The DBQ Project Method™

The DBQ Project 6-Step Method underpins the design of all our DBQs and Mini-Qs. Each step builds on students’ curiosity and increases motivation and confidence to answer a compelling, authentic question.


Step 1: The Hook Exercise

Engages students and orients them to the question.

Step 2: The Background Essay

Further orients students to the question and provides essential context that helps make sense of the documents.

Step 3: Understanding the Question and


Helps students plan so they can target their investigation of the documents. Clarifying the question motivates students  to start reading their sources to find answers.

Step 4: Analyzing the Documents

It’s like you’re a detective!  The documents provide clues and evidence students need to support their thesis or claim. They provide the knowledge and information students need to answer the question.

Step 5: Bucketing

Helps students get organized. Buckets become containers for evidence that students use to categorize or group evidence from the documents.

Step 6A: The Thrash-Out and Preparing to Write

Students prepare to write by debating or “thrashing-out” their answer to the question. Students practice using evidence from the documents to support and verbally validate their claims. They use what they learn to outline their essays.

Step 6B: Writing the Essay

Students write multi-paragraph, evidence-based essays using their documents, buckets, and outlines to support and explain their reasoning.

The DBQ Project Method provides a framework of best practices that guides teachers and students to read smart, think straight, and write clearly.

How do you teach a DBQ?

It is much easier to assign a DBQ than to teach one. Using document-based questions as a method of instruction rather than just an exam is at the heart of DBQ’s philosophy.

To master high-level skills, students need high-level instruction.

The DBQ Project Library

“Our teachers love The DBQ Project!  They leave the workshop energized and well-equipped to incorporate primary sources in their lesson plan immediately.  The DBQ Project is an excellent workshop for World and U.S. History teachers on all levels.”

– Kim Weston, K-12 Social Studies Coordinator, Dekalb County, GA