If you’re taking an ethnic studies course in the spring you may want to think about topics for a research paper on black history. Celebrated during the month of February, Black History Month honors the cultural contributions made by black Americans. If you are particularly interested in another cultural topic, there are many good research paper topics in ethnic studies. Consider some of the ideas below.
The case for ethnic studies
What is ethnic studies and how did it develop on college campuses? Christine E. Sleeter investigated “The academic and social value of ethnic studies” for the National Educational Association (NEA) in 2010. In her paper she explained that ethnic studies came about as a response to the traditional curriculum that ignored the contributions of cultural groups such as African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
Unfortunately, the dominant Euro-American view of history lead many students of color to feel disenfranchised from academic learning. Ethnic studies courses are designed for students who are members of a particular group in an effort to improve the quality for their educational experience.
In her conclusion, Sleeter stated, “Considerable research evidence shows that well-designed and well-taught ethnic studies curricula have positive academic and social outcomes for students and that curricula are designed and taught somewhat differently depending on the ethnic composition of the students and the subsequent experiences they bring.”
A variety of cultural groups
A good place to start your research is Questia, the Internet’s largest online library of full-text books and articles. Browse the library under sociology and anthropology topics and you can find cultural and ethnic studies categories. Included in these areas are topics such as:
- African culture and society
- Asian culture and society
- Ancient civilizations
But these topics are still too broad for a research paper, so you want to search deeper to find more specific topics such as:
- culture shock
- racial identity
- transracial adoptions
Once you locate an interesting topic, click on it and get a list of books and articles. For example if you’re interested in the role of women in French society, you could read about it in the book, “Women in Contemporary France,” by Abigail Gregory and Ursula Tidd.
Gregory and Tidd argued, “It is determined primarily by the fact that in France the relationship of women and politics is essentially one of a historical marginalization purely on grounds of gender. Their formal exclusion from the democratic process no longer exists, but in reality their equal sharing of political power is as inaccessible as ever.” Consider comparing and contrasting this against the political role of contemporary women in the United States, or contemporary women in Afghanistan.
Ethnic studies research paper topics
When you’re doing keyword searching for your ethnic studies research paper, you won’t find much if you search the keywords “ethnic studies.” Instead, consider using more specific terms such as “Native American women.” Then, based on your results, focus your topic. For example, this topic encompasses articles related to:
- Native American women in sports
- the rate of sexual violence against Native American women
- Native American women in U. S. history
- misconceptions about Native American women
In a December 16, 2013 post for NativeNewsToday, the news blog of Native American Encyclopedia, titled, “10 things you need to know about Native American women,” Laura Paskus outlined little-known facts about this population.
“Of nearly 2 million women enlisted in the U. S. armed forces, 18,000 are American Indian women. Their representation in the military is disproportionately high—and Native women are more likely to be sexually harassed, which increases their chances of developing post-traumatic stress disorder,” Paskus said.
Resources for ethnic studies
For further information on ethnic studies, consider these resources:
- National Association for Ethnic Studies (NAES): The site has a list of ethnic studies programs around the country. Its annual conference will be held in Oakland, CA on Friday, April 4th, 2014.
- African-American World on PBS: This site hosts information about arts, and culture and contributions of African-Americans throughout U. S. history.
- Library of Congress (LOC.gov): Look for links to articles, videos and photos under World History & Cultures.
- USA.gov: The category Culture and Ethnic Groups hosts links to information about American, Asian, Hispanic, Native American and African-American history and culture.
- National Agricultural Library (USDA NAL): Look for the section on Ethnic and Cultural Resources for information on health and nutrition related to various ethnic groups.
- National Park Service (NPS): The Cultural Resources Relevancy, Diversity & Inclusion page lists links to information about projects and activities.
You can explore the many topics in cultures and ethnic groups on Questia.
What is your favorite area of study within culture and ethnic studies? Tell us in the comments below.