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HIS 4990 Senior Seminar in History - Primary Sources

This guide will assist you with the HIS 4990 Research Paper

Though you will eventually need a thesis, a research question is a good place to begin investigating your topic as you figure out what your thesis will be.

You may also want to visit the Primary Source Library Books page for ideas about the kinds of primary sources you can expect to find.

Forming a Research Question

  • Choose a topic that interests you such as libraries.
  • Begin your research by consulting reference sources such as dictionaries, textbooks, or encyclopedias.
  • As you research your broad topic, write down any questions you have or areas you want to explore further to help you narrow your topic. I might narrow my topic from libraries to libraries during the Great Depression
  • Discuss your topic with friends and family, solicit their opinions on your topic.
  • Consider areas of disagreement--between the experts or between friends and family.
  • Compare the issue to a current controversy. You can find examples in the Issues and Controversies database.
Once you've gotten an overview of your broad topic and thought about areas for further investigation, you can pose a research question. After looking into librarians during WWI, my research question might be something like How did the Works Progress Administration's Pack Horse Library program help document and preserve rural Appalachian culture during the 1930s? or Why were so many libraries able to remain open during the Great Depression despite economic challenges?
As you progress through the research process, you may discover a new aspect to your topic that you would like to explore or change your opinion on the topic.  It's natural to adjust your topic based on your research.  Allowing your research to guide you, rather than forcing your research to fit with your opinion, will lead to a much stronger paper.





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