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History Seminar Research Paper Guide: Selecting a Topic

Select a topic

Select a topic

  1. Scan your textbook and class notes for broad topic ideas.

  2. Narrow your topic to something manageable

    1. If your topic is too broad you will find too much information and not be able to focus

    2. Background reading can help you choose and limit the scope of your topic

  3. Review the guidelines set by your instructor

  4. Think of the who, what, when, where and why questions:

    1. WHY did you choose the topic?  What interests you about it?  Do you have an opinion about the issues involved?
    2. WHO are the information providers on this topic?  Who might publish information about it?  Who is affected by the topic?  Do you know of organisations or institutions affiliated with the topic?
    3. WHAT are the major questions for this topic?  Is there a debate about the topic?  Are there a range of issues and viewpoints to consider?
    4. WHERE is your topic important: at the local, national or international level?  Are there specific places affected by the topic?
    5. WHEN is/was your topic important?  Is it a current event or an historical issue?  Do you want to compare your topic by time periods?
  5. Discuss ideas for your paper with your course instructor

  6. Discuss ideas for your paper with a librarian. If your topic is detailed or obscure, set up a research consultation