Research center

Research process

Six steps to successful research

  1. Define the task
    • What is my question or topical area?
    • Who is the intended audience?
       
  2. Identify the information needed
    • What type of information will help answer my question? (Data, memoirs, historical analysis, current news etc.)
    • What would previous research on this topic look like? (Research papers, oral presentations, infographics, etc.)
       
  3. Select sources
    • Where should I look for relevant information? (Scientific data sites, newspapers, a neighbor or relative, a digital archive)
    • What authoritative sources are available? (Books, databases, library research guides)
       
  4. Analyze content
    • I have all this information - now what do I do? How do I organize my research?
    • How can I tie together all that I have learned?
    • What have I learned that might make me reframe my research question?
       
  5. Present findings
    • What is the most effective way for me to show others what I learned? (Written paper, oral presentation, video, poster)
       
  6. At all points: evaluate the process
    • ​​Do I have enough background (tertiary) information to be able to search successfully?
    • Am I using the correct search terms?
    • Do I need to try a different type of source?
    • Has my question changed as a result of my research?
    • Do I need more supporting evidence?
    • Do I have a counter argument?

RT vs RQ

Research Topic: the subject you are interested in. This might be a time period, an event, a person - anything you find interesting.

Research Question: the question you are attempting to answer in your research paper. This should be debatable, with ample evidence of historian disagreement on at least two aspects of your question. 

Your research question should not be one that can be answered with a simple yes or no, and should not result in a list (i.e. "what were the causes of the US Civil War?").  

Deciding a research topic

Help! I don't know what I want to write about.

If you're struggling to find a research topic, look at these sites for ideas: