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kradathole

History EE: What determined a witch?

What determined being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts (1692-1693)?

In other words, how did the church and authorities come to their conclusion on who was and was not a witch.

I would like to know if this seems research worthy, and if it follows the guidelines of the History Criteria.

Other information:

-I really hope this isn't treading into the territory of sociology because pysc/soc are a big NONO in our school in terms of the EE.

Thanks ahead of time.

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Hey there!

I don't know much about the Salem Witch Trials, but this sounds like something that has been assessed innumerable times previously, and which wouldn't be too hard to find an answer on. The whole point with the EE is to conduct thorough research on an original topic, and, from what I can guess, your current question does facilitate neither a thorough research (as it's probably easy to find an answer on) nor originality (many people have looked at the same thing). If this is the case, then you should avoid this topic. As for whether it borders sociology or not, I wouldn't be able to say as I'm not too familiar with the contents of that field. However, if you are concerned, I'd talk to your supervisor. They should know the EE criteria very well, and should be able to guide you.

If it turns out that my guesses are true, then that does not imply you cannot write about the Salem Witch Trials as a whole. Just find an area or event that has not been assessed that much, and which contains some kind of dispute or inconsistency. A perfect instance would be a case where two or more groups of historians disagree on the significance of an event or what really happened. For instance, who really started the Korean War was for a long time disputed: was it one of Stalin's master plans, did Mao have a significance or did Kim Il Sung act alone? The revisionist and orthodox camps could not agree on this, and could have been the basis of a good EE. However, as the Russian archives opened, a lot of these questions were answered, and are thus not viable as topics for a research essay, especially not in the IB. The aspect is the same, though, you should attempt to find a part where historians disagree. This will allow you to properly analyse different sources (preferably also first-hand sources), and hopefully come to an independent conclusion.

That does of course not imply that disagreeing historians is the basic foundation of any EE. In fact, there are multiple ways of writing a history EE. You could find an interesting part of the Salem Witch Trials which hasn't been analysed before by historians (given that you believe it had some significance) or find conflicting first-hand sources and base your EE on that. For instance, one historical person claims in his diary that something happened, and a telegram between two other persons claim that something else happened.

If my guesses are wrong, then I would say that your question is somewhat broad. Perhaps you should identify one aspect of the conception of what a witch is and analyse to what extent the authorities applied that aspect in order to determine whether a person was a witch or not? If this is too narrow, add another aspect. For instance 'To what extent did the authorities warts and pointy hats to determine whether a person was a witch or not during the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693)?' (a silly example, but it works for demonstration purposes)

If you're uncertain whether my guesses are right or not, you should do some research on that immediately, before you conduct more research on the matter itself.

Good luck!

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Okay...I get what you are saying. In other words, you cannot simply write about causes of, I don't know, the Civil war. There has to be some originality...I understand.

But the thing is, I don't want to stray away from that area of context: perhaps, like you said, I could discuss two historians interpretations of what led to the church labeling a witch, "a witch". But, also like you said, that shouldn't be my basis. Keep in mind that I am speaking as if your guesses are right.

I spoke with my counselor, and initially I wanted to see its impact on today's American judicial system...but that treads into a realm of connecting sources from modern day and the 17th century. I feel like the scope becomes too...for lack of a better word, broad? I really want to focus on the trials in their time period and focus on the witches (what I mean by this is that I don't want to discuss the church's involvement or you know, women rights. That isn't as much interest to me as the concept of witches and their characteristics and why they were treated the way they were).

All your information is definitely helpful and I appreciate it very much. And any more will also be beneficial.

And if you don't mind me asking, what was your EE topic?

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Hi there

I never took history, but I do know that your title has to be very specific, and something that allows you to conduct ORIGINAL research about. For example, my topic search went like this:

.

Jazz music > 1940s/50s jazz > Miles Davis and Coltrane > "So what" > Increased use of Modality > "How did the use of modal jazz spearhead the transformation of Bebop to Cool Jazz?"

That is not the exact title (I can't remember it exactly), but you get the idea

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But, also like you said, that shouldn't be my basis.

Well, that's what I said in the context of my example, regarding who started the Korean War. Disagreeing historians are always an excellent foundation of a history EE. As I said, disagreeing historians will allow you to analyse the topic with ease and you will come to an independent conclusion. I cannot recommend writing about such a disagreement any more, because that is, at least how I see it, the ideal conflict for an EE.

I spoke with my counselor, and initially I wanted to see its impact on today's American judicial system...but that treads into a realm of connecting sources from modern day and the 17th century. I feel like the scope becomes too...for lack of a better word, broad?

This original idea of yours is not very good. It's way too broad (you could easily write books about this if you had the sufficient amount of knowledge regarding this topic), and you cannot write anything about today, i.e. anything that happened 10 years ago or later, in any history-related work in the IB.

(what I mean by this is that I don't want to discuss the church's involvement or you know, women rights. That isn't as much interest to me as the concept of witches and their characteristics and why they were treated the way they were).

It is still possible to write about the witches, but you need a more original and innovative approach. I can help you find such an approach, as that would border the line of cheating, but I suggest you do some reading on the topic and find a disputed or interesting element of the witches. Perhaps you are able to find a first-hand source and a way to use that to explore the topic in your EE. Or perhaps you can find the actual sentences (with the same wording and everything from the Salem Witch Trials) and there is something you can develop based on them? Anyways, do some reading on the witches, that is the only way you can figure out a suitable and narrow topic. Things you should look for:

  • Events not covered by most historians - why is it not covered? (given that it has some form of significance)
  • Any first-hand sources
  • Disagreeing historians (this one expects you to read works of multiple historians, not just one (which is a bad idea anyways))
  • Uncertainties or vagueness
  • et cetera

Jazz music > 1940s/50s jazz > Miles Davis and Coltrane > "So what" > Increased use of Modality > "How did the use of modal jazz spearhead the transformation of Bebop to Cool Jazz?"

Yii yann's topic search progression is a very good guide, actually, and very applicable to history. I think you're currently at the 'Miles Davis and Coltrane' or the '"So what"' stage in comparison, and would thus need to narrow your topic down one to two steps further.

Here's how my search for a topic would be applied to a similar scheme:

Korean history --> Contemporary Korean history --> The Korean War --> Causes of the Korean War --> Causes of the Chinese intervention in the Korean War --> Telegrams between Stalin and Mao --> 'To what extent did four telegrams between Stalin and Mao dated from 1 October 1950 to 7 October 1950 depict their actual political policies regarding a Chinese intervention?' (This is not the exact RQ, but no-one should copy this and use it themselves, as the IBO do use the internet to find plagiarised material)

Thoughout the process, I often assessed the possibility of writing about something, but later to find it too hard. For instance, in the beginning, I was looking into the feasibility of writing about the Three Kingdoms period in Korea, which took place in the early 300s-late 600s. However, this became too difficult, as most of the sources were in Korean and I can't really understand Korean myself.

This RQ of mine was not much assessed previously by neither historians nor students, so it facilitated both thorough research and originality. I found the actual telegrams translated to English by doing some searches on the internet, where I found a archive of all the translated first-hand sources found in the Russian archives after they opened in the early 1990s. What made this topic historically significant, is that it was in one of these telegrams Mao announced that he would intervene in the war, after multiple attempts by Stalin to convince him. This intervention of course changed the course of the war completely.

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Alright, so the "where historians disagree" might become messy. I have done a lot of reading on this thus far, about 3 secondaries, probably 1 tertiary, and read the actual trials of the accused. So I kind of a sense of where I want to head towards.

I went back over my notes and these are a few questions I conjured up...

1) In what ways had Samuel Parris influence the prosecutions of witches, in contrast to the actual girl accusers? (i.e. secularism, religion)

2) To what extent did Tituba contribute to the chaotic witch accusations of other women in the town? (i.e. her trial hearing)

I know a lot of history papers are about cause and effect, and so I decided to look at the causes in a sense. There is just a lot of information, but I understand to stay away from generalizations and vagueness. Thank you so much, once again.

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Or I just thought of something, "Which individual had more influence on the witch prosecutions, Samuel Parris and his secular understanding or Tituba and her knowledge of witches?"

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1) In what ways had Samuel Parris influence the prosecutions of witches, in contrast to the actual girl accusers? (i.e. secularism, religion)

I don't think this is a good one, to be honest. It doesn't make it easy for you to analyse the topic, and would very quickly become a narrative essay instead of a research-based essay. There is no 'conflict' here, and EEs in history should deal with a certain conflict (for instance two historians disagreeing).

2) To what extent did Tituba contribute to the chaotic witch accusations of other women in the town? (i.e. her trial hearing)

I think this is a much better question than both of the previous questions. The use of 'to what extent' allows you to analyse the topic with greater ease, and the topic is much narrower. However, to make this better, I would mention that you're speaking about the Salem Witch Trials in the question itself, as it should give the reader a clear clue what exactly you're looking at (had I not known this fact, I would not have the faintest clue what you were going to research based on this question). 'To what extent did Tituba contribute to the chaotic witch accusations of women during the Salem Witch Trials (1692-1693)?' would be a much better alternative.

"Which individual had more influence on the witch prosecutions, Samuel Parris and his secular understanding or Tituba and her knowledge of witches?"

Even better. Here you have a very good starting point for your analysis and it is very narrow as well. This is the best one so far, as far as I can see. Again, explicitly state that you're dealing with the Salem Witch Trials, and you might want to clarify what you mean with 'her knowledge of witches.' Other than that, it's good!

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