What is a insightful research question about the 19th or 20th century? 

Expert Answers
d-white5309 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An insightful research question is one that demonstrates a certain amount of familiarity with or knowledge about a particular subject. These questions show the reader or audience that you've carefully considered and given critical thought to the various sides of your subject and arrived at a research question that will produce valuable and or beneficial results.

When developing a research question about the 19th or 20th century, there are a number of very important things to keep in mind. First, the period in question covers two hundred years, which is an enormous period of time. Moreover, for many cultures the 19th and early 20th century was an era of tremendous social, economic, and political transformation. This should give you a lot of options to choose from, but you want to be be careful not to get too overwhelmed or make generalizations.

Second, you'll need to narrow your focus to a particular thing, person, or region of the world. For instance, the experiences of Chinese citizens in the 19th century was very different from the experiences of Americans. With that in mind, your first objective is to decide who or what you want to research and for what period of time. In general, you'll probably want to limit your scope to a particular region and era. For example, the United States underwent unprecedented changes in the mid-to-late decades of the 19th century. In light of that, you might try to connect the American events, inventions, or movements of the late 19th century to something you find interesting. If you're interested in the African-American civil rights movement, for example, you could focus your research on the 19th century abolition movement and how it intersected with other social movements like feminism and Native American activism.

If this were your area of interest, your research question might be something like "how did the participation of white Americans in the abolition movement influence non-black participation in the modern struggle for civil rights?" This question demonstrates a familiarity with the long history of social activism in the United States and recognizes that success and failure has depended on the participation of other races, ethnicities, and so on.

To summarize, there are literally hundreds of things you could focus on from the period of time in question. The objective is to form a research question that reflects critical thinking and an awareness of the nuances of your subject. Once you narrow your scope in terms of geography, time period, and subject, try to make connections to modern issues or events.