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Valid Thesis Topic?


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Hey, I'll be applying for grad school soon, and I'm planning to write my thesis on one of two things:

1) McCarthyism in the Cold War era, with particular emphasis on how it affected American cultural attitudes and thoughts, and the social and cultural counter-reactions to Cold War mentalities in the 1960s

2) Globalism, with emphasis on decolonization, the influence of Cold War politics on emerging nations, as well as American consumer culture's effect on the modern World at large.

These are my primary interests in terms of history. Is this too broad for a statement of purpose/thesis? Also, can you recommend any particular professors/schools that specialize in either/both of these topics?

Any other general advice, pearls of wisdom, or input would be appreciated.


Edited by thedig13
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It seems to me like these might be some well-trodden topics.

You may want to look for some specific angle that really hasn't been touched very much. Look at the current state of scholarship, the monographs, the journal articles and even the theses that have already been done. This will help you (1) find a narrower topic, (2) develop a statement that shows you've really given thought and research into your topic, and/or (3) even if you come up with something close, you'll be able to describe how you would be engaging the prior scholarship.

I'm sorry to be blunt, but the two options you put out there are things that half the people with 12 credits of higher ed could brainstorm to kill time while waiting in line for a latte. Your #2 alone is so broad someone could practically do an undergrad minor in it, and barely scratch the surface.

my ideas to narrow down your two ideas:

1) find a particular niche, like perhaps finding manifestations in popular music of the McCarthy era that show cultural impact. Or in popular magazines like Life, Reader's Digest or the Saturday Evening Post.

2) pick a specific nation/correlation to study as an example of what you want to do. pinpointing and describing a key event/turning point will help you focus as well.

further advice: form your topic, even to yourself, while completely avoiding words like "impacts" or "effects;" they can lead you down the past to vaguery. Stylistically and conceptually, It is better to be concrete. You'll come across as having a more solid project; "effects" and "impacts" can seem wishy-washy, like "gee, I hope I'll find something remotely in the ballpark of what I'm looking for."

Better to start too specific; you can always build on context or comparables. If you start too vague, not only do you run the risk of only skimming the surface of your topic, but it suggests to the program you're applying to that you haven't conceptualized a feasible project,

Anyway, that's my two cents. Hope it helps. good luck!

Edited by Henry Hudson
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One way to get specific is to identify a particular event, especially in the probably understudied local history of your area, and then place it in the wider historical context. McCarthyism is very well studied, but you can assess the extent to which local conditions in your area reflected national trends by looking at crises during that time and place. Did someone get fired for communist sympathies? Did businesses fail? Or perhaps people survived accusations, and what did that look like?

I strongly suggest looking into local history and keeping your eyes open for events that make you pay attention. There's a lot of possibilities there, and your thematic focus will be helpful insofar as it will help you narrow your time period. Good luck!

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