Establish some research questions
Conducting historical research will be much easier if it is directed towards some clear and realistic objectives. One way to define these objectives is to establish some questions that your research will help answer.
These questions can take different forms, but they should narrow your field of vision and provide you with a clear purpose.
Good examples will:
- direct your attention towards certain problems;
- be achievable with the resources you have available; and
- encourage an original contribution to the field of study.
Consider a researcher who is interested in the history of a political party. They could be interested in many aspects of the organisation, but they cannot hope to investigate them all. So, some questions that draw attention to particular chronological periods and problems will be useful. These questions could, for instance, explore a particularly important moment in the party’s history:
- Why did the British Labour party win the 1945 general election?
- Did the Second World War change political attitudes?
- What were the political consequences of the 1945 election?
All of the above questions are closely related and will narrow the researcher’s focus . . .