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Course: History 1, Africa (2024): Creating research questions

Research questions

Developing a strong research question guides your research and helps in the development of your thesis. You can review the lesson on research questions on the Canvas History 1 Research Module 5: Research Questions page.

What is a research question?

Developing a research questions

This is a great video on developing strong research questions.

Research question examples

This website gives some really helpful ideas for writing research questions.

Research questions guide your research and analysis. These questions go beyond what can be answered by yes or no and surpass factual questions that can be easily answered with a statement of fact. Research questions should focus on how and why things happened. These questions will help you focus your research and develop your argument as you progress throughout your project.

From A Pocket Guide to Writing in History by Mary Lynn Rampolla:

  • Avoid questions that elicit simple descriptions, such as "How did the railroads expand in the US in late 19th/early 20th century?" Better might be, "In what ways did the development of the US railroads in late 19th/early 20th century affect Mexican migration?"
  • Avoid questions that are too broad, such as "What was the Mexican Revolution?" Being more specific will help, such as, "How did the Mexican Revolution change migration from Mexico to the US?"
  • Avoid questions that are too narrow that won't take you very far, such as, "Did the 1917 Immigration Act affect the demand for Mexican labor?" Instead try, "How did the governments of both countries respond to the migration of Mexicans to the United States in the late 19th/early 20th century?"
  • Avoid speculative questions, such as "What would have happened if the Mexican Revolution hadn't happened?"

Example research questions

  1. How did the development of the railroads in the late 19th and early 20th century impact migration from Mexico to the U. S. during this period?
  2. Why were Mexicans migrating to the U.S. for work in the late 19th and early 20th century? How long were they staying in the U.S. (permanently or temporarily)?
  3. Why were companies/sectors of the economy recruiting immigrants from Mexico to work? What other countries were workers coming from?
  4. How did the governments of both countries respond to the migration of Mexicans to the United States?

Thesis Statement

Here is an example of a thesis statement:

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mexican immigrant labor was important to the rapid expansion of many United States’ industries including railroads, agriculture, mining and manufacturing, particularly in the Southwest. Compared to other immigrant workers, Mexicans were paid less, and were both more flexible and more stable, which, despite the institutional and social prejudice shown against them for these very factors, positioned them as a desirable workforce that became integral to the economic growth of the U. S.