A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
Table of Contents | Reference Sources | Exhibit Introduction
Previous Page Next Page
A Research Guide: From the Secondary Source to the Primary Source

Organizing Your Thoughts

In order to organize your thoughts about a historical event, it may be useful to think about the event within each of the three areas listed here:

National Level
State Level
Local Level

Within each of the three levels listed above, a historical event can be explored through numerous topics including:

Military, Political, Social, and Economic aspects

Communities, Families, and Individuals

Transportation, Technology, and Communication

Research Activity -- History is Layered

Historical events can be explored in a variety of ways. Like current events, historical events had political, social and economic impact on various levels of society. History is layered and within each event any combination of political, social, economic and military factors can play a critical role; they intersect with one another and overlap. By looking at a research topic, like the Battle of Bunker Hill, each of the areas listed above, you will better be able to find a focus for your research and you will find these categories useful for organizing the information you find. Now that you have the right mindset and have discovered that history is made up of people, the research process becomes interesting and exciting. As you begin to think about what you would like to explore, you may also want to ask yourself some additional questions: How did the Battle of Bunker affect the townspeople of Charlestown? What happened to the people who lived in Charlestown where the Battle took place? How far away is Charlestown from Boston? Who was living in Boston at the time of the Battle? What was Boston like during the American Revolution? Before the Revolution? Did the Battle have an impact on the people of New Jersey or Connecticut? How did the Battle affect family life, political life, and social life? What were the military outcomes of the Battle? How did the military organization affect the outcome of the Battle? Are there accounts of what people thought or accounts of what they were doing on a particular day? Are there visual representations of the people and landscape of the late eighteenth century? What individuals were involved in the colonial government locally and nationally? Can we find out their names? What was the government like? What did people in Great Britain think? Is there a way to find out if these people had anything to say about Bunker Hill or the American Revolution in general?

Some of the answers to these questions are contained in the contemporary accounts in the online exhibit, The Decisive Day Has Come: The Battle of Bunker Hill. Others can be found in the reference sources discussed below. The first step to locating answers to these questions is to think about what type of information you are seeking. Do you need a list of names, biographical information, specific dates, a particular fact, citations to articles or books, or perhaps a primary source like a letter or diary? By thinking about the type of information you need, you can better determine the source you will go to find the desired information.

Table of Contents | Reference Sources | Exhibit Introduction
Previous Page Next Page
Introduction | Essay | Timeline | 10 Accounts | Biographies
Maps & Views | Research Guide
© Copyright 2003. The Massachusetts Historical Society. All rights reserved.
Terms and Conditions.