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World History and Western Civilization: Preparing a Research Project

Selecting a Topic

Deciding on the right topic for your history research paper takes time. Make sure you have a good understanding of the assignment. Review it carefully. If you're not clear about something or have questions about the assignment, ask your teacher as soon as possible. Next, follow these steps: 

  • Scan your textbook or lecture notes to spark ideas.
  • Choose a topic that truly interests you. 
  • Read more about it in your textbook or consult a reference book such as an encyclopedia. The library has some excellent history sources.

Narrowing a Topic

If your topic is too broad, try to focus on a specific aspect.

Let's say you would like to write about the Black Death of medieval Europe, but don't know where to begin. Break it down into categories, asking the five W’s:

  • Who? Victims regardless of socioeconomic class
  • What? Disease carried by fleas devastated the population of Europe and caused the massive upheaval of society and culture
  • Where? Europe (region), England (country), London (city)
  • When? 1300s or medieval period, specifically 1347-1351
  • Why? Contagion, epidemic, unsanitary conditions, no effective medical treatment

After you have thought through your topic, try phrasing it into a research question: How did the Black Death change Europe's economy? A concise question will help to you to stay focused during your research and can even lead to a solid thesis statement.

Jot down terms or keywords related to your topic. Use the keywords as you search for information. 

  • disease, epidemic, black death, plague, blue sickness
  • consumers, customers, business owners, merchants, employer, peasants, nobility
  • inflation, production, trade, goods, money, economic, sales
  • labor, hours, occupation, trades, work, guild
  • industry, mills, farms, mines
  • city, urban, country, rural, village, estate, land
  • reform, impact, reaction, progress, change, movement, technology, innovation
  • law, legal, act, legislation, government, edict, charter, proclamation