questions about what you want to understand better about the past.
1) Identify the broad historical topic that you want to write about. Dont be afraid to think big at first!
You topic can be taken from any number of the themes, events, or concepts that we read about or discuss in-class. For example, you might explore an issue that is addressed in lecture in greater depth, such as racial segregation in the military during WWII, conservative responses to the New Deal, or the use and support of art and culture by the state during the 1930s.
You might explore a specific angle on a particular historical event that we discuss, for example, the response of the U.S. communist party to the Nazi-Soviet Pact, the responses of particular trade unions to the Taft-Hartley legislation restricting the tactics of labor organization, the local responses in Seattle to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, to Japanese internment, or the impact of the McCarthyism at the University of Washington.
Finally, you might explore subjects that are only touched upon briefly, in greater depth, for example, the changing role of women during WWII, the persecution of homosexuals during the cold war, the intellectual origins of neo-conservatism in the 1950s, the F.B.I. investigations of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, or the role of music in 1960s protest culture.
These are just a few examples, meant to give you ideas. The point is to develop your own!
2) Using the library, find one or more than one primary source that you will use to develop your argument.
As you will notice, class lectures use many primary sources. Primary sources are visual media, such as paintings, cartoons, films and advertisements. They can also be written documents, such as newspapers and magazines, as well as letters, memoirs, diaries, or government records.
For example, the lectures and the web-links use clips from early war movies and propaganda films, protest cartoons from the black press, magazine covers advertising Roosevelts Four Freedoms, paintings of the black migration, and so on. We are also reading articles and speeches of government officials and notable intellectuals that do such things as defend U.S. entry into WWII, justify or challenge the use of the atomic bomb, warn of leftist subversion in the government, or criticize policies of the Cold War.
What you must do is to find and choose the sources around which you can develop your historical argument. Ask yourself what kinds of sources might best illuminate your topic. Once youve found a source, or sources, ask yourself what they tell you. Why these particular sources? What makes them significant? What do they say to you?
3) Write a short thesis statement that gets you started.
The thesis statement is the argument that you want to make, using the primary source(s) you have found. Your thesis statement should not be a simple restatement of the broad topic you have chosen. Rather it should be a much narrower explanation of what you propose to say about a particular aspect of the topic youve chosen. What angle are you going to pursue? What hypothesis about the past will you attempt to prove or demonstrate? What is your tentative argument going to be?
You thesis statement might need to be changed as you pursue your research. Think of it as a starting point.