Create Your Own DBQ Using Primary Sources

In this lesson, the learners will learn and use core concepts of document-based questioning as well as using primary sources. It is required with AP history classes to use document based materials to answer questions and also get familiar with the use of primary texts. However, students have a tendency to make mistakes in this approach or get frustrated with trying to find appropriate material. This assignment will help students with this issue.

Instructional Objectives (SWBAT+ Student will be able to): 

  • Understand what a primary source is and use it for academic purposes.
  • Search for primary sources and collect them for academic purposes.
  • Create their own DBQ (Document Based Question) and share documents via Evernote or Learnist.
  • Extra Credit: Develop a question (using Costa’s Levels of Questioning) concerning a historical time period (we will be using the 1870s-1890s for this exercise). (Sample questions will be provided)

Step 1: Review what Primary Sources are:


Step 2: Review what a DBQ is:

DOWNLOAD THE DBQ Packet: Take time and review it!

ALSO REVIEW the video on DBQ’s (this will be ten minutes well spent…promise you) (You may want to bookmark this document students:

Step 3: Now it is time to make your own DBQ

First, here are three questions (pick one):

  • Question 1: North or South: Who Killed Reconstruction?
  • Question 2: What Caused the Dust Bowl?
  • Question 3: Student option (must cover a historical time period between and 2008).
    Warning: Do not use pre-existing DBQ examples for this assignment, as that is plagiarism. The question is fine, but using the same artifacts will result in a zero on this assignment!

Then, find at least seven artifacts (primary resources) that show a balance of these arguments. It is possible that one series of artifacts may counter the other, but you need both. Try to include at least two visual artifacts, but do not include ALL visual artifacts. Keep a healthy balance. Remember, the DBQ should be enough to do a thorough and well done so it can be used for an essay.

Need help?

Step 4: Prepare your DBQ, using the template provided by the instructor. 

It is a Word document, but you may open in Google Docs as well!

DBQ Template

Step 5: Use Google Earth to Mark the Locations of your DBQ Sources

You will be labeling the origin of the primary source using Google Earth (the historical location, not the research location.

  • Download Google Earth
  • You will need a Google account if you do not have one already
  • Review the video below
  • Track the origin of your primary source and pin it to Google Earth.
  • Submit your completed file via e-mail to your instructor at
  • Here is my quick video on how to do this for the class:

Additional video support:

Step 6: Submit to your instructor via Schoology, Google Docs, or Evernote.

After these have been graded, we will exchange these and do a timed DBQ not only to learn how to better write a DBQ but also check to see if your artifacts were strong enough to help students write a solid essay.

Schoology Model: Students, e-mail for access code.Here is an example of what the distribution site looks like:

Screenshot 2013-11-04 19.57.35



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