Stage 2 Overview:
After you have a good, clear question you will start doing research in order to answer that question. At every moment in this stage, think consciously about how you can apply our class “toolkit.” A good historian does not just look for evidence specifically focused on or directly trying to answer their question; instead, a good historian zooms out from their specific question, and explores the bigger-picture context tied to their specific question. In the discipline of History, the “bigger-picture context” usually implies two things: the broader time period connected to the question, and the general theme/category of the topic that the question falls into. Here’s an example with a sample question:
Question: Why were so many Americans opposed to giving women the right to vote? What were they afraid of? Why was it that many women didn’t think they should have the right to vote?
Time Period: 1890s-1920s
Theme/Category: Women’s History/Gender History (or you could go in a different direction and explore the general topic of the history of the suffrage movement—not just for women but generally how suffrage—the right to vote—was expanded for all different kinds of people over American history).
So for this question you would need to do some general research that gives you an overview on the main events of the 1890s-1920s, and an overview either on the history of Women in the United States, or a history of the suffrage movement in the United States.
The point of this stage of research is to obtain a better understanding of the “entry points” for your question—in other words, what are the openings that lead you in the direction of answering your question. Starting on a general level allows you to make connections between cause and effect that won’t happen if you start out too focused. For example, if you are exploring the question above, if you just research women’s history you wouldn’t know that this was when the anti-slavery movement emerged in the U.S., and you would miss the connection between ideas about racism and white superiority and the surprising ways that this affected peoples’ views on women voting.
As you complete this stage of your research, your question will start to evolve a little bit (sometimes a lot, and that is okay!). The more you know about the topic, the more nuanced and complex your question will become. For example, if we are still working with the sample question above, once you’ve understood that this time period coincides with the beginning of the anti-slavery movement, your new question can be more sophisticated; now you might ask, “Did the racism of white women who were fighting to gain the right to vote help or hinder their movement?” Or you might ask, “Why did many white women not see their own subjection as similar to that of black people, and see potential allies in black activists?”
Checkup Assignment for Stage 2:
Please double space your response to the following questions (your response will be 3 pages in total, double spaced).
Page 1 answers this question
Find and read one scholarly source that covers the time period of your question. Write a one-page summary of this source; your summary needs to explain the thesis and central evidence that the author uses. Please start your summary by properly citing your source, including author, title, and publication info.
Page 2 Answers this question
Find and read one scholarly source that covers the theme/category of your question. Write a one-page summary of this source; your summary needs to explain the thesis and central evidence that the author uses. Please start your summary by properly citing your source, including author, title, and publication info.
Page 3 answers this question
Write a one-page analysis that explains what information from these sources you will use to further your research project—what are the new topics you want to explore, and what is the new question that emerges. Please be very careful to fill this one page with really meaningful content; think carefully about each of the tools in our class “toolkit” which means identifying changes, causes and effects, how is relates to my life. and explicitly explain how you are using these tools to help you make connections and ask a better question for the next stage of your research.
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