Skip to Main Content

History--World: World History Research Strategy

Materials relating to general world history and historical topics that include many nations, including World War I and World War II.

World History Research Strategy

World History Research Strategy Steps

1.  Choose a Topic.  Choose a topic in which you are intersted in some way.  Conducting research on a topic, which does not interest you, makes for a boring semester.  The ideal topic is one about which you think you already know something.  Perhaps you have encountered some event, or theory, or person, or something that yu want to know more about.

The next step is to make sure the holding of the Lee Library can support your topic.  Do a quick preliminary survey using the Books & More search and the Articles & More (Collection:  History & Geography) search.  If you are coming up dry, you may want to reconsider your topic.  However, do not forget that you can supplement the Lee Library holdings through Interlibrary Loan from other research libraries.

Choose wisely, you may be spending a whole semester with this topic.

2.  Find Background Information. The items listed below will help you grasp some of the unresolved and controversial issues facing historians of World History today. Perhaps these resources will spark an interest that will lead you to research a particular question in World History. Certainly, these resources will demonstrate that World History is still a wide-open field of inquiry full of unresolved issues and research questions for future historians to answer. These items will also help you gain an understanding of the scope of your topic and identify subtopics to narrow your focus. Keep an eye out for the names of authorities or scholars who are specialists on your particular topic. Pay close attention to the terminology of your topic. This will be useful as you attempt to interpret sources. Let the bibliographies guide you to more resources. Make good use of the indexes.

  • Atlases and Maps
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies & Chronologies
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
    • Clio Notes through Historical Abstracts (EBSCO).  Click the "Clio Notes" link at the top of the search page.  Select the geographic location (Africa; Asia/East Asia; Europe; Latin America; Middle East) and the time period to access chronologies, information on historical events, and discussion topics to consider.
  • Guidebooks by Location & Topic
  • Historic Sites:
    • International Council on Monuments and Sites ICOMOS is an international organization of professionals dedicated to the conservation of the world's historic monuments and sites. ICOMOS provides a forum for professional dialogue and a vehicle for the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of information on conservation principles, techniques, and policies. This web server is designed to further this exchange and stimulate increased awareness of the world's cultural heritage at all levels.
    • International Dictionary of Historic Places. Chicago: Fitzroy, 1994. [Soc Sci Ref: CC 135 .I585]. Four volumes: 1) Americas, 2) Northern Europe, 3) Southern Europe, 4) Middle East and Africa, 5) Asia and Oceania.
    • Museum Computer Network is a guide to museums around the world.
    • Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton University Press, 1976. [Soc Sci Ref: DE 59 .P7].
    • UNESCO World Heritage List lists properties included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Each property is described and a justification for its inclusion as a world heritage site is given. Photographs and maps may be offered as well.

3.  Narrow Your Topic and Form a Research Question.   Narrow your topic by geographic area, cultural or religious group, period, subtopic, or some other means. Next, form a research question.

4.  Find Research Materials.  At this point, you have narrowed your broad topic to the subcategory of most interest to you. You have formed a research question that intrigues you. Your focus from this point forward will be on searching primary and secondary sources in hopes of finding an answer to your question. Individuals who participated in or witnessed an event and recorded that event during or immediately after the event create primary sources. Historians generally use diaries, letters, meeting minutes, and official records as primary sources. Individuals who were either not present when an event occurred or removed from it in time create secondary sources. We use secondary sources for overview information, and to help familiarize ourselves with a topic and compare that topic with other events in history. Secondary sources are a good starting point in the research process. Historians generally use history books, encyclopedias, historical dictionaries, and scholarly articles as secondary sources. Answers to historical questions are rarely simple. Answers usually result from careful interpretation of sources as the researcher makes multiple connections between sources.

5.  Evaluate & Cite Sources.  You will use both primary and secondary sources in your paper. It is important to select sources based on relevance, reliability, credibility, perspective, and timeliness. Reviews will help you evaluate your sources. It is also important that you use the style guide approved by your professor. The links below will help you evaluate and cite your sources.

6.  Form a Thesis Statement.  The thesis statement is the sentence or group of sentences that presents the main idea, or the focus, of your paper. It is a claim or contention in need of explanation, support, or development : a position about the past that readers are unlikely to accept without a good argument on your part. As Charles Darwin observed: ". . . all observation must be for or against some view, if it is to be of any service." You may begin your research with a preliminary hypothesis or educated guess. Use your hypothesis as a guide, but do not allow it to lead you astray. If your research does not support your hypothesis, be prepared to alter your hypothesis. As you alter and change your hypothesis based on the facts you find, you are formulating a thesis based on your interpretation of the facts. This is what history is all about.

7.  Write the Paper.  Writing history is more than just telling what happened, listing fact after fact. Writing history requires your interpretation of those facts. You must make some kind of judgment about the subject. You must develop a thesis or central argument. You usually introduced this argument to the reader in the form of a thesis statement. Everything included in your paper should support that thesis statement. The links below offer more information about researching and writing history.

Subject Librarian

Profile Photo
Brian Wages
1225 HBLL

Live Library Chat

Chat requires JavaScript.