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Possible Topic for History EE?

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I'm having trouble formulating a question for my History EE on Vietnam war, the refugees in particular since both my parents were refugees. I want to do something about the their lives as they escaped to many different counties but im having trouble thinking of how would i make it into an ARGUMENT. Like to what extent did Vietnamese refugees affect the society in the USA or something. or maybe how did their lives change as they moved away from vietnam, did they keep their culture, or did they change.

Edited by Jonathan Dang

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Keep in mind that it has to be specific and you should able to write 4000 words on the topic. You could make your first question specific by detailing to a specific aspect of society as a certain profession or industry.  I wouldn't consider the second question to exact fall under  history.

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Hey there!

You're off to a good start - you have identified a topic that you're interested in. Now, there are a few things that you really need to think about. There's the things Rosalina mentioned, such as being specific. I agree with her that your second question does not seem very historical. If you think it is, then please elaborate on that point.  

The other thing you should try to have a think about is the puzzle. What kind of problem are you trying to solve with this essay, what's the puzzle that requires an answer? Without a puzzle, then you will not be able to form a good research question nor will you be able to form a persuasive argument. 

Now, I don't have the widest knowledge of the Vietnam War and migration from Vietnam, so I'll use my own EE as a way to illustrate this. I really wanted to write on Korean history when I started out. I figured that the Korean War was a good starting point. Now, The Korean War itself is the topic, not the puzzle. Now's the time for more in-depth research - where is the contention (what do people disagree about - whether other people among themselves or between you and those other people) with regards to the Korean War? I could have made the causes of the Korean War into my puzzle, but that would of course be way too vague, and also way too well-researched already. With the opening of the Soviet archives, we now have a wealth of knowledge of what exactly took place prior to 25 June 1950 (though, of course, we are patiently waiting for the North Korean and Chinese archives to open up  :) ). Now, during my research, I found four very interesting telegrams between Stalin and Mao immediately preceding the Chinese intervention in the Korean War - and I found no academic or journalistic literature on these telegrams (though a book published after I had started my own research did discuss these telegrams to a certain extent). Since there was little research done on these telegrams that I knew of, and because they to me appeared quite significant, I created my puzzle on these telegrams: What was the significance of these telegrams? Within this question was also a discussion of Sino-Soviet relations and geopolitical interests in the North Korean peninsula, two rather academic discussions with a significant contention within the academic world. 

Now, I am not saying that you have to be as original nor look into things as deeply as I did (though it's worth the attempt if you're aiming for higher grades - I was awarded a rather good mark, as you can see in my signature, and I also came in second place in a national research contest with that essay). What I am trying to tell you is that:

  1. Research is an absolute essential for finding good puzzles
  2. You need a good puzzle to write a good essay

If we are ignoring all other factors for a second (world limit, scope, vagueness), for your first question, 'to what extent did Vietnamese refugees affect the society in the USA', what do you think the puzzle would be? Stop reading and have a think for a minute. 


To me, the question seems to assume that there is an academic debate on the topic - that some people argue it had a big effect, and others who argue it did not have an effect at all. Is that the case? If not, then you have two options, as I see it: Reconsider immediately, you need some form of contention to write an extended essay. Without it, you'll run out of relevant things to say in a few hundred words. Or, in the case that you disagree with the existing narrative, present the arguments that you disagree with, and then use counterarguments to prove them wrong. This is somewhat difficult, and requires you to have a deep understanding of the topic and also find really good counterarguments. The puzzle here would be the fact that the majority are mistaken. 

If there is a contention of some form, then we're off to a better start. That means that we can take the puzzle directly from your research question.Put differently, your research question is already a puzzle. 

Now, the question is if the puzzle is of a good quality. This is the place where everything Rosalina spoke about come into play. Is the puzzle focused enough? Is the puzzle worded correctly? Do you focus on the right things? Do you have the sources to write 4000 words? Is there some form of contention? Is the scope appropriate? Is it a puzzle suitable for a historical investigation? etc. etc. 


Now, this has become rather long already, so let me conclude with this:

You have already a rather suitable topic (Vietnam War, migrants), but you need to work on defining two things: (1) The contention/debate that will be covered by your essay, and (2) the puzzle on which your essay is based on. The way you are able to define either is through more research. 


Good luck! 

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