Blog post 2: Three possible research questions

Watch this brief video from the University of Cincinnati:

Then take a look at this writing guide from the University of Michigan: How do I decide what I should argue?

Keeping in mind the components of a good research question from the video and the guide, as well as the examples from Amanda Shendruk and Tara Menon, write down three potential research questions that you would be interested in exploring for your semester research project. After each of your three questions, write a short paragraph explaining why you are interested in the topic. You have to write three, but if there is one that you are particularly interested in, let me know that in your paragraph. You do not yet need to have an idea of what, exactly, you want to argue about your topic, but if you do, let me know what you are thinking.

Your question can be on any humanities topic–that is, anything related to history, literature, arts, and culture. Your question should be a question of definition, cause, or comparison. Avoid questions of fact, value, or policy, since those may lead you down the wrong path. I will provide you with feedback and recommendations via Blackboard, and I reserve the right to veto a research question if I sense it will not lead to a successful project. Also, ideally your question would imply both a quantitative and qualitative component–that is, researching the question should involve interpreting both numerical data and historical sources.

Here are some general kinds of topics that may lead to good questions:

  • Local history: Anything having to do with a town or a specific location
  • The history of any American war and/or the experience of veterans
  • A biography of an historical figure
  • An interpretation of a novel, film, or artwork
  • A comparison of two or more novels, films, or artworks


I would like your three questions and explanation paragraphs to look like this:

What was the most popular animal in Victorian literature?

I’m interested in looking at animals in Victorian literature. I would like to get counts of how often different names of animals show up in literature of the time in order to measure their relative popularity. I could trace those counts over time to see if their popularities changed during the Victorian era (1837-1901). I could also see if there were differences between the US and the UK at the time. I could pull out a few representative examples to closely analyze, and might also look at historical sources to see why some animals might have been more popular than others.