Creating a Historical Thesis Statement

The History of Nursing in the United States

Using the History of Nursing Timeline and supplemental web resources, students will collate significant ideas and facts and write a cohesive thesis statement to introduce the assigned historical topic. Their statement will present historical and contemporary evidence connected to the evolution of the nursing profession in the United States (18th – 21st century).


One to two class sessions; can be assigned as homework.


Working independently or collaboratively, students will study the web based resources provided to identify important events, people, and ideas that influenced, progressed, or changed the nursing profession in the United States from the Colonial era to present day.

Students will reflect, analyze, and synthesize significant information taken from source materials and select one “foundation” word from the list provided to use as the premise for their thesis statement. Students may select a word not on the list provided; however they should defend that decision.

Students will present and support their thesis statement in a cohesive and factual statement using information and knowledge gained from their research. Students will be able to cite which sources they selected.


Getting Started:

Discuss with your students that while it may seem strange in our modern world; for thousands of years people were born at home, died at home and, if they became ill, were treated at home. Trained doctors were rare in early America. Most people lived in small communities where basic medical knowledge and care was handed down by generation. Women played an essential role; they were the primary caregivers and “keepers” of medical knowledge and they were the midwives that helped bring new life into the community. Their skills and knowledge were largely passed down or from learning from other women. Nursing schools did not appear in the United States until after the Civil War. If time allows, give each student or group a copy of the historical overview provided with the lesson plan materials.

In this lesson, students will explore the history of the nursing profession in the United States as a basis for creating a thesis statement introducing a historical topic.

Before giving students the lesson materials, discuss that a thesis statement is a concise summary or main point of research paper or essay. Generally, it is one to two sentences, but for this assignment; the student’s thesis can be up to 300 words. Their challenge in creating a thesis statement for this assignment is to choose one word from the list of “foundational words” provided that they feel best describes their key points. They may select a word not on the list provided; however, they must defend that decision.

Before beginning their research, ask students to review the Unpacking the Box: Ideas to Consider guidelines. As a class, discuss how these questions can help guide research. Make a list of any additional ideas or questions the students suggest.

  1. Give each student or collaborative work group a copy of:
    1. Unpacking the Box: Ideas to Consider
    2. The list of Foundation Words
    3. Graphic organizer worksheet
    4. List of required and additional sources
  2. Explain the research parameters: (see Lesson Resources for links).

If working collaboratively, students may assign specific research tasks to group members. Before doing so, they should outline a matrix for research and reporting to provide consistency in gathering, collating and sharing research

Students will review the History of Nursing Timeline using a minimum of four timeline entries; presenting a cohesive and compelling connection to their thesis. 

Students will include a minimum of one referenced source from Nursing as a Career in the 21st Century to support their thesis statement. 

Students will read and use a minimum of two reference sources from The Evolution of Nursing and biographies on the web site and article.

Students will read Nursing Careers & Specialties for RNs and include a minimum of two facts to defend their thesis statement. Suggested guidelines are included on the resources sheet.

Last students will include a minimum of two facts gathered from one or more of the additional resources listed. They are not limited to the sites referenced. If their research or interest leads them to specific questions or topics; they are free to use resources they select to reference their interests.

Assessment / Homework

Students will present their thesis statement to the class. If working collaboratively, assign one group member as the spokesperson. Their thesis does not need to cite every source used; however, students should be prepared to discuss how the resources they used helped to shape their ideas and perceptions. What evidence and facts were particularly influential? How does the thesis statement reflect the foundation word they selected?

Consider the question: Why do they think women have dominated the nursing profession?

Future Research / Resources

After completing the project, as a class the students will discuss the purpose of a thesis statement and decide if selecting and working with a “foundation word” was useful. 

Ask students will discuss “next steps” outlining what questions, research or information they would pursue if they were writing a thesis paper on the subject.

If they did not do so in their research, suggest that students look at job announcements for nurses today and compare those specifications to 18th and 19th century nurses’ roles.

Additional Resources:

Hampton, Ellen. "How World War I Revolutionized Medicine." The Atlantic. February 24, 2017. 

"Changing Times...Male/Female Workforce Statistics in the Nursing/Doctor Professions." Online Nursing Degrees. 2017.

Hunt, Deborah Dolan. "Key Facts in Nursing History Every Nurse Should Know." DailyNurse. May 28, 2017.

"The Future of Nursing 2017 and Beyond." Nurse Buff. May 6, 2016.

"Women Nurses Throughout War History." Online Nursing Degrees. 2017.

"Short History of Military Nursing: Nursing Programs in U.S. Military Branches." University of Wisconsin. 2017.

"Experiencing War: Women at War." Library of Congress. February 6, 2012.

"Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project." The University of North Carolina Greensboro. 

"Army Nurse Corps History." U.S. Army Medical Department Office of Medical History. April 13, 2016.

VCU Libraries Social Welfare History Project.

Hess, Robert G. Jr. "Making the Case for More Men in Nursing." March 17, 2017.

Extend the Lesson:

Invite a nurse to the class to discuss the range of specialties the nursing field offers today. What training and education is required to be a nurse?


Common Core


Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.



His.2.6-8. Classify series of historical events and developments as examples of change and/or continuity.

D2.His.2.9-12. Analyze change and continuity in historical eras.

D2.His.16.3-5. Use evidence to develop a claim about the past.

D2.His.14.6-8. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.

D2.His.15.6-8. Evaluate the relative influence of various causes of events and developments in the past

D2.His.16.6-8. Organize applicable evidence into a coherent argument about the past.

D2.His.16.9-12. Integrate evidence from multiple relevant historical sources and interpretations into a reasoned argument about the past.

D3.3.3-5. Identify evidence that draws information from multiple sources in response to compelling questions.

D3.4.3-5. Use evidence to develop claims in response to compelling questions.

D3.3.6-8. Identify evidence that draws information from multiple sources to support claims, noting evidentiary limitations.