Document Based Question Example: Unraveling the Mystery of DBQs

Table of contents
  1. The Structure of a Document Based Question
  2. Frequently Asked Questions About Document Based Questions
  3. Conclusion

In the world of education, document based questions (DBQs) have become a popular method for assessing students’ critical thinking, analysis, and writing skills. These assignments require students to examine and analyze historical documents and then use that information to develop an argument or response. DBQs not only test students' knowledge of historical events but also evaluate their ability to interpret primary sources and construct well-reasoned arguments. In this article, we will explore the concept of document based questions and provide a comprehensive example to help students understand the intricacies of tackling a DBQ assignment.

So, whether you're a student seeking guidance on how to approach a DBQ or an educator looking for a practical example to share with your students, this article will delve into the world of DBQs and equip you with the necessary insights to excel in this challenging yet rewarding academic exercise.

The Structure of a Document Based Question

Before delving into an example of a document based question, it's essential to understand the typical structure of a DBQ. Typically, a DBQ prompt will present students with a historical question or task. They will then be provided with a series of historical documents that offer different perspectives on the given topic. These documents can include newspaper articles, maps, letters, speeches, and other primary sources from the time period in question.

Students are expected to analyze these documents, extract relevant information, and utilize it to construct an argument or response. The aim is to demonstrate an understanding of the historical context, synthesize information from the provided sources, and present a coherent and well-argued essay.

Understanding the Example of a Document Based Question

Let's take a closer look at an example of a document based question to illustrate how students can approach such a task. In this hypothetical scenario, students are given the following prompt:

"Evaluate the impact of the Industrial Revolution on urbanization in the 19th century. Use the provided documents and your knowledge of history to develop a coherent essay that analyzes the factors contributing to urbanization during this period."

Students would then be presented with a set of historical documents, including excerpts from industrial-era publications, statistical data on population growth, and personal accounts of urban living conditions. Armed with these sources, students are tasked with crafting a well-structured essay that addresses the prompt while drawing evidence from the provided documents.

Approaching the DBQ Example

When confronted with a document based question like the one described, students must adopt a systematic approach to tackle the assignment effectively. Here's an example of how they might approach this DBQ:

  • Document Analysis: Carefully read and analyze each provided document, noting important details and identifying key themes or trends.
  • Thesis Development: Formulate a thesis statement that directly addresses the prompt and outlines the main argument of the essay.
  • Evidence Utilization: Incorporate evidence from the documents to support the thesis, citing specific examples to strengthen the argument.
  • Contextualization: Provide historical context for the events and trends discussed in the essay, demonstrating a broader understanding of the topic.
  • Argumentation: Construct a well-reasoned argument that considers multiple perspectives and presents a nuanced understanding of the issues at hand.

Frequently Asked Questions About Document Based Questions

What skills do document based questions assess?

Document based questions assess various critical skills, including historical analysis, document interpretation, thesis development, evidence integration, and persuasive writing. Students are required to demonstrate their ability to synthesize information from primary sources and construct well-supported arguments based on historical evidence.

How can students effectively analyze historical documents for a DBQ?

To effectively analyze historical documents for a DBQ, students should examine each source with a critical eye, noting the author's perspective, the context in which the document was created, and any bias or motivation behind the content. They should also look for recurring themes or patterns across multiple documents to gain a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

What are some tips for crafting a strong thesis for a document based question?

When crafting a thesis for a document based question, students should ensure that it directly responds to the prompt and presents a clear argument. The thesis should reflect an understanding of the documents provided and outline the main points that will be addressed in the essay. Additionally, it's crucial for the thesis to be specific, arguable, and well-supported by evidence.


Document based questions are a valuable tool for assessing students' historical understanding, critical thinking, and analytical skills. By engaging with primary sources and honing their ability to construct well-reasoned arguments, students can deepen their comprehension of historical events and develop essential academic proficiencies.

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