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HIST 2231 - T. Mendoza: Topics & Background Info

Assignment Guidelines

Write a historical analysis research paper that is 6 to 10 pages. A historical analysis paper is similar to an argumentative essay. The topic should be something you can analyze and prove an idea--do not summarize your topic. Your can choose any topic, idea, or event, that is related to US History prior to 1877. You must have at least 4 scholarly sources. Scholarly sources include books, articles, primary sources, etc. You can use encyclopedias to get background information, but it will not count as a scholarly source. If you use websites, they must be from .gov, .edu, or .org sites. You can use two websites as scholarly sources.

Developing a topic

Developing a research question is a process. To help with the process, look through the table of contents of your textbook for ideas. Find a topic that you are interested in learning more about. After you choose a broad topic, narrow it down to a specific group of people, event, or concept. Below are some suggestions:


  • Women
  • African Americans
  • Native Americans
  • Mexican/Hispanic citizens
  • Chinese Immigrants
  • Farmers, miners, soldiers

Economics, Politics, Culture

  • Slavery
  • Colonization
  • Industrialization
  • Consumers
  • Religion

Use the 5 Ws to narrow your topic:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where
  • Why

The Five W criteria can add context to your investigation and turn a topic into a research question.

  • The WHO describes an individual or select population you are investigating.
  • The WHAT describes a specific aspect or element that directly impacts the WHO.
  • WHEN is a time frame in which you might limit your investigation
  • WHERE is a geographical location where you might focus. 
  • The WHY is the reason why this investigation is important or meaningful. The WHY is not necessarily a part of the final research question but more informative of the scope of the project in general.


Choosing a topic

This brief tutorial will show you how to pick your topic and narrow it down so you can find relevant sources.


This tutorial from Arizona State University that will walk you through the process of Developing a Research or Guiding Question.

You can use your Taft College ID# to complete the quiz at the end of the tutorial.