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H U.S. History (Mr. Rosenfels): Lens Histories Overview



From the University of Arizona


Students will:

  • Understand through experience how histories are created and constructed.

  • Choose an historical lens (a topic) to focus on throughout the year.

  • Utilize primary and secondary sources to write a “_______ history of the United States.”

  • Critically analyze historical sources while focusing on their author, point of view, audience, purpose, and effect

  • Share and discuss their historical findings throughout the year, but especially in a cumulative end-of-year event

Goals and Overview

 Narrowing Your Scope - Discover your lens

Take 10 minutes to browse the Table of Contents of your textbook. In the space below, make a long list of potential lenses. Hint: these may or may not be words that are explicitly written in the Table of Contents. For example, “A History of Indigenous Americans” would be suitable, but so would “A History of American Migration” or “A History of The American Diet.


Choose your lens

“History is as much about what is included as what is not.” Write your own United States history by choosing your lens and scope.

Within the parameters of “United States history,” develop a lens that will narrow the scope of your research toward writing the focused version of the US history of your choice. The lens you choose should abide by the following scrutiny:

  • It’s appropriate for school 

  • It’s properly focused: It has sufficient suitable resources available, but your net is not cast so broadly that you can’t properly give the project justice with the time allotted. “Forty-five US Presidential Families” is not as good as wise as “Twenty Pivotal Presidential Moments”

  • It is important as a theme for the great majority of the nation’s history: A “History of American Transportation” works but “The History of the American Car” does not.

Contents Required 

You will be responsible for constructing your history using the following guidelines:

  • Chronology. Use dates from past to present

  • Characterize eras. Use section titles to identify time periods with language that is accurate to the evidence. Write 2-3 sentence introductions and conclusions to wrap your voice around the secondary and primary evidence (Hint: do this AFTER you document and analyze your chosen sources). 

  • Secondary sources: Quote historians who have written about the historical events, summarize the events with your analysis of those quotes, and use it to add context to the primary sources...

  • Primary sources: Carefully select primary sources that best illustrate the time periods and events. Analyze those sources by fleshing out the meaning of the source. Do so by describing the: 

    • Context

    • Author/p.o.v.

    • Intended Audience

    • Purpose

    • Effect

  • Interview: At least one interview will be required, in the second semester’s final grade, that contributes an anecdotal story to the history. 

  • Works Cited: For this project you will use a simplified version of Chicago Manual Style (CMS) Citation. You will likely discover online sources that you can use multiple times, so a superscript number system will work well. Those numbers will correlate to a numbered list at the bottom/end of your history. You may also choose to implement an additional hyperlink system, which entails linking keywords of the source’s name to the description of the source below. Here is a typical format of a CMS bibliography citation.

    • 1. Last Name, First Name of Author. “Page Title.” Website Title. Month Day, Date published or accessed. Web address.

Search Across Most Library Databases

The Meadows School Search

Advanced Search



*Off campus access requires "Meadows Discovery Search" username and password found in our Google document, "2022-23 Off Campus Database Passwords." Searches will include search results from EBSCO's database, MEDLINE Complete if relevant.

Research Order of Operations

REMEMBER: Represent the Best Possible Sources!

Reference - for background and context (Encyclopedias, Almanacs, Dictionaries, etc. are all Tertiary Sources)

Books - for depth (Secondary Sources)

Primary sources - for evidence

Scholarly Articles - for analysis  (Secondary Sources)

Guide template courtesy of

Qi Huang, E-Resources Librarian at The Harker School