Curriculum and Instruction

What are Document-Based Questions

September 2007





Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to this two-course introduction to the document-based question (DBQ).  DBQs are an integral part of standards-based social studies instructional programs throughout New York State.  Students and teachers have worked with DBQs on local classroom and State assessments for many years, as such questions engage students in critical thinking and the skills of historical analysis leading to attainment of the New York State Learning Standards for social studies.  When students and teachers work with historical documents, the concepts and themes of the social studies come alive in the classroom.  

This online resource was developed for teachers and curriculum developers as they consider the many ways to access and use historical documents in the classroom for instruction and assessment.  This resource was updated in 2007 from its original version to include updated web links; additional guidance on using DBQs for instruction; and a revised Sample DBQ with scoring rubric for instructional use that models the format of DBQs on New York State assessments.  This resource is divided into two courses:

  • Course I provides an overview of historical records, including strategies for finding and using them in classroom instruction. 
  • Course II provides an overview of DBQ’s, including strategies for developing, using, and rating them as part of classroom assessment.

These courses reflect the vision that innovative instructional resources should provide teachers with support to develop the knowledge, skills, and cultural competencies that students need to succeed in school, compete in the workplace, and become part of the global community.  Knowing how to use historical documents from around the world helps New York State educators to achieve that vision for their students.


Anne Schiano, Assistant Director

Curriculum, Instruction and Instructional Technology


Last Updated: May 22, 2009