Document Based Question


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Analysis of Sources
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Document Based 
Constructed Response
Thematic Essay

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18 rarely seen
WWII films
80 historic posters and more

CCSS learning prompts


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Sample DBQ's

Gr 2 Local History (new)*

Gr 3 Communities*

Gr 3 Transportation*

Gr 4 Colonial Period*

Gr 4 Roles of Women*

Gr 5 Civil War*

Gr 5 Iroquois

Gr 5 Government*

Gr 5 Immigration*

Gr 6 Classical Period*

Gr 6 Eastern Religion*

Gr 8 Slavery 

Gr 10  Imperialism 

Gr 11 Civil War

 * Special thanks to: Kate Gillan, K-8 Social Studies Director at  East Irondequoit and all the district teachers who produced this fine series of DBQ's and CRQ's.

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More DBQ projects

What did Europeans see when they looked at the New World and the Native Americans?   A document based activity that examines European views of Native American and the New World in the Age of Exploration.

Visit my blog for Picturing Ourselves: Teaching with Visual Documents

Homefront America in WW II  Improve content reading comprehension with source documents framed around essential questions that link the past and present.

Work, Culture and Society in Industrial America  DBQ's that explore the new opportunities and social problems of the industrial era.

Learn more about

DBQ-Online Writing Guide

NYS Ed DBQ Guide

Student Guide to Answering

Answering an AP-Level DBQ

Teacher Guide to Writing a DBQ

Preparing Students to Write DBQ's

NEW multi-touch iBook 
available at iTunes

13 rarely seen WWII propaganda films
43 historic posters and more

CCSS learning prompts


Document Based Questions (DBQ) assess the ability of each student to work with historical sources in multiple forms. The secondary DBQ will have a maximum of 8 documents; at least 2 of which will be visuals. The 7/8 assessment will have a DBQ with 4 documents (including 2 visuals). The DBQ requires many of the same skills used in developing a research paper - interpreting primary and secondary sources, evaluating sources, considering multiple points of view, using historic evidence, developing and supporting a thesis.

Document-based questions:

  • are based on the Social Studies Learning Standards, themes and concepts.
  • focus on critical thinking skills and ask students to make comparisons, draw analogies, apply knowledge to the given data, and require students to apply historic analysis.
  • ask students to take positions on issues or problems and support their conclusions.
  • require students to look at issues from multiple perspectives.
  • require student to apply skills thy use as adults
  • are criterion referenced and employ a scoring rubric.

The DBQ will consist of two parts. In the first part, students will be required to answer a key question on each document. This generally involves interpreting the main idea or point of view expressed in the document. This section will be "scaffolded" to the second part in which the student will write an essay using the documents to respond to a specific question. In this second part, students are asked to utilize all the sources, plus their understanding of history to respond to a question. This second part will require them to move beyond simply quoting all the documents. They will need to use the documents as evidence in support of a thesis that responds to the assigned (part two) question. The student will be required to use all documents and incorporate outside information. The student will have no choice on the DBQ.

To receive full credit in a five point rubric the essay will need to:

  • thoroughly address all aspects of the task by accurately interpreting the documents plus incorporate outside information related to the documents.
  • discuss all aspects of the task and support with accurate facts, examples and details.
  • weigh the importance, reliability and validity of the evidence.
  • analyze conflicting perspectives presented in the documents. Weave the documents into the body of the essay.
  • include a strong introduction and conclusion.

Credit would be reduced if the response:

  • did not recognize the reliability, validity, or perspectives of the documents.
  • reiterated the content of the documents with little or no use of outside information.
  • discussed the documents in a descriptive rather than analytic manner.
  • showed little recognition of the tasks, lacked an introduction or conclusion.


Teaching With Documents

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