About the Author

Jack Schneider

Jack Schneider is a former high school history teacher and currently teaches in the Educational Studies department at Carleton College. His research focuses on equity and school reform, and he is the author of the book Excellence For All: How a New Breed of Reformers Is Transforming America's Public Schools.

Researching the Mexican American War


Print, A war president. Progressive democracy, c1848, N. Currier (Firm), LOC

I have to write [on the] Mexican American war. What should I write about?


Whether you're studying the Mexican-American War or some other historical event, there are several steps you'll want to take.

First, you want to do some background reading and research. Teachinghistory.org is a good place to start. Head to the History Content page and try the Website Reviews and History gateway tabs in the bottom right corner. The History Gateway, for instance, will direct you to a number of good internet resources like PBS's website on the "US-Mexican War" and a website dedicated to the descendants of Mexican War veterans. You might also check out a general history resource like Digital History and see what they have.

After you've gotten a sense of the event, it's time to start thinking about potential writing topics. What's interesting? What's confusing? What's mysterious? What's uncertain? With a war, it's always worth considering why leaders thought it was worth fighting. What did they give as reasons? Were those reasons valid? Were there other, unstated reasons? Did everyone agree, or was there dissent? Remember, history is about using evidence to make arguments—so you'll want to make sure that you have evidence to support any claim you make. Try gathering some primary documents to find evidence for your answers. Head to any number of primary source repositories on the web for primary sources and you'll eventually find something like this collection of documents from the Library of Congress. It should give you fodder for thinking about how President Polk rallied support behind the war cause and other important issues relevant to the Mexican-American War.

Good luck!