Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Create Your Own DBQ
Jennifer Brown
AP US History
Time Frame:
2 weeks
Primary Source Analysis
Analyzing Secondary Sources
Analyzing Primary Sources

Grade Levels:
10, 11

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Students will be creating their own DBQ. The assignment requires students to research and include primary and secondary documents that are related directly to the question they have written. Students may work on their own or in small groups of two or three.


The Document-Based Question is a central part of the Advanced Placement US History course. Students are required to answer a question pertaining to a significant historical period by analyzing provided documents and incorporating outside information into their essay. According to the College Board, "DBQ's are designed to enable students to work like historians, analyzing and synthesizing information from a variety of sources and media. Students are evaluated on their ability to interpret such factors as purpose, source bias, date and place of origin, tone, etc."

District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Missouri Standards:

 Social Studies Knowledge Standards

7. the use of tools of social science inquiry (such as surveys, statistics, maps, documents)

Performance Goal:

1.1 develop questions and ideas to initiate and refine research

1.2. conduct research to answer questions and evaluate information and ideas

Kansas State Standards:

5.5.2(A) The student develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

5.5.3A) The student uses primary and secondary sources about an event in U.S. history to develop a credible interpretation of the event, evaluating on its meaning (e.g., uses provided primary and secondary sources to interpret a historical-based conclusion). According to the College Board and the Advanced Placement US History Program students will have the "ability to analyze and synthesize historical data and assess verbal, quantitative, or pictorial materials as historical evidence." develop "thesis, argument, and supporting evidence" "relate the documents to a historical period or theme" and incorporate outside knowledge with emphasis on analysis and synthesis, not historical narrative.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:

The following is a list of helpful websites: The National Archives, Missouri Valley Special Collections, KC History, Harper's Weekly Cartoon Archive,  The Library of Congress, American Memory, History Central

Technology Required:

Computer and Internet Access

Full description of activity or assignment.

Students will create their own DBQ pertaining to the years 1919-1939. Possible topics include, but are not limited to the following: Treaty of Versailles, 1920s culture, President Truman, Harding, Prohibition, Jim Crow, The New Negro Movement, Labor and American Workers, Jazz, The New Women, FDR, and the Great Depression. Working on their own or in small groups, students will begin by writing their question. It cannot be a previously used AP question and there may be more than one way to answer the question. Then students will be required to find 8-10 documents consisting of primary and secondary sources, such as newspapers, speeches, letters, graphs, pictures, and political cartoons which are directly related to the question they chose. For a question with a debatable topic the documents should both support and oppose the question posed. After putting the compilation into DBQ essay format and labeling each document (A, B, C, ect..) students will then be required to provide rationale for the question and documents they used. They must include a list of outside information that might be used to answer the question. Finally, students will create a rubric on how to grade an expected response to their question which meets the AP expectations.

Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Assessment will be based upon the scoring guide below. Document Based Question Rubric APUSH Name: ___________________________ _____/ 15 Question __________________________________________ _____/ 50 Documents (5 points each) _____/ 15 List of Outside Information _____/15 Rationale for Questions and Documents _____/ 5 Appearance _____/ 100 Total Points