Larry Slawson received his master's degree at UNC Charlotte. He specializes in Russian and Ukrainian history.
How to Write a Research Paper for History Class
One of the most common elements of a history-based course is the dreaded research paper. Generally despised by students due to the tremendous amount of work these assignments require, the research paper has recently become a staple of modern-learning in both high school and college-based settings. Why is this the case?
Teachers and professors, alike, assign research papers for a number of reasons. For starters, these assignments encourage students to examine particular historical events in an in-depth manner. This is crucial for advanced learning, as classroom time is limited and often prevents further study on particular subjects. In addition, papers force students to organize their thoughts in a well-written manner, while simultaneously offering them the opportunity to reflect on a specific issue through their own thought processes. In summary, research papers offer students a wide-array of life skills that can prepare them for nearly any professional endeavor they wish to accomplish.
How to Select a Research Paper Topic
One of the most difficult aspects of writing a research paper is the selection of a research topic and thesis. This article provides its readers with a list of different research topics (and questions) in the field of World History. While these topics and questions offer good starting points for additional research, students are encouraged to actively rewrite/reword these ideas to fit their own particular styles and thesis statements.
Components of a Good Research Paper
What is a Thesis Statement?
A thesis statement is the most critical component to a research paper. Within one or two sentences, a writer’s thesis should serve as a “road map” to their overall paper through a summarization (and preview) of your essay’s main purpose. This usually involves a question, followed by the writer’s overall interpretation and/or point-of-view of the subject matter at hand. Interpretations, in turn, should be disputable and presented in the form of an argument.
In general, a thesis statement is usually presented at the end of your first paragraph (following a brief overview of your paper’s subject matter). In the paragraphs that follow, writers should gather and organize evidence which aims to persuade readers “of the logic of your interpretation” (unc.edu). Supporting arguments should, in turn, be substantiated by an array of credible primary and secondary sources.
What is a Primary Source?
A primary source refers to sources that are “immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic” (umb.libguides.com). As a result, primary documents are typically resources that were created during the time period involved with your research. Examples of primary sources include newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts of an event, speeches, diaries, letters, or interviews from individuals. Photographs, videos, and audio recordings from the event are also acceptable primary sources and can be utilized for research purposes.
What is a Secondary Source?
In contrast to primary sources, a secondary source refers to interpretations (or analyses) of a specific event. Examples of a secondary source include scholarly articles and journals written on a specific topic, documentaries, and scholarly books (such as biographies).
Research Paper Quote
"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose."
— Zora Neale Hurston
How to Select a Research Paper Topic and Question
One of the most difficult aspects of a research paper is the selection of a research topic. Depending on your particular classroom situation, students will sometimes be provided a list of topics by their teacher (or professor) to work from. However, in more advanced classes, instructors generally leave topic selection to their students in order to facilitate mastery of the research process.
Because the selection of a topic can be time consuming, students should begin their search for potential subject areas as soon as possible. Brainstorm particular interests you may have, being sure to write down your topics when they come to mind. Topics should start out broad in the development phase of your research, and will become more focused as you narrow your search to specific individuals or events within a particular field of history. An example of this can be seen with the selection of “Ancient Greek History” as a topic area of interest. Writing on Ancient Greece, in itself, is far too broad as you would never be able to cover its entirety within a single research paper.
Once you discover a topic that interests you, individuals should then discuss these ideas with their teacher/professor before moving on with the process.
Questions to Ask Yourself When Selecting a Research Topic:
- Does my research paper topic meet the assignment requirements? This question seems obvious, but is too often overlooked by students during the topic selection process. Always be sure to discuss your research interests with your professor or teacher. They can provide constructive feedback regarding whether or not they feel the topic is a worthwhile endeavor to pursue.
- Is this topic interesting? Finding a topic that is interesting to you is an extremely important factor to consider during the selection process. If you find that the topic is boring, the research process will not be fun and engaging (and will likely showcase itself in your overall paper and final grade).
- Is my topic too broad? Always be sure to narrow your topic as much as possible. Failure to do so can result in a topic that is too broad, making the research process extremely difficult. Likewise, extremely narrow topics can present their own challenge as well, leaving you with little primary and secondary sources to use for your research.
What is the Difference Between a Research Paper Topic and Question?
Now that you have decided on a research topic, it is crucial to understand that a topic is far different than the research question itself. Topics refer to the general field (or area) that your research paper will focus on. Research questions, on the other hand, reflect a specific issue (question) that your paper will answer regarding your topic area. For example, your topic may be on the Ukraine Famine of 1932. A good research question reflecting this subject would be: “To what extent was the Ukraine Famine of 1932 a result of genocidal intent”? See the difference between the two?
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What is a Historiography?
A historiography paper is an analysis of interpretations that have been written by historians on a specific topic. For most students in high school or early college, the inclusion of a historiography section is usually not required for your research paper; however, it is important to note that advanced history classes often necessitate them for the research process.
If a historiography is part of your research assignment, students should compare and contrast historical interpretations, demonstrating how specific pieces build upon one another (or how they break from prior historians). In this sense, a historiography is more than a simple listing of historical interpretations; rather, it is a critical examination of available literature and secondary source materials.
Historiography papers are a critical element of historical research papers, as they help the student identify particular areas of research that are lacking (on their particular topic of interest). This, in turn, offers students valuable insight into research paper topics that can be explored in greater detail, while simultaneously helping students to stay away from topics that have been covered significantly by other historians. After all, a good research paper should always strive to be as unique as possible, offering insight into a subject matter that hasn’t been explored.
History Paper Questions and Topics
Now that we have established how to write a research paper for history class (along with its necessary components), it is time to turn our attention toward potential questions and topics. The following list provides over 300+ questions to help you navigate through this particular stage of the writing process. Each of the questions are arranged by historical eras, civilizations/societies, wars, as well as social, political, and economic issues. As stated before, it is vital that students reword these essay questions to fit their own interests and specific assignments. Teachers may also find this section useful for providing specific research assignments to their students.
Ancient Greece Research Ideas
- To what extent was Plato influenced by Socrates in his philosophical views?
- In what ways can parallels be drawn between Plato’s “Theory of the Forms” and Christianity?
- In what ways does the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle reflect Ancient Greek society?
- Compare and contrast the social, economic, and political values of ancient Sparta and Athens. In what ways were the two societies similar? To what extent were they different?
- What impact did the Peloponnesian War have on Ancient Greece?
- Was the Peloponnesian War an inevitable event? Why or why not?
- Why did Sparta win the Peloponnesian War? Explain.
- Assuming that King Leonidas’s “300 Spartans” had defeated the Persians at Thermopylae, what impact would this victory have had upon the overall war between Greece and the Persian Empire?
- Discuss ancient concepts of “justice.” To what extent are they comparable to modern-day practices?
- To what extent was Greek culture (and customs) influenced by religion? In what ways was their religion a reflection of cultural norms? Explain.
- In what ways were men and women treated differently in Ancient Greece? Did the treatment of women differ from other ancient societies from this period? Explain.
- To what extent did geography affect Ancient Greece’s development?
- To what extent did Greek culture influence the Roman Empire?
- Discuss the role of women in Greek mythology. In what ways are women portrayed? Is this portrayal accurate of Greek society as a whole?
- What is the role of women in the Odyssey? Compare and contrast Penelope, Calypso, and Anticleia.
- Discuss the philosophies of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Which of these three philosophers was the most influential?
- A number of scholars attribute the birth of democracy to Ancient Greece. To what extent do you agree with this assessment?
- Compare and contrast the social, economic, and political structures of Athens and Sparta. Which of the two city-states was the most effective? Explain your answer.
- Discuss the overall significance of mythology to Ancient Greece. Why were so many myths created? Why were they important? Explain.
- Discuss the significance of Greek architecture. To what extent did their early designs influence future generations and civilizations? Explain.
Ancient Egypt History Topics and Questions
- To what extent did the burial practices of Ancient Egypt influence modern day practices of embalming and burying?
- In what ways can parallels be drawn between the religious practices of Egypt and other world religions (i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism)?
- In what ways did Egypt’s environment influence its overall development?
- Why were the pyramids built? What purpose did they serve? Are current hypotheses regarding their construction incorrect? Why or why not?
- To what extent was Egyptian society dependent upon the Nile river?
- In what ways did geography affect the development of ancient Egyptian society?
- Discuss the role of women in Ancient Egypt. To what extent did their role differ with other ancient civilizations from this era?
- Why was the Twelfth Dynasty considered a “golden age” for Egypt?
- To what extent did the Egyptian belief in the afterlife affect its religious ideas, ceremonies, and practices? Explain.
- Discuss the major achievements of Ancient Egypt. In your opinion, which achievement was the most important and influential? Explain.
Ancient China History Topics
- To what extent did the Silk Road influence Chinese development?
- In what ways did Chinese geography affect its overall development?
- Discuss the role of women in Ancient China. To what extent did their role differ with other ancient civilizations? How were they similar?
- In your opinion, which achievement by Ancient China was the most important and influential? Why?
Japanese History Questions
- In what ways did Japan’s geographical features influence its overall development? To what extent did it hinder its development? Explain.
- To what extent did the role of women in Ancient Japan differ from other civilizations from this era? How were they similar?
- In your opinion, what was the greatest social, economic, or political achievement devised by Ancient Japan?
- Discuss the role of samurai in Japanese society. To what extent were these warriors similar to knights in Medieval Europe? How did they differ?
Roman History Questions
- What factors contributed to Alexander the Great’s success as a military leader?
- To what extent was the Roman Empire influenced by Greek civilization?
- Why was the fall of Rome such a pivotal point in European history? What were some of the economic, social, and political repercussions of the collapse?
- Was the fall of the Roman Empire inevitable? Could it have been avoided?
- To what extent did Christianity impact the Roman Empire?
- In what ways was Rome influenced by Cleopatra?
- To what extent did geography impact the expansion of the Roman Empire?
- In your opinion, what was the most important social, economic, or political achievement of the Roman Empire? Explain.
Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Era Questions and Topics
- To what extent did the Crusades impact the development of Europe and the Middle East?
- In what ways did Northern and Southern Renaissance artists differ in their styles? Explain.
- Beyond its massive death toll, what impact did the Black Death have on Europe at large?
- Did Martin Luther desire reform for the Catholic Church? Or was it his intention to dismantle Catholicism through his “95 Theses?”
- In what ways were the Puritans influenced by John Calvin’s beliefs?
- In what ways did Martin Luther’s ideas differ with John Calvin? How were they similar?
Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
- What would have happened if the Spanish Armada of 1588 had been successful against England?
- Compare and contrast the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. In what ways did their philosophy differ? In what ways were they similar?
- What really happened to the “Lost Colony” at Roanoke?
- Why did the Salem Witch Trials occur? What factors contributed to the mass-paranoia that permeated Salem during this period?
- Discuss the Puritan vision of a "City Upon a Hill." In what ways was this vision achieved by the Puritans?
- Why were indentured servants eventually replaced by slaves in the Virginia colony? What effect did this have on future colonial practices?
Colonial History Questions and Topics
- What factors led to the “Great Awakening” in the 1700s?
- In what ways did the “Great Awakening” affect the English colonies during the 1730s and 1740s?
- To what extent did the French and Indian War create an environment ripe for rebellion within the American colonies?
- Could the British have avoided a war with the American colonies? Or was the Revolutionary War inevitable?
- Could the Americans have defeated Britain without the aid of French troops? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast the political philosophies of John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau. In what ways were they similar? How did they differ?
- To what extent was the American Revolution inspired by the principles espoused by John Locke?
- What factors contributed to British defeat during the American Revolution?
- Which of the Founding Fathers had the greatest impact on the United States? Why?
- What role did geography play in aiding the American colonists against the British? Did it aid or hinder their cause?
- Which of the British “acts” had the biggest impact on anti-British sentiment in the colonies? Why was this the case?
French Revolution Topic Ideas
- Did the French Revolution represent a success or failure on behalf of the French people?
- Discuss the origins of the French Revolution. Can the event be traced to a singular event? Why or why not?
- In what ways did the French nobility play a role in causing the French Revolution?
- Could the French Revolution have been averted by Louis XVI? Or was it an inevitable event?
- In what ways was the French Revolution similar to the American Revolution? How did it differ?
- Why did foreign governments (such as the British) feel threatened by the French Revolution?
- How did the role of women change with the advent of the French Revolution?
- What factors led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte?
Early 1800s History Topics
- Despite winning nearly every major battle in the War of 1812, why couldn’t the British regain control of the United States?
- Can the Irish Potato Famine be classified as a genocide on behalf of the British? Why or why not?
- Can any of the revolutions that occurred in the 1800s trace their origins to the French Revolution?
- To what extent did Napoleon’s invasion of Russia precipitate his downfall?
- What would have happened if Napoleon’s army had defeated Russia in 1812? In what ways would this victory have changed the course of European history?
- To what extent was Adolf Hitler influenced by the political philosophy of Immanuel Kant from the 1800s?
- In what ways did the Erie Canal affect America’s growth?
- In what ways did Puritanism affect the social, cultural, and religious development of the United States?
- Some historians have argued that the election of 1800 was a pivotal moment for American history. Why was this the case? Explain.
- Assuming that President John Adams had won re-election in 1800, what effect would his victory have had upon the United States?
- Before becoming President of the United States, Andrew Jackson was famous for leading a military campaign against Creek Indians in the early 1800s. Due to their brutal nature, were his actions against the Creek Indians a war crime? Why or why not?
- One of the final battles of the War of 1812 was the infamous “Battle of New Orleans.” How would a British victory at this battle have changed the course of history? Why was Jackson’s victory so important for the Americans? Explain.
Antebellum History Questions and Topics
- To what extent did railroads affect American growth and development during the 1800s?
- What were the ideological origins of the concept known as “Manifest Destiny?” What role did this concept play in the push to expand (and settle) into the West?
- In what ways did the invention of the cotton gin impact the American economy?
- Can the Indian Removal Act be classified as an act of genocide on behalf of the U.S. government? Why or why not?
- In what ways did Andrew Jackson’s presidency differ from past presidents? Were the changes implemented by Jackson positive or negative? Explain.
- Why was Andrew Jackson convinced that Indian removal was necessary? To what extent did his prior military experience influence this ideology against Native Americans?
- Was John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry a catalyst for the American Civil War? Why or why not?
- Was John Brown a hero, revolutionary, or domestic terrorist? Explain.
- Was the abolitionist movement strictly limited to the North? Explain.
- In what ways did slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean differ from slavery in the United States? How were they similar?
- Why was the “Battle of the Alamo” so important for the Texas Revolution?
- Was a Mexican victory in Texas’s “War for Independence” possible? Why or why not?
American Civil War Topics and Questions
- What would have happened if the Confederacy had defeated the North?
- Can the Civil War trace its origins to Nat Turner’s Rebellion nearly 30 years earlier?
- What factors (or issues) led to the American Civil War? Can the war trace its origins to a single event or individual? Explain.
- Could the South have defeated the North at the Battle of Gettysburg? Why or why not?
- In what ways did technological advancements affect military strategy during the American Civil War? Did strategy remain static during the war’s duration, or did it change in response to newly discovered technologies?
- To what extent did the assassination of Abraham Lincoln impact relations between the North and South following the end of the war?
- To what extent did the Civil War alter the role of women in the United States?
- Was Sherman’s “March to the Sea” an effective military tactic? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast the strategies of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant. Which general possessed the greater strategy?
- Was the Battle of Gettysburg a turning point for the Civil War? Why or why not?
- Assuming Stonewall Jackson had survived from wounds sustained by his own troops, how would his survival have impacted the Confederate movement?
- Had Stonewall Jackson survived to fight in the Battle of Gettysburg, would his presence have secured victory for the Confederacy? Why or why not?
- Was the American Civil War an inevitable conflict? Why or why not?
- What specific factors allowed the North to defeat the Confederacy? Was victory inevitable?
- Compare and contrast the leadership of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis. Who was the more effective leader? Why?
- Some scholars have argued that slavery would have eventually disappeared in the South (without the need for a Civil War). Do you agree or disagree with this argument? Why or why not?
Reconstruction Era Topic Ideas
- To what extent did Reconstruction affect the African-American community?
- Was Reconstruction a success? Or a failure? Explain.
- Was the impeachment of President Johnson necessary? Was it fully justified? Why or why not?
- In what ways did the Compromise of 1877 affect politics (and relations) between the North and South?
- To what extent did Northern policies during Reconstruction affect relations with the South?
America's Westward Expansion
- To what extent did the Transcontinental Railroad impact westward expansion in the United States? Explain.
- In what ways did the “Gold Rush” impact the development of California in the 1800s?
- What impact did American expansion into the West have upon Native Americans? Explain.
- In what ways did the American concept of “Manifest Destiny” lead to the Mexican-American War?
Research Paper Ideas for the Age of Imperialism and Industrialization
- In what ways did Europe experience industrialization during the 1800s? Did every country experience the Industrial Age in the same manner?
- What impact did the Russo-Japanese War have on Europe?
- To what extent did Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” impact European society? Did certain countries react more favorably to his ideas than others? If so, then why?
- In what ways did the French Revolution inspire revolutionaries during the late Nineteenth Century?
- Was imperialism an inevitable consequence of capitalism? Why or why not?
- To what extent did imperialism affect the African continent? Were these changes negative or positive?
- To what extent did imperialism affect India during the 1800s? What were some of the positive and negative effects?
- In what ways was British foreign policy shaped by Thomas Malthus during the 1800s?
- Discuss the role that European imperialism played in shaping the various rivalries and alliances that existed by the late 1800s. Is imperialism responsible for the First World War? Why or why not?
- To what extent did German unification under Otto von Bismarck affect the balance of power in Europe?
Imperial Russia Questions and Topics
- To what extent did Catherine the Great’s policies reflect Peter the Great’s reforms?
- Why did Peter the Great choose to reform Russian society? Were these changes necessary for Russia’s survival?
- In what ways did Russia’s geography and environment affect its overall development? Did these two factors assist or hinder the Russian people?
- By the early 1900s, the Romanov was on the brink of collapse following decades of decline. Why did this occur? What were the sources of discontent amongst the masses?
- To what extent was the Russian economy dependent upon serf labor?
- What impact did the emancipation of serfs have upon the Russian economy?
- Discuss the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. What impact did his death have upon the Russian Empire as a whole?
- In your opinion, which of the tsars was the most effective in their leadership? Why was this the case?
- Why was Tsar Nicholas II such an ineffective leader? What specific factors made his leadership problematic for the Russian Empire?
- Was the Russian Revolution of 1917 an inevitable event? Could it have been prevented by social, political, and economic reform? Why or why not?
First World War Questions
- To what extent did technological advancements shape military strategy during the First World War? In what ways did technology outpace strategy?
- Was the First World War an inevitable event? Could war have been prevented in 1914?
- To what extent did the assassination of Franz Ferdinand cause WWI?
- Without American intervention, could the Allies have defeated the Central Powers on their own? Why or why not?
- Despite having one of the largest militaries in the world, why was the Russian Empire incapable of defeating the Central Powers during WWI?
- What impact did the First World War have upon international relations and the global economy?
- The First World War has often been described by historians as an “unnecessary conflict.” Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
- Discuss the role of “trench warfare” in the First World War. Why was the war dominated by this means of fighting? What impact did it have on the duration of the conflict?
- To what extent did American involvement in the First World War affect its relation with Allied countries?
- Discuss the “Schlieffen Plan.” What specific factors led to its failure?
The Interwar Years
- Compare and contrast the philosophies of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Was Lenin a true Marxist? Why or why not?
- Did the Bolshevik Revolution follow Marxist ideals as they proclaimed?
- Was Joseph Stalin a true Marxist?
- Why was the Treaty of Versailles an ill-conceived attempt at peace?
- Was it fair for the victors of WWI to lay blame for the First World War on Germany? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast the Bolsheviks, SRs, and Mensheviks. To what extent did these political groups differ? In what ways were they similar?
- Was the Ukraine Famine of 1932 (Holodomor) a genocidal act carried out by the Soviet Union?
- Why was Adolf Hitler able to exert tremendous influence over the German people during his rise to power?
- To what extent did the Soviet invasion of Finland (the “Winter War”) expose its social, military, and political weaknesses to the world at large?
- Why did Joseph Stalin agree to an alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union during the 1930s?
- Why didn’t the European powers stop Hitler’s rearmament program during the 1930s, given that it was a clear violation of the Versailles Treaty?
- What factors contributed to the “Great Depression?” Could the “Great Depression” have been avoided? If so, then how?
- What really happened to Amelia Earhart?
- Why did Italy turn towards Fascism during the interwar period?
- It has often been said that the interwar period produced a number of extremist political groups. Why were these extremist parties so successful?
Research Paper Ideas for World War II
- What prompted the Japanese to bomb Pearl Harbor in 1941?
- Would the United States have entered the Second World War if the bombing at Pearl Harbor had not taken place?
- Why did Britain and France allow Hitler to annex both Austria and the Sudetenland?
- Was the Allied bombing of Dresden justified during WWII? Could it be classified as a war crime?
- In what ways was the Maginot Line a failure for the French? Why was it ineffective?
- To what extent did Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union cost Germany the war? What might have happened if the Nazi regime had avoided conflict with Stalin?
- Was Hitler’s ideology compatible with Benito Mussolini’s concept of fascism? Why or why not?
- Could the Allies have defeated the Axis Powers without the assistance of American troops?
- Were the atomic bombs necessary to defeat Japan during WWII? Why or why not?
- Were the atomic bombs used by the United States in order to limit Soviet influence over Asia? Why or why not?
- In what ways did the Second World War alter the traditional roles of women? Were these changes positive or negative? Explain.
- Could the Soviet Union have defeated Nazi Germany without the help of the British and United States? Why or why not?
- To what extent did the Second World War alter the global “balance of power?” Did particular countries benefit more from the war than others? If so, then why?
- With additional time and resources, would German technological advancements in the realm of rockets, bombs, and aircraft have altered the course of WWII? Why or why not?
- Assuming the use of atomic bombs were avoided during the war, what would have transpired during an American-led invasion of Japan?
- Considering the fact that atomic bombs helped end the war sooner than expected, did the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki save more lives than they destroyed (since a land-based invasion was prevented)?
- Did the “Cold War” begin during the Second World War? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast the military strategies of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire. In what ways did their strategies overlap? How did they differ?
- Did Italy prove to be a worthy ally for the Germans? Why or why not?
- What impact did the Holocaust have on the Zionist movement? Explain.
Korean War Questions and Topics
- Why did the Korean War begin? Can it trace its origins to a singular event? Why or why not?
- To what extent did American politics affect the war effort in Korea?
- Considering America’s stance on the “containment” of Communism (following WWII), what prompted the United States to intervene in Korea but not China?
- Should the Korean War be labeled an international war or a civil war?
- To what extent did Truman’s firing of General MacArthur affect the war effort?
- Should General MacArthur have been removed by Truman? Why or why not?
- Was the Korean War part of the broader “Cold War” between the United States and Soviet Union? Why or why not?
- Who won the Korean War? Explain.
- Why did North Korea choose to cross the 38th Parallel and invade the South? Was war between the two nations inevitable? Why or why not?
- To what extent did the Korean War help shape the United Nations as an entity?
- What was the impact (result) of Truman’s firing of General MacArthur? To what extent did this firing change American strategy for the war?
- Why is the Korean War often referred to as America’s “forgotten war”?
- To what extent did technology impact military strategy during the Korean War? Explain.
Vietnam War Research Topics
- In what ways did French imperialism of the 1900s cause the Vietnam War?
- Did the Civil Rights Movement have any effect on the conflict in Vietnam? Why or why not?
- To what extent did the news media impact the war in Vietnam?
- In what ways did the Tet Offensive of 1968 impact the Vietnam War?
- Was an American victory in Vietnam possible? If so, what steps could have been taken to secure victory?
- What factors led to American involvement in Vietnam? Did the Vietnam War represent a continuation of its Cold War policies of containment? Why or why not?
- Why were the Viet Cong and NVA so effective against the United States (a wealthier and technologically superior force)?
- Who was responsible for the “Kent State shootings”? What were the causes of this incident?
- Did the United States win the Vietnam War? Why or why not?
- Compare and contrast the military strategies carried out by Johnson and Nixon. How did the two differ in their response to Vietnam?
- To what extent did American involvement in the Vietnam War represent a departure from its foreign policy at the end of the Second World War?
- In what ways did technology affect military strategy (on behalf of the United States) during the Vietnam War?
- Discuss the treatment of American veterans returning home from the war. Why were so many of them treated harshly? What impact did this treatment have? Explain.
Cold War Research Ideas
- When did the Cold War officially begin? Can it be traced to a singular event?
- To what extent did the Marshall Plan reshape global politics in the postwar years?
- Did the Cold War represent a new form of “imperialism” on behalf of the Soviet Union and United States?
- Was the “Cold War” an inevitable event between the United States and Soviet Union? Why or why not?
- What impact did the “Berlin Airlift” have on American and Soviet relations? Why was this event so important? Explain.
- Who was more to blame for the Cuban Missile Crisis? Cuba? The Soviet Union? Or the United States?
- Discuss the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Which country (or leader) secured the largest victory? Why was this the case?
- In your opinion, which American president was the most effective at “containing” Communism? Explain why.
- Why were the Americans so afraid of communists in the years and decades following World War II? Were these fears justified? Why or why not?
- Why did the Soviet Union suddenly collapse? Could Mikhail Gorbachev have saved the Soviet system from imploding?
- Is Mikhail Gorbachev and his social, economic, and political reforms to blame for the Soviet Union’s collapse? Why or why not?
- Did Eastern European nationalism play a role in the Soviet Union’s downfall? Why or why not?
- What did the Chernobyl nuclear disaster reveal about the Soviet Union?
- What impact did the Chernobyl nuclear disaster have on the Soviet Union during the 1980s?
- Why was the Soviet Union so determined to control Afghanistan during the 1980s?
- In what ways did the Soviet war in Afghanistan resemble American involvement in Vietnam?
- To what extent did the Soviet war in Afghanistan precipitate its downfall? Explain.
- Was a Soviet victory in Afghanistan possible? Why or why not?
- To what extent did CIA support for the mujahideen (via weapons and stinger missiles) alter the Soviet war in Afghanistan? Could the mujahideen have defeated the Soviet Union without this assistance? Why or why not?
- Generally speaking, Franklin Roosevelt is said to have maintained relatively good relations with Joseph Stalin during WWII. Had Roosevelt lived a few more years, could the Cold War have been averted altogether?
- Did the United States really go to the Moon? Were the landings faked in order to display a false “edge” over the Soviet space program of the 1960s?
- To what extent did the development (and launch) of “sputnik” alter the space race between the United States and Soviet Union? Why was this the case?
- Did the Iran-Contra scandal undermine the U.S. government’s position on the global stage? Explain.
- What role did the CIA play in America’s “containment” strategy? Was the agency an effective asset? Why or why not?
- Some historians posit that the Cold War officially “ended” with the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
History of the Civil Rights Movement
- Compare and contrast the ideologies of Martin Luther King Jr. with Malcolm X. How did the two leaders differ in their overall approach to the Civil Rights Movement? In what ways were they similar?
- To what extent was the Civil Rights Movement influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and “satyagraha?”
- Compare and contrast the NAACP, SNCC, and SCLC. In your opinion, which of these organizations was the most effective in their overall goals? Why?
- Why did the Civil Rights Movement grow between 1950 and 1960? What specific factors led to its development? Explain.
- In your opinion, which American president is responsible for affecting the Civil Rights Movement the most? Why?
- To what extent was the Civil Rights Movement inspired by prior civil rights leaders (such as W.E.B. Du Bois, and Booker T. Washington)? Explain.
- What prompted African-Americans to turn toward the philosophy of “black power” and violence?
- Was the Civil Rights Movement a success in the 1960s? Were their goals achieved? Why or why not?
- What caused the “Watts Riots” in 1965? What impact did the riots have on race relations in the United States?
American Social Issues
- In your opinion, what is the most important social issue facing the United States in the modern-age? Why is this the case?
- Discuss the evolving views, criticism, and responses to Roe v. Wade since its inception? What impact has Roe v. Wade had on American society? Explain.
- Should marijuana be legalized in all 50 states? Why or why not?
- Should the United States pursue an open-borders policy similar to Europe? Why or why not?
- Discuss the importance of healthcare. Is universal health coverage (and care) a fundamental human right? Why or why not?
- Is election reform necessary in the United States? Why or why not?
- Should capital punishment (death penalty) be banned in the United States? Why or why not?
Middle East History Topics
- How did the discovery of oil in the Middle East affect the region’s development over time?
- To what extent has foreign intervention in the Middle East affected the region’s social, political, and economic development?
- To what extent did the “Six-Day War” alter the balance of power within the Middle East?
- Was the “Six-Day War” an inevitable event during the 1960s? Why or why not?
- Could the "Six-Day War" have been prevented? Why or why not?
Native American History Topics and Questions
- To what extent was Native American religion tied to the environment? What was the overall relationship between the two?
- In what ways did European colonization impact Native American civilization?
- Was peace between European colonists and the Native Americans ever possible? Why or why not?
Communist China Topics
- To what extent did the Soviet Union influence Mao’s “Great Leap Forward?”
- In what ways did the Communist Revolution in China mimic the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia? How were the two events different?
- What factors led the Chinese to deviate from the Soviet Union in regard to ideology?
Gulf War Topic Ideas
- What factors led to the Gulf War? Could war have been avoided?
- Can the American-led attack on Highway 80 (later known as the “Highway of Death”) be considered a war crime? Why or why not?
- To what extent did the Gulf War alter the balance of power within the Middle East once Iraq was defeated?
- Should the United States have removed Saddam Hussein from power in 1990? In what ways would this move have changed the course of history?
- Compare and contrast the military strategies of the Gulf War with the Vietnam War. In what ways were they similar? How did they differ?
- In what ways did technology affect military strategy during the Gulf War? Did it play a significant role in America’s victory over Iraq? Why or why not?
Post-Cold War Period (1990s): Questions and Topics
- Did the collapse of the Soviet Union result in positive changes for Eastern Europe? Why or why not?
- To what extent did the collapse of the Soviet Union alter global politics?
- What prompted the American government to intervene in Somalia during the early 1990s? Was this intervention successful? Why or why not?
- In what ways are the genocides of the 1990s (such as Rwanda, Darfur, and Bosnia) linked to Cold War politics and imperialism of the early 1900s? Explain.
- Compare and contrast the leadership of Boris Yeltsin with Vladimir Putin? To what extent were the two leaders similar? In what ways were they different?
- Discuss the rise of Vladimir Putin to his position of power. What specific factors catapulted him to the Russian Presidency? Was his rise to power inevitable? Explain.
- In your opinion, which post-Cold War President has been the most effective leader for the United States? Why is this the case? Explain.
- Why did Timothy McVeigh plan (and carry out) the Oklahoma City Bombing? What impact did his actions have on the nation at large?
- What factors led to the 1992 Los Angeles riots? What impact did the riots have on race relations in the United States?
Information Age: Questions and Topics
- Is the Russian Federation really a democracy? Why or why not?
- Are Karl Marx’s theories still relevant for the modern age? Why or why not?
- To what extent did European imperialism impact Africa during the 1800s and early 1900s? Can the effects of imperialism still be seen today across the continent?
- To what extent did the 9/11 terrorist attacks alter the policies of the United States both globally and domestically? Were these changes more positive or negative? Explain.
- What challenges does the world face in regard to global terrorism? Is it a serious threat?
- To what extent did the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003 disrupt the balance of power in the Middle East?
- Did Iraq possess weapons of mass destruction in 2003? Is there evidence to support this claim?
- In what ways has the Presidency of Donald Trump affected American politics? Have these changes been positive or negative?
- To what extent has the Coronavirus (COVID-19) affected the global economy? What long-term effects will the virus have on world affairs?
- To what extent was the world’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak inadequate? In what ways could the response have been better?
- Does the federal government have the power and authority to mandate vaccines? Have similar measures been implemented by the government across American history? Explain.
- Should global warming be considered a major issue for the present age? Why or why not?
- Is integration between North and South Korea possible in the present-day? What challenges would both countries face if united?
- Do nuclear weapons make the world a safer place? Why or why not?
- In your opinion, which nation-state poses the greatest threat to world peace and security in the present-day? Explain.
- Are the depletion of fossil fuels an issue that should be addressed in the present age? Why or why not?
- Is a Chinese invasion of Taiwan a possibility today? If so, how would such a war play out?
- Is a second “Cold War” between the Russian Federation and United States possible? Are we already experiencing this sort of “conflict” in the present-day?
- Civil rights and equality continue to be a major social issue that affects the United States in the modern-day. What challenges do minority groups currently face in their march for equality?
- Discuss the role of police in the United States. Is a reform of police tactics and policies necessary? Why or why not?
- How has the role of police evolved over the last 100 years in the United States? Have these changes been more positive or negative? Explain.
- Why are American politics so polarized? Is it possible for a “third party” to emerge in the United States in this current political environment? Why or why not?
- What impact will the Russian invasion of the Ukraine (2022) have on Europe and the world at large?
- Could the Russian invasion of the Ukraine been avoided? Or was it an inevitable event? Explain.
Research Paper Quote
“Research is seeing what everybody else has seen and thinking what nobody else has thought.”
— Albert Szent-Györgyi
Things to Consider While Writing Your Research Paper
- Is my research paper focused? This may seem like an obvious question, but is a crucial aspect of research that is often overlooked by students. It is extremely easy to get off topic during the writing process to explore other aspects of history that relate to the subject at hand. Nevertheless, it is vital that you avoid this potential “trap” in order to ensure you are focused solely on the research question at hand.
- Am I citing when necessary? Another aspect of the research paper process that needs to be followed is proper citing of quotes and materials that you use. This includes both primary and secondary sources. Failure to give credit can lead to plagiarism (even if its not done intentionally). This is considered a serious “crime” in the academic community, and can lead to disastrous consequences for both your grade and academic career in school.
- Is my research paper well-organized? Each section of your research paper should be contributing something to your overall question. Likewise, it should also follow a logical progression when being read from start to finish. To ensure this is occurring, it is recommended that students utilize an outline that they can follow throughout the duration of their assignment. Not only does this help you to stay organized, but it also keeps your research paper highly-focused on the subject at hand.
Things to Consider Before Submitting Your Research Paper
You have finally completed your long (and difficult) assignment! Congratulations! Before submitting your paper for a grade, however, it is important to consider several important items (listed below):
- Have you proofread your research paper for errors? This item seems trivial upon first glance, but is a component that is often overlooked by students due to time constraints. Before submitting your paper (via print form or digitally), it is vital to read over your assignment, checking for common spelling mistakes, potential grammar issues, as well as sentence abnormalities. If time is on your side, it is also recommended to have someone else (such as a friend or family member) read over your paper as well. Sometimes a second opinion can offer you great insight into mistakes that you’ve simply overlooked.
- Does my research paper follow the assignment guidelines? Too often than not, students become so focused on writing their research paper that they forget what their original assignment was in the first place! This is why a rough draft and outline are so important for the writing process. Even with these aids in place, however, it is easy to get off track. As such, you should always look over your paper, comparing its components to the original assignment. Does your paper answer the necessary questions? Does it fit the specific requirements outlined by your teacher or professor?
- Is my paper formatted properly? Finally, and crucially, students should always ensure that their paper is formatted according to the specific guidelines provided by their teacher or professor. This includes making sure that your font is the appropriate size, and that specific fonts mandated by the instructor have been followed. Failure to pay attention to these requirements can result in negative marks on your overall grade.
To summarize, writing history-based research papers can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your high school and college years. Researching a major topic not only makes you better informed about the world around you, but also teaches you critical life skills such as organization, writing, and critical thinking. And while argumentative essays and research-intensive projects can be a tremendous challenge (and strain) to individuals over the short-term, the long-term benefits of this experience are well worth struggle!
- The University of North Carolina (UNC). Writing Center: History Research Papers. 2020.
- The University of Massachusetts-Boston (UMB). Library Guide: Primary vs. Secondary Sources. 2020.
- Wikimedia Commons
- Pixabay Commons
© 2021 Larry Slawson
MG Singh emge from Singapore on March 20, 2021:
This was a stimulating article, with a line of wonderful questions. Great post.
Ann Carr from SW England on March 20, 2021:
What an excellent explanation and follow through regarding this subject. It was systematically clear and concise as well as offering examples of choice along with definitions of specific vocabulary.
Not an easy subject but well-crafted and delivered. It's a long time since I wrote an assignment or anything relying on research, and it's highly unlikely I shall ever do so again, but I found this an enjoyable read, above all for the delivery itself. Thank you.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on March 20, 2021:
This is a very well-written, informative article. You have listed a wealth of informative historical topics for a research. I actually like writing articles that require some research, but probably not a college research paper anymore. Excellent article, Larry.