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Conceptions of the Cold War


As your reading and Discussions point out, one of the biggest issues that citizens and politicians confronted during the 1960s was the Cold War, which might be defined as the geopolitical tensions, and proxy wars fought between the United States and the Soviet Union. Indeed, for anyone who grew up during the 1950s, 60s, or 70s, the Cold War was a household topic everyone seemed to understand.


The purpose of this assignment is to analyze how people understand the Cold War today. For example, what do everyday people today think of when they hear the term “Cold War”? This is what you are going to find out!

In this assignment, you will do brief interviews with three people, asking them about their conceptions of the Cold War. Your interviewees can be anyone of your choosing: family members, friends, and so on. Below are some suggested questions that you may want to ask:

  1. What words or phrases come to mind when you think of the term Cold War?

  2. Did you ever study the Cold War in school? If so, what are some aspects of the Cold War that you remember?

  3. Who were the parties involved in the Cold War?

  4. Can you name any key events that we mainly associate with the Cold War?

Take notes on what each of your respondents say. You will need these notes to refer to later when you do the formal write-up of the assignment.

After you have completed the assignment, write up your findings in a brief essay, which addresses the following:

  1. Using quotes from your interviews, describe how each of your three respondents understand the Cold War.

  2. Explain to what extent their definition/understanding of the Cold War differs from the definition above (see the bold typeface in the Overview section above).

  3. If your respondents’ understanding of the Cold War is different from the way the Cold War is defined in this course, explain why that might be the case. (Also, if their definition of the Cold War is very similar, explain this as well!)

Your essay should be 2-3 pages in length (500–700 words)

  • Double spaced

  • #12 font –Times New Roman

  • 1” margins on all sides

  • Separate cover page and reference page

  • A minimum of one (1) outside (including texts from the course, if you like) scholarly source

Remember: Wikipedia, encyclopedias, and encyclopedia-type sources (, and such) are not considered academic sources.

Unit 2 Assignment Outline: Conceptions of the Cold War

This assignment requires that you interview at least three people to investigate how people understand the Cold War. If you cannot interview in person, you may interview through email or social media. The following questions are suggested:

  1. What words or phrases come to mind when you think of the term Cold War?
  2. Did you ever study the Cold War in school? If so, what are some aspects of the Cold War that you remember?
  3. Who were the parties involved in the Cold War?
  4. Can you name any key events that we mainly associate with the Cold War?

Take notes during your interviews so you can provide quotes in your write-up. If the people you are interviewing are not knowledgeable about the Cold War, do not worry! In this case no data is still data J Continue to keep notes in the interview because you will need them later.

Outline for write-up:

Section One: Introduction

                Lead off your write-up with 3-4 sentences introducing the topic to your reader. State that this is an interview project with the goal of discovering how people understand the Cold War.

Section Two: Define the Cold War for context

                Provide 3-4 sentences summarizing what the Cold War was and why we should know about it. You must cite sources here.

Section Three: What did your interviewees know?

                Compare what the people you interviewed know about the Cold War (using quotes) with what you wrote about the Cold War in the above paragraph. How close are they? This is the main section of the paper and may be more than one paragraph. To cite interviews within an assignment you use the form (Last name, date) just as though you were citing any other source. You must cite your interviews because you are using their words.

Section Four: Explain the differences

                How different were the definitions? What do you think might be some reasons for that difference? In this section you will use your own ideas (which you do not have to cite) but you may also bring in information about the Cold War from other sources or more quotes from interviews (which you will need to cite). What about if the definitions were the same? Why might that be?

Section Five: Conclusion

                Conclude your assignment with 3-4 sentences summing up what you found. Your essay should be 2-3 pages in length (500–700 words).

Reference Note: How to source a personal interview


K.W. Schaie (personal communication, April 18, 1993)

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