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History 211 - The World Wars in Africa: Developing Topics

Background Information

I don't know enough about my topic to know what to search.

Print reference (encyclopedias and dictionaries) and e-reference works are general information sources that provide background information on important individuals, as well as summaries of key concepts and traditions in a variety of disciplines.

Concept Map Exercise

Goal: Use your general topic to create a concept map to organize your ideas and relationship between those ideas.

Most people do not think in a linear style when they are working creatively.  We think by linking groups of ideas together, linking a path to the final subject and topic idea.  You will be joining all that you already know with what you learn during your research to build a more complete landscape of the topic that you are working on.

Concept mapping helps you create a visual design, picture or diagram of the thinking you are engaged in so you can reflect, sort, and refocus the ideas easily.  Use this concept mapping exercise to allow your brain to "free think" along the way to the development of a research question.

Phase 1: Brainstorming 

In the center of your sheet, write down the most important word, short phrase, or symbol that relates to the subject idea you want to research.  Draw a circle around this main idea.

Take a minute or two and think about what you put down on the paper.  Thinking freely, without any expectation of the result, write or mark any and all related words, concepts, or symbols outside the circle.  Write anything you can think of that is even remotely related to the topic idea.  Come up with at least four subtopics that relate to your main idea.  For each of your four subtopics, think of three to four subdivisions that fall under the subtopics.

Now draw squares around single ideas and circles around groups of ideas.  Use lines to connect these items to the main idea and to groups of related ideas.  Use arrows to interconnect ideas or to form subgroups of ideas.  Leave lots of white space so your conecpt map has room to grow and develop.

Phase 2: Editing or refocusing

Think about the relationship of "outside of the circle" items to the center item.

Erase and replace or shorten words to some key ideas.

Relocate important items closer to each other for better organization.

Link circles with words to clarify relationships.

What are you thinking about now?  How is your topic developing?

Research Questions

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