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HIST 2210 - J. Altenhofel: Topics & Background Sources

A guide to library resources for World History

Choosing a topic

Picking a topic is research! Topics start very broad and then need to be narrowed down to a manageable size. For example, the broad topic for this assignment could be Greek civilization; however, there are hundreds of books, articles, and films about Greek civilizations. Choose an event, period or era within this broad topic to focus your research on. For example, choose the Bronze Age or the Dark Ages, Archaic Period or Classical Period, the Peloponnesian War or the Hellenistic Period. Then locate resources that are about that specific period. You can also choose to focus on gender or race, person or place, activity or movement. Try a variety of topics and see what kind of results you get. If you get very few results, change the topic and try again.

Check out this brief tutorial from North Carolina State University


Here are some suggested topics

  • Afterlife
  • Agriculture
  • Architecture
  • Cities / States
  • Civilization
  • Crusades
  • Culture
  • Dynasties
  • Empires
  • Food
  • Identity
  • Language
  • Painting / art / sculpture
  • Peoples
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • War and Conflict

Background Sources

Background sources include subject encyclopedias and books that provide facts that are known and accepted by experts. These sources are helpful in identifying topics and narrowing them down to a specific event, time, or group of people. They can also help you discover keywords for further searching. Below are recommendations for background information.