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History: Research Paper Basics: Developing Paper Topic

This guide is designed to help history students successfully complete their next research paper assignment

Choosing a topic for your paper can be challenging. This page links to information to help you choose and develop your paper topic.

Choosing a Topic

Starting your Research

Review lecture notes and course materials to find possible topic ideas. Be sure to choose a topic that piques your interest.

State your topic as a broad question. What caused the Industrial Revolution?

Think about your topic from various perspectives. Make notes on related and interrelated topics. For example, how did the industrial revolution change the lives of Americans? How did it impact African Americans in particular? How did it change our economy? How did our government respond?

Refine your question. In what ways did the Industrial Revolution change the everyday lives of Americans?

Identify key concepts and their related academic disciplines. Concepts: Industrial Revolution, Causes, Impacts, Historiography. Disciplines: History, American Studies, Sociology, American History, Economics.

Start your search with a reference resource that can provide background information and familiarize you with the terminology on your topic; reference materials often lead you to secondary and primary sources on your topic. Encyclopedias and multi-volume historical sets are good reference sources to help you identify key times, events and people as you start your research. See other sections of this guide for more on finding reference materials and keyword searching.

Use a thesaurus to help you find synonyms for the key terms and ideas you discover while researching your topic and be sure to keep a evolving list of terms to use as you go.

Developing a Research Question