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History: The Research Process

Infiniti Catalogue

APA Referencing Style


Key Words

Remember to keep the purpose of your assignment in mind when thinking about the wording of your question.

In general however, a good research question requires you to analyse an issue or problem. How and Why questions are therefore more useful than What or describing questions. Other useful words you might use are; Critique; Argue, Examine and Evaluate.


Searching For Information

Searches Require a Strategy

1. Define parameters:

  • Identify your topic
  • Read a small number of texts to familiarise yourself with the key debates in academic writing on the topic. Reading in order to develop a research question is different from reading in order to answer it.
  • Begin to narrow down your topic. Consider any specific issues and key debates that exist within the topic.
  • Think about the value of focusing on a particular period of time, a particular geographical location or group of people.
  • What is that you want to say in your assignment? What are the key points and arguments you want to get across? Which subtopic, timeframe or other limitation would allow you to make these points in the most effective way?
  • Define key terms (consider synonyms and antonyms to broaden scope)

2. Determine scope of research:

  • how many articles
  • how old (date range)
  • how comprehensive/wide will the search be (Australian only/multiple countries)

3. What types of articles: theoretical, review, commentary, empirically based, historical - blogs, websites, videos etc

4. Use databases!

5. Begin the search

6. Generate articles, begin notemaking and create a reference list

Developing A Research Question

Developing a strong research question takes time and effort. It is reliant that you have logical and informed background information on your topic. You will need to keep coming back to the question and ask yourself is this feasible? Use the following example to draft your question.

This investigation + explores/reports on/seeks to understand + how/what/why + idea/problem/activity + for who + at where

Another approach is to  apply Backward Design Principles to question drafting:
What is the answer/outcome/learning we want to get? How will we get there? What do I need to specifically ask to get to that answer (question parameters)?

State Library of NSW: HSC History Extension

Top tips and award-winning essays from HSC History Extension students - The State Library of New South Wales presents some frequently asked questions with expert teachers Jonathon Dallimore and Sally Johnstone. Links are also provided to award-winning essays, originally published in the History Teachers Association NSW quarterly journal, Teaching History.

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Notemaking Scaffold


JStor is a digital library of academic journals, books and primary sources. To gain access students must create an account. This database is particularly useful for senior students wanting to access academic journals for authoritative content. 

Gale High School

Top Tips from Past Students