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Prof. Vecchio - 20th Century U.S. History - SPRING 2021: Developing a Research Question and Search Strategy

Developing a Research Question

  • Understand the assignment!     
  • What are the requirements?
  • Use analytical thinking and strong arguments.

Developing a Research Question or Thesis:

Questions to consider while doing your research:

               What types of sources will you need?

                      Ex. Articles from library databases? Newspapers? Online articles? eBooks? Print? Newsreels? Images? Oral history? Reports? Government publications? Websites?

                      Ex. Primary sources? Secondary sources? Tertiary sources?      

               How will you search for these sources?

                      Ex. What is your search strategy? Concepts and keywords?

Develop a Search Strategy

Search Strategies: using keywords, synonyms / related concepts and truncation:

Relevant keywords are necessary for effective research. You can start by taking keywords from your thesis statement.

There are other ways to develop additional keywords.

1. Use synonyms and related concepts

         Think of other words that mean the same or similar things as the words in your question. It can help to brainstorm before you begin your search.

  • Civil Rights OR Civil Rights Movement OR Freedom Riders
  • Counter-culture OR Hippies OR anti-establishment
  • Bay of Pigs OR Cuban Missile Crisis  
  • Nazis OR Nazi Party OR Brown Shirts OR Storm Troopers
  • Prohibition OR 18th Amendment OR Volstead Act
  • Dust Bowl OR Migrant workers OR "Oakies"

Look at the subject terms in your search results and see if you can use any of those.

2. Use truncation:

       You can broaden your search results by typing an asterisk symbol  *  at end of the root of a word. When you do this, the computer will search for alternative endings for the word you have typed. 

       For example, typing activi* will yield results for:

              Activist(s)    activism     activity      active    

       Typing 196* or 196*0s  will yield results for 

               All the years of the 1960s

3. Create parameters

            Limit your topic to a specific time period or geographical region.

             Ex. Germany in the 1930s

4. Refine your topic

             Start with a broad topic and narrow it down by thinking of some of the issues associated with it. 

             Ex. Broad topic:  Vietnam War 

                   Narrowed topics Ho Chi Min Trail, Laos, North Vietnamese Army, Viet Minh

                   ThesisThe use of the Ho Chi Min Trail through Laos by the Viet Minh made it impossible for the United States to win the Vietnam War.

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