

The History IA is a historical investigation into a subject of the student’s choosing. History tutors suggest that it should be a maximum of 2,200 words, split between 3 separate sections.

Section 1 (suggested 500 words) - 6 marks In this section, you will critically analyse two key sources that are relevant to your research question. You must:

  • Clearly state the research question you have chosen to investigate, phrased as a question.
  • Provide a brief explanation of the nature of the two sources you have selected for detailed analysis, including how they are relevant to your investigation.
  • Analyze the two sources in detail, considering their origins, purpose, and content. You should evaluate the value and limitations of the sources in relation to your research question.

Section 2 (suggested: 1,300 words) - 15 marks

In this section, you will conduct the actual investigation into your research question. The internal assessment task allows for a wide variety of historical investigations , such as:

  • a historical topic or theme using written sources or a variety of sources
  • a historical topic based on fieldwork, for example, a museum, archeological site, battlefields, places of worship such as mosques or churches, historical buildings
  • a historical problem using documents (this could include newspapers)
  • a local history study
  • a historical study based on oral interviews
  • a historical investigation based on interpreting a novel, film or work of art
  • a historical investigation of cultural issues.

The investigation should be well-organised and clearly focused on the research question. While there is no specific format required, it should include critical analysis and a conclusion drawn from the analysis. You should use a variety of evidence to support your argument, including primary and secondary sources .

Section 3 (suggested: 400 words) - 4 marks In this section, you will reflect on the methods you used and challenges you faced during your investigation. You should relate your reflection specifically to your investigation and your experience as a historian, and then think more widely about how knowledge is produced in the discipline of history.

The IB suggests following these questions to inspire your reflection:

  • What methods used by historians did you use in your investigation?
  • What did your investigation highlight to you about the limitations of those methods?
  • What are the challenges facing the historian? How do they differ from the challenges facing a scientist or a mathematician?
  • What challenges in particular does archive-based history present?
  • How can the reliability of sources be evaluated?
  • What is the difference between bias and selection?
  • What constitutes a historical event?
  • Who decides which events are historically significant?
  • Is it possible to describe historical events in an unbiased way?
  • What is the role of the historian?
  • Should terms such as “atrocity” be used when writing about history, or should value judgments be avoided?
  • If it is difficult to establish proof in history, does that mean that all versions are equally acceptable?

Even A-Level tutors who specialise in A-Level History recognise the value of the History IA, appreciating its benefits and say that it should be a part of the A-Level curriculum as well to promote better learning.

Have a look at our comprehensive set of IB History Study Notes , IB History Past Papers and IB History Questions , developed by expert IB teachers and examiners!

What should I write my IA about?

It is important to note that formulating an appropriate research question is a crucial aspect of this section, which is why many students get the help of an IB History tutor to help witht the subject or even an IB English tutor to improve their essay writing skills. The six key concepts of the history course (causation, consequence, continuity, change, significance, and perspectives) can be a useful starting point for developing your research question.

Your IA can focus on something you’ve learnt about in class or develop a personal historical interest. It is best to choose a topic that you are familiar with and that you can easily access sources about.

Here are over 60 examples of potential questions and investigations compiled by IB tutors which could inspire your History IA, depending on the historical topics which you are familiar with and interested in:

1 - How justified was appeasement as a policy in the 1930s? 2 - How influential was nationalism in Germany before 1848? 3 - How decisive was Bismarck’s role in German unification? 4 - How far did the financial crisis of 1789 cause the French Revolution? 5 - How successful was the League of Nations in the 1920s? 6 - How far was the League of Nations a humanitarian success? 7 - Were technological developments the most important factor in determining the outcome of WW2? 8 - To what extent did the legal rights of women improve in Britain, 1860-1900? 9 - How central was education to Nazi Germany? 10 - To what extent can Nixon’s Vietnamization policy be considered a success? 11 - How important was the Yalta conference to the start of the Cold War? 12 - Investigating the impact of the Industrial Revolution on working-class living conditions in a specific country. 13 - How did the Cold War shape foreign policy decisions in a specific country? 14 - Can the impact of the American Civil War on slavery and race relations be analyzed using primary sources? 15 - Investigating the social and economic impacts of colonialism on a specific region or country. 16 - How did World War I shape the geopolitical landscape of Europe in the 20th century? 17 - Can the impact of the Vietnam War on American society be analyzed using popular culture as primary sources? 18 - Investigating the impact of the Russian Revolution on the formation of the Soviet Union. 19 - How did the Women's Suffrage Movement impact political participation and representation in a specific country? 20 - Can the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on race relations in America be analyzed using primary sources? 21 - Investigating the impact of the Great Depression on political and economic policies in a specific country. 22 - How did the Renaissance shape art, literature, and intellectual thought in Europe? 23 - Can the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish communities and survivors be analyzed using primary sources? 24 - Investigating the social and cultural impacts of the Harlem Renaissance on African American communities. 25 - How did the Space Race shape scientific exploration and international relations during the Cold War? 26 - Can the impact of the Chinese Cultural Revolution on Chinese society and politics be analyzed using primary sources? 27 - Investigating the impact of the French Revolution on European politics and society in the 19th century. 28 - How did the Arab-Israeli conflict shape Middle Eastern politics and international relations? 29 - Can the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis on US foreign policy and Cold War tensions be analyzed using primary sources? 30 - Investigating the impact of the Protestant Reformation on religious and political institutions in Europe. 31 - How did the Civil Rights Movement impact political and social changes in a specific country? 32 - Can the impact of the Spanish Inquisition on Spanish society and politics be analyzed using primary sources? 33 - Investigating the social and political impacts of the British Empire on colonized countries and regions. 34 - How did the Enlightenment shape intellectual thought and political institutions in Europe? 35 - Can the impact of the Indian Independence Movement on Indian society and politics be analyzed using primary sources? 36 - Investigating the impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on African communities and diaspora. 37 - How did the American Revolution shape American politics and identity in the 19th and 20th centuries? 38 - Can the impact of the Rwandan Genocide on Rwandan society and politics be analyzed using primary sources? 39 - Investigating the social and cultural impacts of the Civil Rights Movement on African American communities in a specific country. 40 - How did the rise of Nazism and Fascism shape European politics and international relations before World War II? 41 - Can the impact of the Haitian Revolution on Caribbean society and politics be analyzed using primary sources? 42 - Analyzing the causes and consequences of the American Civil Rights Movement. 43 - Investigating the impact of colonization on the culture and society of indigenous peoples. 44 - Examining the role of women in the suffrage movement and the fight for equal rights. 45 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Cuban Revolution on Cuban society and politics. 46 - Investigating the impact of the Renaissance on art, science, and humanism. 47 - Examining the role of nationalism in the unification of Italy and Germany in the 19th century. 48 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution on society and the economy. 49 - Investigating the impact of the French Revolution on the rise of democracy and liberalism. 50 - Examining the role of propaganda in shaping public opinion during World War II. 51 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Cold War on global politics and international relations. 52 - Investigating the impact of imperialism on the economy and society of colonial powers and colonies. 53 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Black Death on medieval Europe. 54 - Investigating the impact of the Enlightenment on political thought and revolution. 55 - Examining the role of human rights activism in the struggle for social justice and equality. 56 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Mexican Revolution on Mexican society and politics. 57 - Investigating the impact of the Mongol Empire on Eurasian trade and cultural exchange. 58 - Examining the role of slavery in the development of the Atlantic economy and global trade. 59 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Russian Revolution on Russian society and politics. 60 - Investigating the impact of the Transatlantic Slave Trade on African societies and cultures. 61 - Examining the role of protest and civil disobedience in social and political change. 62 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Protestant Reformation on European society and religion. 63 - Investigating the impact of the Silk Road on trade and cultural exchange in Eurasia. 64 - Examining the role of ideology in the rise of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century. 65 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Spanish-American War on Spanish and American society and politics. 66 - Investigating the impact of the Crusades on European and Middle Eastern societies and cultures. 67 - Examining the role of technology in warfare and military strategy throughout history. 68 - Analyzing the causes and effects of the Partition of India on South Asian society and politics. 69 - Investigating the impact of the Age of Exploration on global trade and cultural exchange. 70 - Examining the role of revolutions in the development of modern nation-states and democracy.

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What are the assessment criteria?

Before starting the IA, you should remind yourself of the marking criteria from the IB. Paying close attention to hitting each criterion will allow you to maximise your score.

Criterion A: Identification and evaluation of sources (6 marks)

To score highly, the student should:

  • Clearly state their research question
  • Identify and select relevant sources
  • Clearly explain how the sources relate to the research question
  • Perform a thorough analysis and evaluation of the two sources
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the sources in relation to the research question, specifically considering the sources' origins, purpose, and content

Criterion B: Investigation (15 marks) The investigation should:

  • Be clear, coherent and effectively organized
  • Contain well-developed critical analysis that is focused clearly on the stated question
  • Use evidence from a range of sources effectively to support the argument
  • Evaluate different perspective
  • Argue to a reasoned conclusion that is consistent with the evidence and arguments provided

Criterion C: Reflection (4 marks)

The reflection should:

  • Be clearly focused on what the investigation highlighted to the student about the methods used by the historian
  • Demonstrate clear awareness of challenges facing the historian and/or limitations of the methods used by the historian
  • Clearly connect the reflection to the rest of the investigation

What sources should I use for Section 1?

You could use primary or secondary sources for Section 1. Primary sources provide a first-hand account of an event or time period. Secondary sources are interpretations and analyses based on primary sources.

The important things to consider are that the sources directly relate to your research question and give you interesting things to analyse for their values and limitations. For example, it may be useful to choose a primary source from someone who had a vested interest in depicting a certain version of a historical event. You should then reference the sources you choose for Section 1 in your Section 2 investigation. Once you have chosen your sources, you need to explicitly analyse the values and limitations of each source, for each of: origin, purpose, and content. This can be effectively structured in two paragraphs from each source: one for values and one for limitations.

How is the IA graded?

It is graded by the student’s teacher, who is trained and certified by the International Baccalaureate organization. The report is then sent to a moderator, who will check that the report adheres to the IB guidelines and that the grade awarded is appropriate.

IB History IA Guide

Source: IB History HL Subject Brief

In conclusion, to do well in the IB History Internal Assessment (IA), it is essential to develop a strong research question that is focused on a historical issue or problem. Selecting appropriate and relevant sources, conducting a thorough analysis, writing a clear and well-structured conclusion, and providing a reflective statement on the research process are all critical components of a high-scoring IA. Additionally, it is important to follow the guidelines and formatting instructions, review, edit and proofread the IA multiple times, and seek feedback from your school teacher or tutor. By following these guidelines and approaches, students can ensure that their IA is well-researched, well-written, and effectively communicates their understanding of the historical issue or problem.

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Charles Whitehouse

Written by: Charles Whitehouse

Charles scored 45/45 on the International Baccalaureate and has six years' experience tutoring IB and IGCSE students and advising them with their university applications. He studied a double integrated Masters at Magdalen College Oxford and has worked as a research scientist and strategy consultant.

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Case Study Research Method in Psychology

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, PhD., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years of experience in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

Learn about our Editorial Process

Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

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Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources using several methods (e.g., observations & interviews).

The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient’s personal history). In psychology, case studies are often confined to the study of a particular individual.

The information is mainly biographical and relates to events in the individual’s past (i.e., retrospective), as well as to significant events that are currently occurring in his or her everyday life.

The case study is not a research method, but researchers select methods of data collection and analysis that will generate material suitable for case studies.

Freud (1909a, 1909b) conducted very detailed investigations into the private lives of his patients in an attempt to both understand and help them overcome their illnesses.

This makes it clear that the case study is a method that should only be used by a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist, i.e., someone with a professional qualification.

There is an ethical issue of competence. Only someone qualified to diagnose and treat a person can conduct a formal case study relating to atypical (i.e., abnormal) behavior or atypical development.

case study

 Famous Case Studies

  • Anna O – One of the most famous case studies, documenting psychoanalyst Josef Breuer’s treatment of “Anna O” (real name Bertha Pappenheim) for hysteria in the late 1800s using early psychoanalytic theory.
  • Little Hans – A child psychoanalysis case study published by Sigmund Freud in 1909 analyzing his five-year-old patient Herbert Graf’s house phobia as related to the Oedipus complex.
  • Bruce/Brenda – Gender identity case of the boy (Bruce) whose botched circumcision led psychologist John Money to advise gender reassignment and raise him as a girl (Brenda) in the 1960s.
  • Genie Wiley – Linguistics/psychological development case of the victim of extreme isolation abuse who was studied in 1970s California for effects of early language deprivation on acquiring speech later in life.
  • Phineas Gage – One of the most famous neuropsychology case studies analyzes personality changes in railroad worker Phineas Gage after an 1848 brain injury involving a tamping iron piercing his skull.

Clinical Case Studies

  • Studying the effectiveness of psychotherapy approaches with an individual patient
  • Assessing and treating mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD
  • Neuropsychological cases investigating brain injuries or disorders

Child Psychology Case Studies

  • Studying psychological development from birth through adolescence
  • Cases of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, ADHD
  • Effects of trauma, abuse, deprivation on development

Types of Case Studies

  • Explanatory case studies : Used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. Helpful for doing qualitative analysis to explain presumed causal links.
  • Exploratory case studies : Used to explore situations where an intervention being evaluated has no clear set of outcomes. It helps define questions and hypotheses for future research.
  • Descriptive case studies : Describe an intervention or phenomenon and the real-life context in which it occurred. It is helpful for illustrating certain topics within an evaluation.
  • Multiple-case studies : Used to explore differences between cases and replicate findings across cases. Helpful for comparing and contrasting specific cases.
  • Intrinsic : Used to gain a better understanding of a particular case. Helpful for capturing the complexity of a single case.
  • Collective : Used to explore a general phenomenon using multiple case studies. Helpful for jointly studying a group of cases in order to inquire into the phenomenon.

Where Do You Find Data for a Case Study?

There are several places to find data for a case study. The key is to gather data from multiple sources to get a complete picture of the case and corroborate facts or findings through triangulation of evidence. Most of this information is likely qualitative (i.e., verbal description rather than measurement), but the psychologist might also collect numerical data.

1. Primary sources

  • Interviews – Interviewing key people related to the case to get their perspectives and insights. The interview is an extremely effective procedure for obtaining information about an individual, and it may be used to collect comments from the person’s friends, parents, employer, workmates, and others who have a good knowledge of the person, as well as to obtain facts from the person him or herself.
  • Observations – Observing behaviors, interactions, processes, etc., related to the case as they unfold in real-time.
  • Documents & Records – Reviewing private documents, diaries, public records, correspondence, meeting minutes, etc., relevant to the case.

2. Secondary sources

  • News/Media – News coverage of events related to the case study.
  • Academic articles – Journal articles, dissertations etc. that discuss the case.
  • Government reports – Official data and records related to the case context.
  • Books/films – Books, documentaries or films discussing the case.

3. Archival records

Searching historical archives, museum collections and databases to find relevant documents, visual/audio records related to the case history and context.

Public archives like newspapers, organizational records, photographic collections could all include potentially relevant pieces of information to shed light on attitudes, cultural perspectives, common practices and historical contexts related to psychology.

4. Organizational records

Organizational records offer the advantage of often having large datasets collected over time that can reveal or confirm psychological insights.

Of course, privacy and ethical concerns regarding confidential data must be navigated carefully.

However, with proper protocols, organizational records can provide invaluable context and empirical depth to qualitative case studies exploring the intersection of psychology and organizations.

  • Organizational/industrial psychology research : Organizational records like employee surveys, turnover/retention data, policies, incident reports etc. may provide insight into topics like job satisfaction, workplace culture and dynamics, leadership issues, employee behaviors etc.
  • Clinical psychology : Therapists/hospitals may grant access to anonymized medical records to study aspects like assessments, diagnoses, treatment plans etc. This could shed light on clinical practices.
  • School psychology : Studies could utilize anonymized student records like test scores, grades, disciplinary issues, and counseling referrals to study child development, learning barriers, effectiveness of support programs, and more.

How do I Write a Case Study in Psychology?

Follow specified case study guidelines provided by a journal or your psychology tutor. General components of clinical case studies include: background, symptoms, assessments, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes. Interpreting the information means the researcher decides what to include or leave out. A good case study should always clarify which information is the factual description and which is an inference or the researcher’s opinion.

1. Introduction

  • Provide background on the case context and why it is of interest, presenting background information like demographics, relevant history, and presenting problem.
  • Compare briefly to similar published cases if applicable. Clearly state the focus/importance of the case.

2. Case Presentation

  • Describe the presenting problem in detail, including symptoms, duration,and impact on daily life.
  • Include client demographics like age and gender, information about social relationships, and mental health history.
  • Describe all physical, emotional, and/or sensory symptoms reported by the client.
  • Use patient quotes to describe the initial complaint verbatim. Follow with full-sentence summaries of relevant history details gathered, including key components that led to a working diagnosis.
  • Summarize clinical exam results, namely orthopedic/neurological tests, imaging, lab tests, etc. Note actual results rather than subjective conclusions. Provide images if clearly reproducible/anonymized.
  • Clearly state the working diagnosis or clinical impression before transitioning to management.

3. Management and Outcome

  • Indicate the total duration of care and number of treatments given over what timeframe. Use specific names/descriptions for any therapies/interventions applied.
  • Present the results of the intervention,including any quantitative or qualitative data collected.
  • For outcomes, utilize visual analog scales for pain, medication usage logs, etc., if possible. Include patient self-reports of improvement/worsening of symptoms. Note the reason for discharge/end of care.

4. Discussion

  • Analyze the case, exploring contributing factors, limitations of the study, and connections to existing research.
  • Analyze the effectiveness of the intervention,considering factors like participant adherence, limitations of the study, and potential alternative explanations for the results.
  • Identify any questions raised in the case analysis and relate insights to established theories and current research if applicable. Avoid definitive claims about physiological explanations.
  • Offer clinical implications, and suggest future research directions.

5. Additional Items

  • Thank specific assistants for writing support only. No patient acknowledgments.
  • References should directly support any key claims or quotes included.
  • Use tables/figures/images only if substantially informative. Include permissions and legends/explanatory notes.
  • Provides detailed (rich qualitative) information.
  • Provides insight for further research.
  • Permitting investigation of otherwise impractical (or unethical) situations.

Case studies allow a researcher to investigate a topic in far more detail than might be possible if they were trying to deal with a large number of research participants (nomothetic approach) with the aim of ‘averaging’.

Because of their in-depth, multi-sided approach, case studies often shed light on aspects of human thinking and behavior that would be unethical or impractical to study in other ways.

Research that only looks into the measurable aspects of human behavior is not likely to give us insights into the subjective dimension of experience, which is important to psychoanalytic and humanistic psychologists.

Case studies are often used in exploratory research. They can help us generate new ideas (that might be tested by other methods). They are an important way of illustrating theories and can help show how different aspects of a person’s life are related to each other.

The method is, therefore, important for psychologists who adopt a holistic point of view (i.e., humanistic psychologists ).

Limitations

  • Lacking scientific rigor and providing little basis for generalization of results to the wider population.
  • Researchers’ own subjective feelings may influence the case study (researcher bias).
  • Difficult to replicate.
  • Time-consuming and expensive.
  • The volume of data, together with the time restrictions in place, impacted the depth of analysis that was possible within the available resources.

Because a case study deals with only one person/event/group, we can never be sure if the case study investigated is representative of the wider body of “similar” instances. This means the conclusions drawn from a particular case may not be transferable to other settings.

Because case studies are based on the analysis of qualitative (i.e., descriptive) data , a lot depends on the psychologist’s interpretation of the information she has acquired.

This means that there is a lot of scope for Anna O , and it could be that the subjective opinions of the psychologist intrude in the assessment of what the data means.

For example, Freud has been criticized for producing case studies in which the information was sometimes distorted to fit particular behavioral theories (e.g., Little Hans ).

This is also true of Money’s interpretation of the Bruce/Brenda case study (Diamond, 1997) when he ignored evidence that went against his theory.

Breuer, J., & Freud, S. (1895).  Studies on hysteria . Standard Edition 2: London.

Curtiss, S. (1981). Genie: The case of a modern wild child .

Diamond, M., & Sigmundson, K. (1997). Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-term Review and Clinical Implications. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , 151(3), 298-304

Freud, S. (1909a). Analysis of a phobia of a five year old boy. In The Pelican Freud Library (1977), Vol 8, Case Histories 1, pages 169-306

Freud, S. (1909b). Bemerkungen über einen Fall von Zwangsneurose (Der “Rattenmann”). Jb. psychoanal. psychopathol. Forsch ., I, p. 357-421; GW, VII, p. 379-463; Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis, SE , 10: 151-318.

Harlow J. M. (1848). Passage of an iron rod through the head.  Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 39 , 389–393.

Harlow, J. M. (1868).  Recovery from the Passage of an Iron Bar through the Head .  Publications of the Massachusetts Medical Society. 2  (3), 327-347.

Money, J., & Ehrhardt, A. A. (1972).  Man & Woman, Boy & Girl : The Differentiation and Dimorphism of Gender Identity from Conception to Maturity. Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Money, J., & Tucker, P. (1975). Sexual signatures: On being a man or a woman.

Further Information

  • Case Study Approach
  • Case Study Method
  • Enhancing the Quality of Case Studies in Health Services Research
  • “We do things together” A case study of “couplehood” in dementia
  • Using mixed methods for evaluating an integrative approach to cancer care: a case study

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Money blog: Avocados 'laser-tattooed' in supermarket trial; Netflix users warned of scam

Netflix warns of a scam targeting its users - as an expert names his "least bad" popular sweets on the market... and those with the highest sugar content. Read this and the rest of today's consumer and personal finance news below, and leave your thoughts in the comments box.

Friday 31 May 2024 15:30, UK

  • New house price figures hint at shift in market
  • First-time buyers urged to consider building societies over banks
  • Leon rivals Pret with new coffee subscription deal

Essential reads

  • The popular sweets that are the 'least bad' for you
  • Women in Business : 'A truck unloaded a £600 car that her son bought on eBay thinking it was a toy' - the schoolgate stories that led to GoHenry
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Ask a question or make a comment

Hackers say they have stolen confidential information from all Santander staff and millions of customers, reports the BBC.

A gang going by the name of ShinyHunters posted an advert on a hacking forum claiming to be selling 30 million people's bank account details, six million account numbers and balances, 28 million credit card numbers and HR information for staff.

Earlier this month, the bank said data was accessed belonging to customers in Chile, Spain and Uruguay and all current Santander employees, but nothing that would allow transactions to take place.

As of March, Sandander as a whole employed more than 211,000 people and as of 30 June 2021, 20,900 employees worked for Santander UK.

Santander has declined to comment on the claims beyond a statement released on 14 May.

It read: "Certain information relating to customers of Santander Chile, Spain and Uruguay, as well as all current and some former Santander employees of the group had been accessed.

"No transactional data, nor any credentials that would allow transactions to take place on accounts are contained in the database, including online banking details and passwords. The bank's operations and systems are not affected, so customers can continue to transact securely.

"We apologise for the concern this will understandably cause and are proactively contacting affected customers and employees directly."

ShinyHunters have previously sold data stolen from AT&T and claim to be selling private data hacked from Ticketmaster, the BBC reported.

Lasers are being used to "tattoo" barcodes onto extra large avocados to replace stickers at a UK supermarket.

High-powered beams will draw the Tesco logo by removing a tiny section of the top layer of the skin in a trial designed to be environmentally friendly. 

The etching, directed by a computer program, takes a third of a second to mark an avocado, 70 million of which Tesco sells a year.

Customers at approximately 270 Tesco stores in southeast England will see the new avocados and – if feedback is positive – they will be rolled out across all stores.

Tesco said it could save nearly a million plastic stickers on its loose extra-large avocados, based on current sales information.

"We're really excited to hear customer feedback on our new laser-etched avocados, avoiding the need for a barcode sticker that can easily be forgotten and left on when recycling through household food waste," said Tesco avocado buyer Lisa Gilbey.

The trial also includes replacing the plastic tray packaging for two of its most popular avocado lines and moving to a cardboard container that is easier to recycle.

Westfalia Fruit, which supplies avocados to Tesco, said this could save more than 20 million pieces of plastic tray packaging from the twin-pack avocado alone, increasing up to 25 million pieces across the pre-packed range.

The laser-etched avocados will be in all stores taking part in the trial this weekend.

Income growth over the last 15 years has been the "worst in generations", according to a report.

Pay packets would be 24% higher for the average Briton if incomes had risen at the same rate since 2009-10 as they did prior, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found.

Real average earnings this year are expected to be 4% higher than in 2019–20, but disposable incomes will be broadly unchanged due to higher mortgage payments, tax rises and falling employment, the IFS said.

"Although there has been a widespread slowdown in growth internationally since the financial crisis, the UK has fallen from being one of the fastest growers prior to the Great Recession, to one of the weakest performers," said Tom Waters, an author of the report and an associate director at IFS.

UK income growth lagged behind comparable nations between 2007 and 2019, coming 10th out of 14 countries analysed by the IFS.

At 6% growth, the UK was performing half as well as the US, and well below the 30% that could be expected in a similar time period pre-recession.

Germany outstripped the UK by some margin at 16% growth, while only France, Spain and Greece recorded a lower rate.

Between 2019 and 2023, UK incomes fell by 0.5%, the third worst growth among 12 countries for which there was available data.

"Living standards have languished for more than a decade," said Mubin Haq, chief executive of the abrdn Financial Fairness Trust.

"On a range of measures, UK performance has been weak, especially in comparison to other wealthy countries. The danger is that stagnation becomes the new normal. 

"This is in no one's interests and stunts too many futures and too many lives."

Netflix subscribers are being urged to be wary of suspicious emails or texts claiming to be from the streaming giant.

Customers have reported being contacted by scammers claiming to be Netflix, asking for payments or stating there are problems with their account. 

Under no circumstances should links be clicked on in any suspicious-looking messages, consumers have been warned. 

Recent figures cited by Birmingham Live showed victims of scams lost £1,730 on average, with around half saying they were left feeling angry with themselves or "stupid".

Netflix issued a message to millions of its customers: "If you get an email or text message (SMS) asking for your Netflix account email, phone, password, or payment method it probably didn't come from Netflix.

"We'll never ask for payment through a third party vendor or website. 

"If the text or email links to a URL that you don't recognise, don't tap or click it. If you did already, do not enter any information on the website that opened.

"Scammers can't get information from you unless you give it to them. So don't click any links in the messages or reply to them."

By Daniel Binns, business reporter

JD Sports is one of the big losers on the stock market this morning after its shares plunged more than 12% in early UK trading.

It comes after the sportswear retailer released its results for the year to January on Friday - and revealed it had suffered an 8% drop in pre-tax profits.

Revenues also dropped by 8.3% to £3.51bn over the 12 months - but its organic sales grew by 9%.

Despite the figures, the chain's chief executive Regis Schultz hailed the company's "strong" performance in what he described as a "challenging market".

In other markets news, the government has sold £1.24bn of its shares in NatWest.

The Treasury's stake in the high street staple has fallen by around 3.5 percentage points to 22.5% as a result of the move.

The bank received several multibillion-pound bailouts during the 2008/09 financial crisis and is being gradually returned to private ownership.

However, a public share sale planned for this summer has been postponed because of the upcoming general election - as Sky News revealed last week.

Overall, there's little change on the FTSE 100 this Friday morning.

It's down 0.3% as investors await inflation news in the US and Europe which could impact on potential interest rate cuts.

On the currency markets, £1 buys $1.27 US or €1.17 - similar to yesterday's rates.

The latest UK house price data from a leading index has been released this morning - which hints at a potential shift in the market.

Nationwide Building Society said the average UK house price rose slightly in May, bucking two months of falls amid signs of market "resilience".

UK property prices rose 0.4% month-on-month, following a similar sized fall of 0.4% in April, it said. 

The increase leaves the average house price at £264,249 - with the annual rate of growth more than doubled to 1.3% in May, from 0.6% in April.

Robert Gardner, Nationwide's chief economist, said: "The market appears to be showing signs of resilience in the face of ongoing affordability pressures following the rise in longer term interest rates in recent months.

"Consumer confidence has improved noticeably over the last few months, supported by solid wage gains and lower inflation."

Every Friday we get an overview of the mortgage market with the help of industry experts. This week the guys at Moneyfactscompare.co.uk are helping us focus on first-time buyers - and why building societies may provide the best option for them.

First, the broader mortgage market. Moneyfacts finance expert finance expert Rachel Springall said: "It has been a relatively quiet week for fixed-rate mortgage re-pricing, but there have been a couple of building societies tweaking rates as well as withdrawing selected deals. This includes a sub 5% five-year fixed rate mortgage from Saffron Building Society at 90% loan-to-value.

"Week on week, the overall average two-year fixed rate remained unchanged 5.92% but the five-year rate rose to 5.49%."

Honing in on first-time buyers, and Moneyfacts has issued advice that building societies can often be the best option for those starting out.

Rachel said: "First-time buyers comparing mortgages will find building societies on average price lower than the market averages (90% and 95% loan-to-value, for two- and five-year fixed mortgages)."

The big-seven bank (Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, NatWest, RBS and Santander) average is actually lower, Moneyfacts says - but "the lowest rate deals might not be the best on a true cost basis". 

"Mutuals have pioneered innovative products and initiatives for buyers, such as the Track Record mortgage from Skipton Building Society, the £5,000 deposit mortgage from Yorkshire Building Society and the partnership between Leeds Building Society and Experian to potentially help consumers to boost their credit score," Rachel says. 

"In addition, Nationwide’s Helping Hand mortgage gives first-time buyers the option of borrowing a higher loan amount.

"Saving money on the upfront cost of a mortgage is incredibly important for first-time buyers who may have exhausted their cash on a deposit, legal fees and moving costs. Any borrower looking to get their foot on the property ladder would be wise to seek independent advice to ensure they find the right deal for them."

This week's lowest rates for first-time buyers are...

This week's Moneyfacts has the Best Buys - which look at the overall cost of the mortgage, not just the rate - as... 

It can be hard to balance the demands of eating well without spending a lot.

In this series, we try to find the healthiest options in the supermarket for the best value - and have enlisted the help of  Sunna Van Kampen , founder of Tonic Health, who went viral on social media for reviewing food in the search of healthier choices.

View this post on Instagram A post shared by Tonic Health (@tonichealth)

In this series we don't try to find the outright healthiest option, but help you get better nutritional value for as little money as possible.

Today we're looking at sweets. 

"We all love a treat now and then, but making small changes in our choices can lead to big benefits without having to give up entirely," Sunna says.  

The sugar hit

"It is important to put it into context just how impactful a bag of sweets can be," Sunna says. 

The NHS daily recommendation for sugar intake is 30g a day for adults, 24g a day for seven to 10-year-olds and 19g a day for four to six-year-olds. 

A typical bag 100g bag of sweets can contain anywhere from 40-70g of sugar - more than double your daily intake.

It's safe to say Sunna is not a fan of one of the nation's favourite brands, pointing to their 74% sugar content. 

"To put that into perspective, that's almost three-quarters of each Skittle being pure sugar, or 25 teaspoons in one 136g bag," he says.

That's three times the daily recommended intake according to the NHS. 

"While they're undeniably tasty, this sugar content can wreak havoc on your health and they are also coloured with a multitude of artificial colours."

Sky News approached Skittles' parent company Mars Inc. for comment but did not receive a reply. 

"While none are healthy, there is an opportunity to cut your sugar intake in dramatically within the Haribo range," Sunna explains. 

Here's the sugar breakdown:

  • Supermix - 55% sugar content
  • Tangfastics - 50% sugar content
  • Starmix - 47% sugar content
  • Fruitilicious - 34% sugar content
  • Zingfest - 32% sugar content (and Sunna's new favourite)

The difference becomes clear when you break that down into teaspoons of sugar. 

"Supermix has 24 teaspoons of sugar in a 175g share bag while Zingfest has only 12 in a 150g share bag," Sunna says. 

"That's a 50% reduction in your sugar content, albeit it on a slightly smaller bag size, but portion control is important because nobody is putting an open bag back in the cupboard."

A sweet alternative

Sunna recommends Rowntree's Berry Hearts if you're looking for something to try. 

"These little heart-shaped gummies do my favourite thing - remove all the yellows and oranges in favour of a bag full of reds and purples - but also only contain 35% sugar.

"That's less than half the sugar content of Skittles - and they use black carrot, carrot and hibiscus as colours in place of artificial sweeteners."

A bag of Skittles every week would lead to more than 5.2kg of sugar a year. 

"Swapping to Berry Hearts would be 2.1kg a year - a saving of over 3kg of sugar. That's a massive reduction," Sunna says. 

This shows that, even when indulging in sweets, picking ones with lower sugar content can make a big difference. 

"Reducing sugar not only helps with weight management but also lowers the risk of chronic diseases and improves overall well-being."

The nutritionist's view - from  Nichola Ludlam-Raine, d ietitian at  nicsnutrition.com ...

"Sweets and candy are undeniably a treat that many of us enjoy, but it's important to be mindful of their sugar content, especially with the significant variations between different types, in addition to the portion size and frequency in which we are consuming them. 

"Grab bags and share bags can lead us to eating more, and may distort what is a healthy portion size. 

"In addition, most of us would look on in horror if we actually saw the amount of sugar that was being added to these sweet treats.

"Choosing options with a lower sugar content, like Rowntree's Berry Hearts, can help satisfy a sweet tooth while helping us to keep below the daily free-sugar limits (free-sugar includes added sugar, and the sugar naturally occurring in honey and fruit juice too), but we mustn't be misled by these 'health halos' either - sugar is sugar, and it can easily add up if it's consumed too regularly throughout the day.

"Reducing our free-sugar intake should be a goal for many of us, and is crucial not just for weight management but for overall health, including reducing the risk of dental caries (although sugary drinks tend to take the biscuit here). 

"Remember, making small, smarter choices can lead to substantial health benefits over time. 

"Enjoy your treats, but have them in moderation (ie, not on a daily basis), choose wisely and try not to graze on sugary sweets throughout the day as your teeth won't thank you."

Read more from this series... 

UK house prices could rise slightly this year and outpace inflation over the next two years, according to a poll.

Housing market specialists surveyed by Reuters predict a 1.8% overall increase in prices for 2024, with wage growth expected to outstrip this.

A predicted drop in mortgage rates will also improve affordability for first-time buyers, they said.

Aneisha Beveridge, head of research at estate agency Hamptons , said: "Stable house prices combined with real income growth should aid affordability this year."

Following a more modest rise this year, prices will grow by 3.1% in 2025 and 4% in 2026, according to the poll carried over four weeks in May.

Specialist forecasts for 2024 ranged from a 4% drop to a 4% increase.

But despite the predicted rise, a lack of supply could prove a hurdle for househunters - especially those getting on the ladder for the first time.

Seventeen specialists polled said supply was likely to fall short of demand in the coming two to three years. 

"Construction is throttled by a lack of positive sentiment among developers. They will only build again when there are sure signs of market and political stability," said property consultant Russell Quirk .

A separate Reuters poll found that the Bank of England's base rate, which has been at 5.25% since August 2023, could drop to 4.5% by the end of the year and 3.5% by the end of 2025 - still far above the record low 0.1% during the pandemic.

Leon has launched its own coffee subscription scheme in a move to rival fellow high street brand Pret A Manger.

The fast food chain's £25-a-month "Roast Rewards" deal offers five barista-made drinks per day as well as 20% off the breakfast and all-day food menu.

It undercuts Pret's £30 a month offer, which also allows for up to five drinks a day and 20% off food. 

Customers will also be given bonus "loyalty points" when they subscribe and each time they renew. The scheme launches on 30 May through the Leon Club App.

Leon managing director Mac Plumpton said the company was "so excited to unveil the UK's most affordable coffee subscription".

Pret increased the price of its "Club Pret" subscription service by 20% to £30 a month in 2023, citing increased costs.

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how to write a research question history

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  3. How to write a history research paper Qualitative Help

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  4. Research Question: Definition, Types, Examples, Quick Tips

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  1. The Research Process

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  3. The Watkins Guide to Research Papers

  4. Evaluation and Conclusion (Science)

  5. Historical Research in Education |For M.Ed (Advance Educational Research)| By Anil Kashyap

  6. History Class 12 Objective 2025

COMMENTS

  1. PDF Formulating a Research Question

    Formulating a Research Question. Every research project starts with a question. Your question will allow you to select, evaluate and interpret your sources systematically. The question you start with isn't set in stone, but will almost certainly be revisited and revised as you read. Every discipline allows for certain kinds of questions to be ...

  2. PDF Writing History Formulating a Research Question

    Writing History Formulating a Research Question Crafting a thoughtful research question will allow you to select, evaluate, and interpret your sources systematically. The question you start with is not set in stone, and will almost certainly be revisited and revised as you read. Every discipline allows for certain kinds of questions to be asked.

  3. How to write a key inquiry question

    Most 'closed questions' start with the interrogatives 'does', 'did', 'was' or 'are'. A great key question starts with either 'what', 'why', or 'how'. 3. Base it on a historical knowledge skill. Make your question focus on one of the historical knowledge skills in history. Here is a list of the most common historical knowledge skills:

  4. Develop a Research Question

    Once you have done some background research and narrowed down your topic, you can begin to turn that topic into a research question that you will attempt to answer in the course of your research. Keep in mind that your question may change as you gather more information and as you write. However, having some sense of your direction can help you ...

  5. PDF A Brief Guide to Writing the History Paper

    (a.k.a., Making) History At first glance, writing about history can seem like an overwhelming task. History's subject matter is immense, encompassing all of human affairs in the recorded past — up until the moment, that is, that you started reading this guide. Because no one person can possibly consult all of these records, no work of ...

  6. Writing Strong Research Questions

    A good research question is essential to guide your research paper, dissertation, or thesis. All research questions should be: Focused on a single problem or issue. Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources. Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints. Specific enough to answer thoroughly.

  7. Writing Resources

    List of Resources on History Writing. Formulating a Research Question. Making the Most of Research Time. Formulating an Argument. General Writing Guidelines. Sources and Evidence. Citations and Notes. Writing a 4-7 page History Paper (David Herzberg, 1992, Wesleyan University) Harvard Writing Center Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide.

  8. Steps for Writing a History Paper

    Once you are satisfied with your argument, move onto the local level. Put it all together: the final draft. After you have finished revising and have created a strong draft, set your paper aside for a few hours or overnight. When you revisit it, go over the checklist in Step 8 one more time.

  9. Introduction to History: Creating a Hypothesis

    Source: Markus Winkler (2020) Historians begin any historical inquiry by asking big questions. From these big questions, historians develop a hypothesis (a theory) about who, what, where and why certain events took place. These questions then help to frame the process of inquiry and act as a guide for the collection of evidence.

  10. Formulating a Research Question

    Narrowing down your research question marks a crucial step towards writing a successful academic paper; a research question which is too broad can cause you to become lost in a sea of literature and sources. A (Pro)Seminar paper is always focused on a narrow research question. A handbook article, in contrast, primarily seeks to provide broad background knowledge (e.g. "England in the Late ...

  11. History: Developing a topic or research question

    Use the sources-- primary and secondary -- to guide the development of a topic or research question.; Conduct initial research in both primary and secondary sources to test the feasibility of your topic and let the available evidence mold your research question.. Search for primary documents. Historical research consists primarily of constructing arguments based on primary documents. You will ...

  12. How to Write a History Research Paper

    It is at the heart of the writing process. First, lay your first draft aside for a day or so to gain distance from it. After that break, read it over with a critical eye as you would somebody else's paper (well, almost!). You will probably find that your first draft is still quite descriptive, rather than argumentative.

  13. The Writing Center

    Most professional researchers focus on topics they are genuinely interested in studying. Writers should choose a broad topic about which they genuinely would like to know more. An example of a general topic might be "Slavery in the American South" or "Films of the 1930s.". Do some preliminary research on your general topic.

  14. Choosing a Topic & Framing a Research Question

    The following books can suggest topic ideas.. Consulting a special encyclopedia in your area of history may also inspire you with ideas for topics and research questions.. Another approach is to start with the primary sources that are available and work backwards to a research question. Browse through sources from the "Primary Sources" tab (or similar). What questions do the documents raise for

  15. PDF Writing in the Disciplines How to write a History PaPer

    history. in undergraduate courses, you'll most likely notice a distinction between review essays (often based on your responses to assigned readings from the course syllabus) and research papers (typically requiring additional research in a library or archive on a topic of your own choosing). Different types of history papers naturally

  16. 10 Research Question Examples to Guide your Research Project

    The first question asks for a ready-made solution, and is not focused or researchable. The second question is a clearer comparative question, but note that it may not be practically feasible. For a smaller research project or thesis, it could be narrowed down further to focus on the effectiveness of drunk driving laws in just one or two countries.

  17. Research Questions

    is too broad. It would take several books to answer this question. A good question is narrow enough so that you can find a persuasive answer to it in time to meet the due date for this class paper. A good historical question also demands an answer that is not just yes or no. Why and how questions are often good choices, and so are questions ...

  18. How to develop research sub-questions

    Good sub-questions should: Be 'open' questions (This means that they cannot be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer. Usually this means starting the question with: what, why, or how) Incorporate terms and concepts that you learnt during your background research. In answering each of your three sub-questions through source research, you ...

  19. A Step by Step Guide to Doing Historical Research

    Choosing a topic is the first step in the pursuit of a thesis. Below is a logical progression from topic to thesis: Close reading of the primary text, aided by secondary sources. Growing awareness of interesting qualities within the primary text. Choosing a topic for research.

  20. How to write a research rationale

    Part 1: Explain your topic choice. You should explain as clearly as possible why this particular subject interested you. Don't just say "it is interesting": give specific reasons why. The more precise you are, the better your mark will be. Useful sentence starters for explaining topic choice: I was curious to discover….

  21. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  22. Research Question

    A well-formulated research question is essential for guiding your study effectively. Follow this format to ensure clarity and precision: Specify the Topic: Begin with a broad subject area. Example: "Education technology". Narrow the Focus: Define a specific aspect or variable. Example: "Impact of digital tools".

  23. 300+ Research Paper Questions and Topics for History Class

    How to Write a Research Paper for History Class. One of the most common elements of a history-based course is the dreaded research paper. Generally despised by students due to the tremendous amount of work these assignments require, the research paper has become a staple of modern learning in both high school and college-based settings.

  24. IB History IA: 60 Examples and Guidance

    Source: IB History HL Subject Brief Conclusion. In conclusion, to do well in the IB History Internal Assessment (IA), it is essential to develop a strong research question that is focused on a historical issue or problem. Selecting appropriate and relevant sources, conducting a thorough analysis, writing a clear and well-structured conclusion, and providing a reflective statement on the ...

  25. Case Study Research Method in Psychology

    Case studies are in-depth investigations of a person, group, event, or community. Typically, data is gathered from various sources using several methods (e.g., observations & interviews). The case study research method originated in clinical medicine (the case history, i.e., the patient's personal history). In psychology, case studies are ...

  26. Money blog: 'Stealth tax' on Britons' incomes to stay until 2028

    At the same time, the higher rate has been frozen at £50,271 - anything above that is taxed at 40%. Tom Selby, director of public policy at AJ Bell, said the personal allowance, if it had been ...