Historical Research: Formulating Historical Questions
Horatio Nelson Taft's diaries provide insights into everyday life in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. Take the role of a social historian. Choose an area of everyday life in Washington, D.C., about which you would like to know more. For example, you might specialize in work, the woman's role in family life, church-going habits, or food. Formulate three questions about your area of interest. The questions should be open-ended (that is, not answerable by "yes" or "no").
Search the diaries for information that will help you begin answering your questions. When you have marshaled as much information as you can find, reexamine your questions in light of what you have learned. Refine your questions based on what you have learned and construct a list of the kinds of sources you would need in order to answer your revised questions.