American Revolution Lesson: Integrating Multiple Sources to Answer a Question

This is the first in a series of lessons that teach research and writing skills around the topic of the American Revolution.


Overview

In this lesson, you will learn how to evaluate multiple sources in diverse formats and put them together to answer a question.

Multiple Sources

During research, you will encounter many different types of sources. These can include primary and secondary sources of many different types. Editorial cartoons, newspaper articles, legislative documents, speeches, videos, and secondary texts are just a few examples.

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Each type of source has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources were produced at the time of the event you are researching. These can include diary entries, newspaper articles, speeches, television footage, even Facebook posts and live Tweets.

Secondary sources are created “after the fact.” These secondary sources can present a summary of what occurred and can include multiple points of view. Secondary sources include textbooks, academic journal articles, memorial websites, and documentary films.

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As you know, the type of source itself can vary depending on the era of creation. Today you may search for digital versions of your sources. Fifty years ago, almost all sources were printed.

While digital sources make historical research easy, they also have strengths and weaknesses just like print sources.

Source Strengths and Weaknesses

Any source you encounter will have strengths and weaknesses; this will affect if and how you will use it in your research and writing.

Sources can be assessed on the basis of task, purpose, and audience.

As a reminder:

  • Task is the reason why you are looking for sources. You should choose sources relevant to your task.
  • Purpose is the reason why that source was created…to inform, to persuade, or to entertain.
  • Audience is the individual or group for whom the source was written.

How a source communicates will vary with its intended audience and purpose.

Editorial Cartoons

Listen to the sound clip below:​

Editorial cartoons:

  • Visual representations of opinion
  • Persuasive
  • Audience = readers at the time of publication
  • Good for understanding contemporary opinions
  • Need more context and additional sources to be balanced

Newspaper Articles

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Listen to the sound clip below:

  • Narrative accounts of events
  • Informative
  • Audience = readers at the time of publication
  • Good source for contemporary information and opinions

Petitions

Listen to the sound clip below:

  • Formal documents that make a case or state a position
  • Informative or persuasive
  • Written for recipients of the petition
  • Useful to see contemporary opinion
  • Requires context to understand the petition

Speeches

Listen to the sound clip below:

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  • Spoken texts
  • Persuasive
  • Audience = listeners and attendees of the speech
  • Useful to see contemporary opinion
  • Context needed to understand, as well as additional research to understand references made​

Sources About Economics and the American Revolution

In order to answer the question, “How did economics contribute to the start of the American Revolution?,” you will need to examine an array of sources, then integrate the information the sources provide to come up with a complete answer.

Below, you will look at the Tea Act, itself, a set of resolutions, and a newspaper article about the Tea Act of 1773.

In each case, you will need to consider not only what the document says, but also the purpose and audience of the source. How can these sources help you address your task?

The Tea Act

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The British Parliament issued the Tea Act in 1773. Click he​re to view the first two paragraphs of the Tea Act. The document is complex, so try to skim for a general understanding.

As you read, consider not only what the document says, but also the purpose and audience of the source. How would this source help you address your task?
The audio clip provides further analysis. Listen to the sound clip below:

Philadelphia Resolution

Click h​ere to view the “Philadelphia Resolutions,” a set of proclamations published in the Pennsylvania Gazette on October 16, 1773 in response to the Tea Act.

As you read, consider not only what the document says, but also the purpose and audience of the source. How would this source help you address your task?

Listen to the sound clip below to hear an analysis of the source. ​

Newspaper Article

The most famous response to the Tea Act is the Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773. Click he​re to view an account of that protest just after it occurred.

Consider not only what the document says, but also the purpose and audience of the source. How would this source help you address your task?

Listen to the sound clip below to hear an analysis of the source.

Putting the Sources Together

The sources that you have seen – the law, the set of resolutions, and the newspap​er account– can help you answer the question, “How was the economy a contributor to the beginning of the American Revolution?”

You can put these sources together to show how British actions regarding the Tea Act, an economic policy, led to a colonial response. Resolutions, boycotts, and extra-legal action like dumping the tea were all responses to the economic policy that laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.

Conclusion

In this lesson you evaluated multiple sources from different formats, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of each source in terms of taskpurpose and audience.

You combined these sources to answer a historical question about the influence of economics on the causes and course of the American Revolution.


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