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Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century: Picking a Topic

Questions for Researching Your Topic

From A Topic to Questions
(Adapted from Chapter Three of The Craft of Research)

Questions are crucial, because the starting point for any worthwhile research is always what you do not know or understand but feel you must.

Consider the standard who, what, where, why, and when questions. Don’t stop to consider the answers; simply generate as many of these questions as you can.
Now, organize your questions from these four perspectives:
  1. What are the parts of your topic and what larger whole is it a part of?
  2. What is its history and what larger history is it a part of?
  3. What kinds of categories can you find it in, and to what larger category of things does it belong?
  4. What good is it? What can you use it for?

Test Your Topic

Search Strategies


  • Start with broad searches. 

  • You can "virtually" browse the shelves by clicking on the subject heading found in the catalog tab.

  • Quotation marks:

    • Why use quotation marks? Sometimes you have to search by using phrases. In order to keep the words in phrases together, surround them in quotation marks, e.g., "progressive era".

    • This method works for searches in the catalog, databases, and on the Internet 

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