DOCUMENT BASED QUESTIONS (DBQs) Historical records have

Historical records have value both inside and outside of archives. One increasingly important
use for historical records (also known as primary sources) is in the classroom. Teachers are
turning to historical records for use in Document Based Questions (DBQs), as well as other
parts of their curriculum. Historical Records Repositories can (and should) take advantage of
the opportunities available through the school system to expand access and use of their
collections. Repositories can work on their own, with other organizations, and especially
with educators to design and utilize DBQs and other historical records teaching tools. This
website hopes to serve as a reference site for organizations and individuals who wish to
learn more about creating and using DBQs.
The following is a categorized listing of DBQ resources obtained from the web. These sites
do not represent a comprehensive listing of all document-based questions resources, nor is
UHA responsible for the content of the listings. The sites offer a general guide for teachers,
students and organizations to better understand and facilitate the DBQ learning process.
Sites are broken down into the following categories:
Introduction to DBQs
General Resources
Resources for Teachers
Resources for Students
Resources for Both Students and Teachers
Resources for Parents
Online Projects
Document Based Lessons
Further Links to DBQ Information
Please report broken links to [email protected] For more information on educational
uses of historical records visit the New York State Archives website at:
What is a DBQ?
In the simplest terms, a DBQ is an essay question based on a series of "documents"; but it
is really much more than that.
Document-based questions are for all students, from elementary school through high
school. They help prepare students to compare and contrast particular issues from multiple
perspectives, reconciling differing positions, evaluating the strength of particular arguments,
providing authentic opportunities at a high level of thinking, and developing life skills.
Document-based questions are not only for advanced upper-level students and their format
does not necessarily have to be a major test. First grade teachers can assess their pupil's
abilities to draw information from a photograph on a worksheet or through class discussion.
Using the friendlier concepts of the time capsule or hidden chest, a fifth or seventh grade
teacher could present a "newly discovered" historical record trove to a class with questions
designed to introduce a unit of study to them. Document-based questions can also be a part
of a more involved performance task, which may also include the production of work other
than essays and may include display of student work and discussion of student analysis and
evaluation of the document.
[Consider the Source: Historical Records in the Classroom. 1996 The University of the State
of New York; The State Education Department; State Archives and Records Administration,
Albany NY; pp. 25-26.]
Because DBQs are an integral part of the New York State Learning Standards and are
prominently featured on Regents exams, teachers are eager to use them in their
Introduction to DBQs
The Document Based Question
Provides an overview of a DBQ, as well as potential documents that can be used in DBQs;
included is a link at the bottom of the page, offering more detailed information on the DBQ:
The Document-Based Question
In addition to providing a general DBQ overview, the site includes links to DBQ tutorials,
scoring methods, sample student responses and much more.
General Resources
A.P. European History D.B.Q.s Page
This site offers DBQ topics, web links and a general "how to" guidelines to the DBQ.
Resources for Teachers
New York State Social Studies: Document Based Questions
A great DBQ reference for teachers. The site divides understanding and applying DBQs into
two courses. The first course is a general DBQ overview, while the second course illustrates
how to effectively teach with DBQs
D & H Historical Society
This site offers a primary document packet containing documents that date back to the 19th
century canal era. Accompanying each document are congruous document based questions.
This packet is free to teachers participating in the Museum's school program and is also
available for purchase at $10.00 each in the Museum Gift Shop.
Teaching With Documents
This site serves as a practical guide for teachers who are transitioning to skills-based
standards and assessments.
Document-Based Questions Resource Page
Supplies teachers with DBQ classroom materials, such as mini-lessons, worksheets and
primary source documents.
Building Document-Based Questions for Classroom Use
Provides planning worksheet templates of assessment plans and explains how the
document-based questions fit into local curriculum.
Professional Development for Document-Based Questions
Features a diagram on how to develop Document-Based Questions.
This site furnishes a sample template to teachers of a DBQ lesson that may
be reproduced. (Must retain credits).
NHD: National History Day
This site offers lesson plans on how to interpret documents, models of how to teach DBQs
and primary resource materials. (Note: click on "Our Documents")
D2DQ: Digital DBQ
A great resource for teachers interested in digital DBQs. The site includes text and
photocopies, as well as color images, music, audio and video clips.
Women and Social Movements in the U.S., 1775-2000 Teacher's Corner
This site makes available lesson plans and ideas for teachers.
Document Based Questions
A great resource for teachers that offers suggestions on effective ways to approach DBQs,
from elementary to high school.
Developing Assessments: A Guide to Multiple Choice, Constructed Response,
Thematic Essays and DBQ Items.
Peter Pappas, a K-12 coordinator for Social Studies Standards, developed this site for the
Pittsford Central Schools.
Resources for Students
Internet Hot list on Document-Based Questions
This site provides additional links to help students develop the necessary skills to write a
successful DBQ. There is also information on primary resources and guidance with
Constructed Response Questions.
Prentice Hall: Social Studies; A Brief Review in Global History
Offers students an opportunity to practice Regent DBQs. Students can then email the
answers from their practice test to their teachers.
Primary Sources for DBQs
Provides DBQ links, resources and sample questions for students of all ages.
NYS Elementary Test Prep Center: Social Studies
From the Oswego City School District, this site allows students to prepare for a DBQ test.
Five Strategies for Document Based Questions
This site furnishes a quick and east resource for students to use when preparing for DBQs.
Guide to Responding to Document Based Questions
Offers a simple and easy guide to the progression of how to answer DBQs.
Writing the DBQ Essay: AP U.S. History
This site helps the student step by step in how to write a DBQ.
A Guide to Writing a DBQ
A great reference for students writing DBQs.
DBQ Hints and Helps from the Vanguard College Preparatory School in Waco, Texas
A quick reference guide to writing DBQs for high school students.
Resources for Both Students and Teachers
New York State Historical Association
This site is geared to the fourth and fifth grade to prepare students for the New York State
elementary assessment. Among other resources, it offers DBQ examples, as well as
effective approaches a student can take to understanding and writing a DBQ
Albany Institute of History and Art Education: Museum Lessons
Although not a DBQ specific site, AHA's Museum Lessons offers students and teachers the
opportunity to explore primary source documents and potential DBQ lesson plans, such the
Colonial Era and Ancient Egypt. Each subject offers web resources, activities a glossary and
The New York Teacher
A helpful article to students and teachers entitled, "Minding their DBQs: As document-based
questions proliferate, here are tips to help students cope." To find more DBQ articles, go to and enter "Document Based Questions" in the search field.
Columbia American History Online
Features DBQ support and examples, as well as e-seminars and interactive learning tools.
Membership is required, but a free trial subscription is offered.
Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Provides students and teachers research and essay topics, as well as document-based
Document-Based Questions
This site offers a model of an eleventh grade DBQ lesson that can be applied in AP or nonAP classes.
AP European History Questions and Answers about Point of View on the Document-Based
Question (DBQ).
A site that helps students prepare for the AP European History Exam. There is also a link
provided, which gives examples of Points of View from a 2000 DBQ exam.
Resources for Parents
For Parents: What is a DBQ?
A great resource for parents in understanding and helping their children-from elementary to
high school - with document-based questions.
Online Projects
Lesson Units Using Documents
A site developed by the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center which includes teaching units
using local documents digitized and posted on the website. The lessons can be searched by
historical period, grade level, or county.
A Collaborative Internet Project For Middle School Students
A site highly recommend by teachers, providing suggestions and ideas to teachers as well
as examples of children's Document-Based work.
Going West--Document-Based Questions
Using documents from the 1830's to 1852, this site shows the process of writing a DBQ
essay by Belle Sherman elementary school kids. Part of their DBQ project culminated in
three plays of Tompkins County created by the students.
DBQs Main Page
This site offers over seventy student and teacher created DBQs, as well as general websites
for DBQ research.
Student Created DBQ Page 2001: DBQ Period 1920-1970
This site also serves as a great resource for students.
Modem Mates Project
An example of a DBQ project geared towards fourth and fifth graders in preparation for the
fifth grade Social Studies Assessment.
Document Based Lessons
Document-Based Questions Lesson Plan: An Example for the War of 1898
Taken from OAH Magazine of History, (Spring 1998) this site gives an example of a DBQ
lesson designed by a high school history class.
AP History Document Based Questions
Site includes class syllabus and examples of how the class used document based questions.
Constructed Response and Document-Based Questions in the Grade Four and Five Social
Studies Curriculum
Provides examples of how a school in Jericho, NY used a DBQ program.
"Been Here So Long"
A DBQ lesson plan on American slavery.
Influence of Different Belief Systems on Chinese Rulers
This DBQ lesson is geared for elementary school children and includes copies of primary
resource material.
Causes of the Civil War: Document-Based Questions
A DBQ lesson from Link Elementary School (Clarkstown Central School District) that
provides student essays, primary source documents and an answer sheet.
Orphan Train: A Social Studies Project that "clicked" with students.
A DBQ project that integrated technology such as video conferencing and online DBQ
activities to a DBQ project. In addition, the site offers resources, such as lesson plans to
New York State Social Studies Document Based Essay
This site also allows students to practice writing DBQs.
Document-Based Question Project Page
Provides examples of previous DBQ projects and student essays.
Further Links to DBQ Information
Document-Based Questions and Primary Sources
This web site offers links to other DBQ sites, as well as primary source materials.
DBQs and Primary Sources
This site contains information about DBQs and their development. In addition, there are
links to primary source sites that can be used in DBQs.
South Orangetown Middle Schools Web Quest
South Orangetown Middle School provides three links to DBQ related sites and resources.
Document-Based Questions: U.S. History 1920-1970
The Wamego High School Library in Wamego, Kansas offers multiple links to primary source
Listing of historical primary sources compiled by Dr. Giselle O.Martin-Kniep, Ph.D.
This site provides a page of links to DBQs and primary source materials.
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