9. Is My Research Balanced?

(This is the Lesson Plan 9 for Carol Buswells curriculum unit, “Exploring Your Community.)

Last remnant of an Indian fishing village on the Washington State side of the Columbia River. The village site is soon to be transformed into a motel complex. (National Archives: Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, DOCUMERICA project.)

Last remnant of an Indian fishing village on the Washington State side of the Columbia River. The village site is soon to be transformed into a motel complex. (National Archives: Records of the Environmental Protection Agency, DOCUMERICA project.)

American Indian history is not singular or timeless. American Indian cultures have always adapted and changed in response to environmental, economic, social, and other factors. American Indian cultures and people are fully engaged in the modern world.

Native Knowledge 360°: Framework for Essential Understandings about American Indians, National Museum of the American Indian, 2015.



Grade 4

  • W.4.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Grade 5

  • RI.5.6: Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.



  • When looking over the research I have already done, have I represented as many points of view as possible?
  • Do I have as many primary sources as possible?
  • Do my secondary sources reflect a balanced approach or are they all written from a single point of view?
  • How do I create a bibliography?



The students will create a bibliography of the sources they have created and found, clearly differentiating between secondary sources, primary sources, and multiple points of view.



For a complete listing of all materials necessary for the entire curriculum by episode, see Curriculum Materials and Resources at a Glance.




  • Ask the following questions:
    • How many different races were there within the United States about the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition? Does your race determine your point of view on all subjects? What other elements might determine your point of view? (Religion, worldview, political movements, personal background, etc.)
  • Show the students Table A-1 on page 115 of Historical Census Statistics on Population Totals by Race, 1790 to 1990.
    • Tell the students why American Indians are not listed on the chart. (At that time, tribal people were citizens of their own tribal nations, not citizens of the United States.)
  • If you have had one or more students review the DocsTeach activity, Indians vs. Settlers on the American Frontier for a past lesson, have them report on the differences in point of view between the Governor of the Northwest Territory and the Chief of the Mohawk Nation. Otherwise, review it with all of the students.
    • Point out that this is a political difference, as well as a racial one.
  • Look at the racial designations in Table A-1 with the students and compare with more recent statistics from the table relating to your own geographic area.
  • Discuss with the class the many points of view they have discovered in their own community.
  • Ask each student to make a short list of different points of view they have discovered. When they are finished, discuss the choices with the whole class.
  • On the board, create categories from the student lists, such as religious, ethnic, political, lifestyle, etc., and list their discoveries under each category. Explain that once again you are organizing information.
  • Divide the class into small groups, one for each category or major point of view.
    • Have each group members pick primary source records from your Classroom Archives relating to the point of view they are examining. (The teacher may need to reproduce some of the items so they can be used by multiple groups, or scan them and put them on a central or portable drive for all students to use.)
    • Have the students prepare a list of Primary Sources showing their assigned point of view.
    • Ask the groups to report to the entire class. Some groups may have a lot of materials, while others may have very few, or even none.
  • Discuss whether or not the group lists are more or less equally balanced and what you might do to correct deficiencies. Ask the following question:
    • Do small groups in the community need to have as many documents as large groups? Why or why not? Is this possible?
    • Where do you think we could find more primary sources about your particular group?
  • Choose the community group or point of view with the fewest number of collected materials. Discuss and then ask the students to write a paragraph about why they think this group was overlooked or underrepresented.



Review these words briefly with your students and explain further if necessary (see Glossary).

  • ethnic group
  • point of view
  • interest group
  • population



Emerging learners may need assistance in classifying documents by point of view. Advanced students might be assigned to help them.

Advanced learners might repeat the same exercise for secondary sources stored in your classroom library. Ask the questions: Does this book look at multiple points of view? What points of view are omitted?

The following DocsTeach activities can be used both to teach and to assess understanding of differing points of view.



Student self-assessment might be useful for this exercise and also serve as a formative assessment tool.