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Hist 17A: Developing a Research Question

Developing a Reserarch Question

Steely Library NKU (4:33)

Course Topics

This is a survey course of American history from the period of exploration to the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Topics include:

  • pre-Columbian America
  • Columbus and the Columbian exchange
  • early colonization in North America
  • the Puritans
  • southern English colonies
  • the Great Awakening
  • colonial wars
  • the American Revolution
  • early national U.S. government
  • Jefferson's revolution
  • industrialization and the Second Great Awakening
  • Jackson's revolution
  • manifest destiny
  • sectionalism
  • the Civil War and its aftermath

Developing Your Research Question Takes Research

Topic: American Revolution

By doing some background reading in history reference materials, textbooks, or even from a Google search, you can narrow a broad topic down to a specific research question. This question will be the one you will be answering in the course of your paper. It serves as your guide. Keep in mind, you may have to answer some other questions to help you answer your major question.

Question: How did the American Revolution differ from the Haitian Revolution?

You will have to develop questions about how they differed by doing a little more reading. For example, you could ask yourself:

  • How did these Revolutions differ politically?
  • How did these Revolutions differ economically?
  • How did these Revolutions differ socially?

After doing some more more research, you discover that the key area where these revolutions differ relate to the social hierarchy. Now you are able to form a thesis, which is basically the answer to your larger question. It also lets your reader know what areas you will be covering in the body of your paper.

Sample Thesis Statement: The Haitian Revolution was a true revolution as compared to the American Revolution because of the changes to politics, economics, and social structures, whereas the social changes made in the American Revolution were not as far-reaching as those in Haiti.


Keeping your research question in mind, if you can answer TRUE to the statements below, your research question is probably workable.

  1. It cannot simply be answered with a yes/no. 
  2. It has social significance/a problem associated with it.
  3. There is reliable evidence available to address it.
  4. It has appropriate scope.