Social Studies DBQs

  • DBQ

    This year students will be working with DBQs in social studies.

    What is a DBQ?  DBQ is an acronym that stands for Document Based Question.  The task is based on the students' knowledge of history and requires them to analyze and interpret different types of primary sources and in some cases secondary sources.  Examples of primary sources are pictures, maps, letters, and diary entries among other things.

    There are generally three parts to a DBQ. 

    1. Students will first read a section called "Historical Context".  This is a small reading passage that sets up the assignment for them. It offers information about the time period to be analyzed and gets students thinking about the events from that era.

    2. The next section of a DBQ is the "Task". The task is comprised of short answers and the essay students will write after examining and analyzing all of the given documents.  Students should read the task carefully to understand the directions and  determine what they are required to do so that they can approach their analysis of the documents within the context of the task.

    3. The "Documents" are the third part of the DBQ.  Students should examine the documents carefully to answer the accompanying questions.  Following each document are questions that ask students to draw information from them.  The answers should be written in complete sentences by restating the question.  Students should not begin their answers using he, she, it, they, or because.

    Writing The Essay

    The essay is the final part of the task in the DBQ.


    1. Students should begin by writing a clear introduction. The introduction should be a statement of what the student plans to do. This statement should have a restatement of the task within it, then make a claim (A short answer to the question). The introduction should also include a sentence stating how the response to the task will be supported (Through the use of documents).


    2. The body of the essay is constructed with evidence gathered from the documents.  Students should use their responses to the document questions, the information the documents provide, and the historical background for the DBQ to support the short answer statement they gave in the introduction. The body of the essay should be 2-4 paragraphs depending upon how many points are being addressed.


    3. The essay should wrap up with a conclusion that summarizes the ideas made in the essay.  The conclusion should be a restatement of the introduction generally beginning with, "As you can see" or "In conclusion"

    Below is an example of a DBQ

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