Turning Points in Modern World History

Turning Points in Modern World History

Choose one of the following topics. You are not writing a paper about a country, a biography of a person, or a narrative of an event. Rather you are explaining a turning point in history. What changed and why? In order to explain the changes, you will also need to give a brief historical background to the changes. What was the country like before the changes took place? What was the impact of events and leaders on a country or region during the historical period of the topic? You can expand or narrow your time period as necessary, but do not include information about the country or society today.

Suggested Research Paper Topics:

  1. Algeria: The Algerian War for Independence 1954-1962
  2. China: The Opium Wars to the Fall of the Qing Dynasty 1839-1910
  3. China: Taiping Rebellion 1850-1864
  4. China: Boxer Rebellion 1899-1901
  5. China: Mao Zedong & the People’s Republic of China 1949-1976
  6. China: Deng Xiaoping & the Transformation of China 1978-1997
  7. Cuba: The War for Cuban Independence 1895-1901
  8. Cuba: The Cuban Revolution 1953-1959
  9. Egypt: Muhammad Ali (Mehmet Ali), Founder of Modern Egypt 1805-1849
  10. Egypt: Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt & Arab Nationalist 1952-1970
  11. Haiti: Toussaint Louverture & the Haitian Revolution 1791-1804
  12. India: Indian Rebellion 1857
  13. India: Mohandas Gandhi & the Independence of India 1915-1948
  14. Iran: When the CIA Overthrew the Government of Iran 1953
  15. Iran: The Iranian Revolution, the Ayatollah & the Shah 1979
  16. Iraq: World War I & the Formation of Modern Iraq 1914-1932
  17. Israel: From Palestine to Israel 1917-1948
  18. Israel: How the Six-Day War Changed Israel & the Middle East 1967-1979
  19. Japan: The Meiji Restoration & the Rise of Japan 1853-1905
  20. Kenya: Jomo Kenyata, the Kikuyu Rebellion & Independence 1947-1963
  21. Mexico: Benito Juarez & La Reforma 1854-1872
  22. Mexico: The Mexican Revolution 1910-1920
  23. Philippines: The Philippine-American War 1899-1901
  24. Russia: Vladimir Lenin & the Russian Revolution 1917-1924
  25. Russia: The Second World War in Russia 1941-1945
  26. Russia: Mikhail Gorbachev & the Fall of the Soviet Union 1985-1992
  27. South Africa: The South African War (Boer War) 1899-1902
  28. South Africa: Nelson Mandela & the Rise & Fall of Apartheid 1948-1994
  29. Turkey: Mustafa Kemal Ataturk & the Turkish Revolution 1918-1938
  30. Venezuela: Simon Bolivar & the Independence of South America 1811-1830
  31. Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh & the Struggle for Vietnamese Independence 1941-1975


Assignment: Select a topic from the list provided by your instructor or one approved by your instructor.




1. LENGTH: Your paper must be at least 5 full, typed pages (text) (minimum of 1500 words), double-spaced, with one inch margins.  Maps and illustrations are in addition to the 5 pages of text.


2. RESEARCH: Your paper must have a works cited page with a minimum of FOUR solid sources DO NOT USE your textbook, general encyclopedias (like Grolier), or an on-line or CD encyclopedia (like Wikipedia and Encarta) as a cited source in your paper.  Specialized historical encyclopedias or biographical dictionaries in the references section of the library are acceptable sources. If you have any doubt if a source is okay, check with your instructor. You should use both printed and online sources. The databases or electronic versions of books and articles that are available in the library will count as printed sources. If you need help finding appropriate sources, ask your instructor and/or a reference librarian for help.


3. CITATIONS: You MUST include citations in the body of your paper to indicate the source of all the information you used from your research sources. A list of your sources on the Works Cited page IS NOT ENOUGH. See “Citation of Sources” below for more detailed instructions on citations. If you do not understand these instructions, ask your instructor to explain it. You cannot receive above a C- (71) on a research paper that does not have citations. Document the sources of the information you using in the MLA format. If you do not understand what is meant by the MLA format, ask your instructor to explain it. Do not assume that the way you did a research paper in high school or another college or for another class is the right way. Ask your instructor if you have any doubts or questions about doing citations.


4. Be sure to keep a duplicate copy of your paper in case the original is lost. Papers are due on the day designated on the course calendar.  Papers submitted 1-3 days late will be marked down 5 points. Papers submitted 4-7 days late will be marked down 10 points. Papers submitted a week or more after the due date will be marked down 20 points. All students must submit a paper to pass the course.


Suggestions for Writing a Research Paper:


1. Choosing a topic: Choose a country and a historical period that interests you. Start with your textbook. Look up some of topics using the index and read about them. Don’t overlook the illustrations. You can also use an encyclopedia, Encarta, Wikipedia or other internet sources to help you decide if a topic interests you. Even though you cannot use your textbook or encyclopedias as sources in writing your paper, they are a good place to get started.


2. Doing Research: Start with very general books such as a history of a civilization, people, region or country (e.g. Roman history, British history, Middle East), a period of history (e.g. Ancient history, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation), or the history of a subject (e.g. science, art, a religion). Try to learn as much as you can about the country and century appropriate to your topic. Gradually narrow your research down until finally you focus on specific events and people. If you use a book that is specifically about your topic, you should not have to read the whole book. You should already know enough about your subject to be able to look up specific facts, quotations, and events for more detailed information. Use a variety of sources (books, articles, internet, videos). Try to use a PRIMARY SOURCE. This is something written by someone who lived during the time you are writing about – an eyewitness account, something written by one of the historical characters in your paper, or a history written at the time. You are not limited to the Trident Tech library (Learning Resource Center). Try the libraries at the College ofCharleston and The Citadel, as well as the public library downtown (on Calhoun Street with free parking for one hour).


3. Finding the Thesis: You need a PURPOSE to guide your research and organize your paper. Begin with a research question like, “What was it like to live in this time and country?,”  “What happened?” “Why and how did it happen this way?” “Who were the important people?” “How did they shape events?”  “What made this person stand out in his/her time?” “Why was this event an important turning point in history?” As you find answers to these questions, select a significant theme relating to the events, person, place, and time of your topic and put it into a statement that answers some of your research questions. This is your THESIS. Deciding on a thesis is the most important step in your research. It will tell you what is relevant and help you select the information that you will use in your paper.  Your thesis should be limited to the time period of your paper. Don’t try to connect or compare your topic to the present. This is a more demanding type of paper and beyond what you are expected to do in this course.


4. Writing the Paper: THIS IS THE HARDEST PART. DON’T PUT IT OFF UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. You will probably enjoy doing the research and the tendency is to keep researching right up to the last minute, thinking that you are making progress. The research is the easiest part. SET YOURSELF A DEADLINE to stop researching and START WRITING at least a week before the paper is due. If you want me to look at a draft and give you suggestions, you must give me the draft no later than a week before the paper is due. IMPORTANT: I do not want you to write just description of a country, a narrative of events, or a biography of a person. History is not just what happened, but why and how it happened, and the significance. How did things change? Why did they stay the same?


INTRODUCTION: Your opening paragraph should briefly introduce your subject (person, place, and time), and, most importantly, state the thesis or purpose statement of your paper.


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: You have to put the events into a historical context. One way to begin your paper might be to describe a place and a period of time.  To do this effectively, you may have to briefly describe the society, events, important institutions (e.g. society, government, religion, warfare, cities) and leaders of the period.


NARRATIVE OF EVENTS: Rather than trying to tell everything about a place and time or a person’s life, select formative influences, turning points, and greatest achievements or failures. Describe what happened, who the important characters and groups were in the events, why events happened as they did. The quality of your history (and your grade!) depends both on whichfacts and information you decide to include and your interpretation and explanation of those facts. Be sure to adequately EXPLAIN the causes and significance of important events. DO NOT ASSUME I know what you are writing about.


CONSEQUENCES: Discuss the immediate consequences of the events. What changed? What was the impact on the people involved, their country, maybe the world. DO NOT make judgments about how an event has affected the modern world or our lives today unless you are writing about a recent event (in the last 50 years).


***IMPORTANT***                ***IMPORTANT***                     ***IMPORTANT*** 5. Citation of Sources: YOU MUST USE CITATIONS to tell your reader the source of all the facts and opinions in your paper that you get from your research. You must have a citation for all the information from your research material, EVEN IF IT IS NOT A DIRECT QUOTATION. IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO USE A DIRECT QUOTATION for the information you use in your paper from your research source, but you must give a citation even if you do not quote from your source. Avoid overusing direct quotations. It is usually better to put the material in your own words along with a citation of its source. BE SURE TO USE THE CORRECT MLA FORMAT for citations. For example, a reference to a fact on page 17 of a book by Adam Smith would look like this: (Smith 17). For other citation formats refer to the MLA Handbook or you can find instructions online. Also be sure to give complete information on all your research sources on your WORKS CITED PAGE.



A. As a rule of thumb, most of the paragraphs in the body of your paper (except the introduction and conclusion) will have more than one citation per paragraph, and normally more than one citation. Do not put all your citations at the end of a paragraph, but put them immediately after the sentences ort sentences containing the information from that source.


B. Avoid using direct quotations too much. It is usually better to put the information in your own words as long as you include a citation of its source. I do not want you to use over 5 direct quotations in your paper. Do not include more than two lengthy quotations (over four lines). Quotations over four lines should be indented without quotation marks. YOU MUST USE A CITATION FOR ALL THE INFORMATION you use from your research sources, EVEN IF YOU DO NOT DIRECTLY QUOTE the author’s words from the source.


C. Make sure the information or opinion you include in your paper from one of your sources MAKES SENSE in your paper. You may have to explain people, events, or terms that arementioned in the quotation or paraphrased segment you extracted from your source.


D. The way that the MLA Handbook and most English courses suggest to do citations is to mention the author and/or book in your paper. For example, you would write:  According to historian Robert Palmer in his History of the British Empire, Great Britain was the superpower in the 19th century (118). [The number in parentheses indicated the page number in Palmers book on which that information is found.] I prefer that you NOT mention the source of the citation in the sentence itself, but put it in the citation after the sentence. For example: Great Britain was the superpower in the 19th century (Palmer 118)

Citations are one of the most difficult parts of doing a good research paper. If you have not written a college research paper before or have not taken ENG 101, you may need help from your instructor or the Writing Center (in the Learning Center in building 920, room 211).



WRITE IN THE PAST TENSE. To avoid confusion in which verb tense to use, I recommend writing in the past tense throughout your paper. Do not skip back and forth from present to pasttenses. It is not necessary to mention your sources (historians and books) in the text of your paper. I don’t want a paper about historians or histories, but about history. But be sure to use the MLA citation to credit the sources of your information.


PlagiarismDo not copy any portion of your paper from your textbook, an internet website, or any other source without clearly indicating that it is a direct quotation by putting it in quotation marks and by giving a citation showing the source. You are allowed to use a few quotations in your research paper, but use them sparingly. Most of your paper must be your own words and no portion of it can be written by someone else. Changing a few words of a passage does not make it your own wording. Copying any portion of your paper other than what is clearly identified as a direct quotation from another source or person’s writing is a form of academic misconduct as defined in the Trident Technical College Student Handbook 2006-2007 (pages 75-76) and can result in a failing grade for that assignment as well as disciplinary action. [see www.tridenttech.edu/06-07_Student_Handbook.pdf]


RESOURCES: Your most important resources are your instructor and the reference librarians

The Writing Center: http://www.tridenttech.edu/664_1399.htm

Library History Links http://www.tridenttech.edu/4730_3902.htm

Library Tutorials for Research http://www.tridenttech.edu/4730_1814.htm

Library Online Databases http://www.tridenttech.edu/4730_4791.htm

  6. Submission Instructions:

A. Write your paper as Word document (.doc file) or an rtf file.

B. Open the “Research Paper” folder in the Dropbox.

C. Click on the “Add a File” button at the bottom of the page.

D. Once you have selected the file on your computer or disk using the “Browse” button, click on “Add”

E. Now click on “Upload” button at the bottom right.

F. Now click on “Submit” button.

Don’t forget to upload and submit your file once you have added it to the dropbox or I won’t get your paper. If you have trouble uploading your paper, send it to me attached to a D2L email.



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