Independent Study Research Process

During my fall, 2019 semester at CSU, I created a podcast that explained and discussed the role of army nurses in the Vietnam war. To create this podcast, I had the opportunity to do my senior capstone project as an independent study with Dr. Little. She guided me in the research and planning process, sharing her expertise of women’s history and historical discourse. With her guidance and help, I was able to create a four-part podcast series on the experience of female army nurses in the Vietnam war. I chose this topic as I have always been interested in the role of women in military history, and more specifically the role of nurses in Vietnam. My interest stems from my exposure to my grandmothers’ experiences serving as a nurse in Pleiku, Vietnam, from 1969-1970.

I based the podcast around tapes that my grandmother had sent back to the United States while she was in Vietnam serving as an Army Nurse at the 71st Evacuation Hospital. In total, I had about ten hours of tape from her, so it took me several hours to listen to the tapes and record what parts I wanted to include, what piqued my interest, and ultimately what I wanted this podcast to be about. Once I had marked pieces of the tapes I wanted to include and what I wanted to discuss, I began to cut audio and hit the books. After talking with Dr. Mansfield about where to start my research and where I could access materials,  I found that asking research questions would lead me to the final product I wanted and direct my research in a productive and pointed way. I created four specific questions I wanted to address; “How were Army Nurses prepared?” “What was it like there?” “What was the work like?” and “What were these women’s experiences like post war.” The biggest challenge was deciding what I had to cut, and not having the time or space to include all that I wanted.

This project helped me immensely as a researcher, a historian, and a student. I was able to engage closely with a primary source and use it as a foundation for my research, then seek out other primary and secondary sources as supplementation. Because the Vietnam war is a controversial conflict, I was challenged to keep my material as unbiased as possible, while still sharing the pieces I wanted found important. A great aspect of this project was that I was able to jump headfirst into the growing field of digital history, it’s an ever-growing facet in the historical field, and it’s an area I hope to continue work in. I was able to gain valuable digital skills and learn how to integrate history with technology and engage with it in a nonconventional way. One of the most challenging pieces to the research was that my grandmother passed away in 2012, so I wasn’t able to have her input or ask her questions about what she had said in her tapes. This meant that I needed to listen more carefully, take detailed notes, and find other nurses accounts, and secondary sources to expand upon what she was saying. The research process for this project, helped me to hone in my skills and expand my horizons in the form of historical discourse and historic exploration, it allowed me to pursue a project I am passionate about and create something worth sharing. I am immensely thankful for all the help and support that the History Department at CSU gives, they create an atmosphere of growth and learning for all of their students and truly believe in student success.