Student Guide to Responding
to Document Based Questions

Prepared By Theresa Noonan
7 –12 Social Studies Supervisor
West Irondequoit Central School District

A DBQ provides the student with an opportunity to weigh significant evidence/documents to reach an informed position and to present the information in response to a question.


1. Read the question carefully. What does the question ask you to do?

  • Underline key words, eras, names, issues, or categories used in the question.

2. Brainstorm and write down the facts - names, dates, and events that you know about the topic and time period.

3. Read and analyze the documents:

  • Look at the author and the time the document was written.
  • Identify the point of view or main idea of the document. Underline key words. Write notes in the margin summarizing each document.
  • Respond to the prompt questions after the document. If there are no questions, write down the main ideas.

4. Reread the question. Carefully consider your document summaries and their relationship to the question asked.

5. Plan/Organize your response so that you prove your thesis with supporting evidence and information. (Categorize, block, outline, mind map).

  • Identify the main subjects to be discussed in the body select the documents related to each major subject.
  • Write down important information from the document and from your knowledge of the issue.

6. Write an organized essay responding to the question.

Introductory paragraph.

  • Take a stand on the question. Respond to all parts of the question.
  • Develop your thesis. To what degree is it true?
  • Provide background, explanation and definition of terms used in the question.
  • Introduce the topics you will discuss in the body of your essay.

Body paragraphs

  • Use a separate paragraph for each topic, issue, or argument.
  • Include specific examples to support generalizations or to make distinctions.
  • Cite specific evidence from the documents but avoid long quotations.
  • Integrate information from the documents and from your knowledge in responding to the questions.

    Concluding paragraph.

    Restate your position and main ideas that you presented in your essay.


Teaching With Documents

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