Your research essay should preferably focus on a major topic covered in the course and should fall within the time period of 1945-2010. It should look at the genesis of the issue in question, its development or evolution and, finally, its impact and/or consequences on International Relations. In choosing your topic, you should always consider how important/significant your chosen topic was in the grand scheme of conflict and co-operation in international relations and what role or influence it had therein. This is not to say that you cannot choose a less important or more obscure topic for your paper. It is simply to say that the chances of such topics making it into the final exam in a question form are considerably smaller than any of the major topics. Consequently, a paper on a ?major? topic would always give you a better preparation for the final exam than a paper on a ?minor? topic. Ultimately, however, the choice is yours.
Naturally, there are many possible variants of the above topics and many of them could also be overlapping. However, when dealing with issues/topics other than the ones listed above, such as Genocide, Human Rights, Child Soldiers etc. make sure that your focus remains on History and on International Relations and your approach to the topic is consistent with the requirements of a history paper (and not a Political Science paper).
Finally, your paper should also be consistent with all the standard requirements of a history essay in terms of presentation, format and style. If in doubt, see handouts in the Department of History on ?How to Write a History Essay?.
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