As you embark on a new research project, you may find yourself with a range of different ideas or topics that you might like to explore. Your ideas may be abstract and general ("I'd love to look into World War I" or "I want to know more about what women in Europe were doing during the Enlightenment period.") but in order for you to conduct research, review the literature, construct your argument, and finish your paper by your deadlines, you will need to learn how to narrow your topic to a specific, answerable question.
Finding a Topic
You may already have an idea of what you would like to research: a people or group, an event or phenomenon, or a place at a specific point in history. If you are still searching for ideas, here are some ways you might uncover new topics to explore:
It's good to not only consider a topic related to your course but one that relates to your personal or professional interests - this will make the research process more exciting and fun for you! Professors can also very easily tell when a student has enjoyed the topic; that enthusiasm will shine through the writing and make for a better paper all around.
Once you've found a topic or two that you are interested in exploring, you will need to create a list of key terms that you can use when searching in databases or for primary sources. For research in history and the humanities, you're going to want to consider a range of things when building a key word list, including:
You will also want to keep this keyword list in mind for when you are searching for both primary and secondary sources.
Check out the video below to get a sense on how to generate key words for your topic.