Over-Arching Questions for the PSP – a few examples

A good over-arching question for the PSP will have a little “tension” to it — indicating something to PROVE. But it sets forth an exploration such that the writer will eventually develop a “claim” that she then has to “support with evidence.”

  1. How might the increase in isolation felt by many adults in American society be linked to innovations in communications systems?
  2. To what extent might state taxes in Virginia make it a favorable location to be an entrepreneur (as compared to ___ state?)
  3. To what extent might increases in screen time benefit learners who experience poverty?
  4. How did the pattern of post-Civil War black migration in the United States contribute to the increasing success of the Democratic Party in certain locations within the US?
  5. How have social factors influenced the evolution of the Republican Party’s campaign messages since 1982?
  6. Which forces were more impactful in reshaping lifestyles of Americans during the Great Depression: advertising or radio programming?
  7. How did the AIDS crisis of the late 19th century provide a catalyst for the Gay Rights movement?
  8. To what extent might the development of medical insurance in the US have resulted in better health among employed individuals compared to people without jobs?
  9. To what extent is psychological stress a factor in inhibiting learning?
  10. How did the entertainment industry enhance political protest and ultimately bring an end to the Vietnam War?
  11. To what extent has the increase in power of the pharmaceutical industry affected American politics?
  12. To what extent might opportunities for women in sports since 1970 have impacted their participation in higher education?
  13. To what extent did immigration to America favor Northern Europeans over people from other parts of the world in ( _#__ decade)?
  14. How have the patterns of immigration to the United States from Asia differed from patterns from other parts of the world in the 20th century?
  15. To what extent did European artistic thought re-shape American art in the early 20th century?
  16. To what extent did Cold War tensions lead to the “Red Scare” and curtailment of American liberties in Hollywood in the 1950s?
  17. To what extent did drug use lead to alternative and non-traditional forms of artistic expression in the 1960s?
  18. To what extent is early 21st century mass incarceration shaping African-American communities and the expectations for successful futures of African-American children?
  19. How has the Right to Life Movement succeeded to affect laws about abortion since the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court case?
  20. How did racist laws related to housing establish ghettos and institutionalize segregation in Chicago in the 20th century?
  21. To what extent have untreated mental health issues contributed to gun violence and school shootings, and politics/legislation surrounding gun control?
  22. Given a particularly famous trial or crime (you name it– OJ Simpson trial???) exposed defects in the country’s system of justice?
  23. How have criminal investigations been made more successful by improved scientific understanding?

A word about these examples:

  • If a student’s OAQ starts out too broad, it can be narrowed in the course of the research.  For example, if you support your initial question with several focus questions that also start with prime questions (How, Why, Which… To What extent…) then you might abandon the OAQ and adopt one of your FQ’s as a new and sufficiently broad OAQ.  That’s why a researcher should always begin researching with her favorite FQ!
  • Some examples above discuss an entire century of history.  It might be more focused to select an important decade or a transitional few years within a century for your PSP.  You can learn about important periods of transition when you read an overview of your topic in a REFERENCE source. One of the best things students can do to find FASCINATING focus of their research topic is to see what authors of books in our library have done to narrow their study to particular cases and events in history.  Head to the shelves!
  • Instead of researching an entire country, explore the development of a region.  Instead of researching an entire citizenry, focus in on one gender, one social class, one age group (possibly in comparison to others.)  Instead of researching a long event in history (for example, the Civil War period, research a pivotal event within that time period.
  • As you embark on your PSP, you should begin to imagine what might be the *PERFECT primary sources* to locate as evidence for your understandings.  Some topics are well resourced with primary sources; other topics can be just too tough to tackle while you are still in high school.  Discuss your resource needs with the librarian as early as possible.  She knows about collections of primary sources that are available online and has listed “goldmines” at the bottom of your research guide.