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HIST 5701: History of Epidemics: Brainstorm your topic

Brainstorm your topic

Construct a successful paper topic: Choosing a worthy topic is ESSENTIAL for your History of Epidemics paper, and indeed for any research and writing project to which you will be devoting time and energy.


  • Well-crafted research, reasoning, and writing create new knowledge. You will contribute to the on-going scholarly conversation on your topic.
  • When you are intellectually engaged with an appealing topic, you will be energized and motivated.


  • Think about how your own personal interests can intersect with the class topic.
  • Do some initial research into the current scholarship on your tentative topic. Make sure there is sufficient ground upon which to base your provisional position.
  • Be alert to which related academic disciplines are invested in the topic. Thinking about this will help you select useful places to look for the most current scholarship.
  • Flexibility. If one line of inquiry isn’t working, be nimble and shift your scope, focus, position, or point of view. Keep an open mind.
  • Search carefully for both the pros and cons of a proposed topic, argument, or position. Anticipate challenges.

Be sure to frame your topic in the FORM OF A QUESTION, but not a yes-or-no question.

Examples of research questions:

  1. How has modern technology, such as blogs and social networking, affected countercultural movements?
  2. What role does clothing (or costume or uniform) play in the Bohemian identity? Has this changed over time? If so, how?
  3. How does the mainstream culture's opinion of the Bohemians within it affect those countercultures? For example, how does the effect of benign tolerance differ from the effect of hostility?

Additional resources on brainstorming your topic:



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