Skip to Main Content

HIST 106 - World Civilization to the 16th Century

Preliminary Reading

Top Picks for Preliminary Reading @MJC

Be Strategic: Develop Research Questions

Once you've completed your preliminary reading and know something about your topic, you're ready to develop the story you want to tell about your topic. To do that, you need a research strategy.

Research as Strategic Exploration:

You want to approach your research as a quest to uncover answers to questions that didn't exist before. Seeking information to answer research questions is fun and it helps you explore your topic fully and focus it more specifically.

Your research questions help you develop a plan or roadmap for you to follow as you research.

The video below explains why you should always begin your search for relevant, credible information by creating a list of research questions that will drive your research.

Know What You Want to Explore

Why Focus:

To make your topic manageable and meaningful you need to focus on particular aspects of it. You'll get too much information if you stick with an overly-broad concept like black death; you'll get too little information if you just try to answer a narrow question like What were the causes of the black death.

Your research questions can help you focus your topic by identifying different aspects of it you want to explore.


Even if your teacher gives you specific questions to answer, you'll need to break them down into smaller questions so that you can explore your teacher's question thoroughly. For example:

Teacher’s Question:

Write on the role of the urban working class in the French Revolution.

Student’s Exploration:

  • What is the history of the French Revolution?
    • When did it take place?
    • What were the driving forces that lead to the French Revolution?
    • What was the lasting impact of the French Revolution?
  • What characterized the urban working class before the French Revolution?
    • What employment opportunities were available to them?
    • How were families structured?
    • What challenges did the urban working class face before the French Revolution?
  • What role did the urban working class play in the French Revolution?
    • Did the urban working class have a particular spokesperson championing their cause?
    • What goals did the urban working class hope to achieve through the French Revolution?
    • Did the urban working class meet the goals they had for the French Revolution?
    • What changes did the French Revolution create for the urban working class?
    • Would the outcome of the French Revolution have been different without the urban working class?