The Document-Based Question (DBQ)

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The document based question (DBQ) is designed to enable students to work like historians, analyzing and synthesizing evidence from a variety of sources and media. Students will be evaluated on their ability to interpret such factors as purpose, source, bias, date and place of origin, tone, etc. In order to receive a satisfactory score, students must establish and prove a thesis through accurate and sophisticated utilization of the available documents.

The DBQ is designed to test the skills a historian uses in interpreting historical material. Thus, it does not require that a student be familiar with the event or topic that is being presented. Although it is admissible to include background or supporting knowledge in writing the essay, a student will be able to respond adequately using only the data provided. In this regard, the European History DBQ differs from the U.S. History DBQ. As a result, the College Board does not identify a particular time period or theme from which the European History DBQ will be drawn.

The types of documents that might be included as historical sources include:
1. Public records 2. Diaries and letters
3. Art, literature, music 4. Charts and graphs
5. Maps 6. Speeches
7. News articles 8. Interviews
9. Photographs 10. Political cartoons
Students should consider the evidence presented in each of the documents individually. Additionally, they should seek to establish connections or explicate apparent contradictions in the documents. For more information on the DBQ, go to

Page maintained by Donna C. Van Handle.   Last modified on April 15, 2003.