About DBQs and Mini-Qs



Our DBQ units provide students with the opportunity to engage in the same historical thinking and writing students use in Mini-Qs. The main difference is that with DBQs (often referred to as “Mother-Qs”), students wrestle with more documentary evidence. Each unit is written twice to differentiate between the longer version (14-26 documents) and the shorter version (8-12 documents). Teachers choose which version to use based on time and student reading level. When students construct their DBQ essays, they often use several documents per paragraph to prove each part of their thesis.

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Mini-Q lessons are shorter (3-7 documents) but they also help students understand the process of close analysis, interrogation of documents, and argument writing. Each Mini-Q is written twice to differentiate between the highly scaffolded “enhanced version” and the less scaffolded “clean version.” This means Mini-Qs work for students of all skill levels. To help teachers demonstrate elements of proficient writing, each Mini-Q lesson comes with three norming essays: non-proficient, proficient, and higher proficiency. Students and teachers alike may analyze these sample essays to evaluate writing, to learn protocols for using and citing evidence, and to address questions of style. In short, Mini-Qs are shorter, more scaffolded DBQs.

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Shared Features

Multiple Units

Every lesson separated by its own tab and formatted ready-to-reproduce for students.

Engaging questions

All questions encourage interpretation, have more than one correct answer, and are arguable.


Each lesson is scaffolded for students at different levels to provide teachers the flexibility to support students, whatever their ability.

Clear pedagogy

The pedagogy stays the same whether teaching a longer DBQ or a Mini-Q, thus creating a clear vertically-aligned progression.

Primary and secondary sources

Students use documents just like historians to answer questions. Documents are central, not supplementary.

Hook Exercise

Creates interest, promotes discussion, and builds students’ confidence as they work in pairs and small groups as well as the whole class.

Background Essay

Levels the playing field in classrooms with students by building context. Provides all students with enough background to understand the documents.

Graphic organizers to aid document analysis

Different graphic organizers help students of various ability levels analyze and record details about each document.

Categorization Tools

We help students develop analytical categories by talking about buckets. Friendly terminology helps students embrace rigorous work.

Explicit writing supports

We use student-friendly graphic organizers and to help students understand how to write an argument-based thesis.

Essay Outlines

Teachers use the DBQ Project outline or the more structured guided outlines to support students of different ability levels.

Teaching Tips

Every document contains content-rich suggestions to help teachers engage students in analyzing documents.

Content Notes

Additional historical background about the documents helps build teachers’ confidence and knowledge.

Color Visuals

All visual documents are colorized for use with document cameras.

Teacher’s toolkit

A wealth of resources to help students analyze documents and write evidence- based essays, conveniently located in each binder.

DBQ Features

DBQs are longer

Students work with 8-18 documents and wrestle with some longer documents than those provided in the Mini-Qs.

Differentiation by length

Every unit comes in a long version and a short version. The short version has 8-12 documents while long version has 14-18.

Document support

Document analysis questions to help students unpack each document. These are located in the “Teachers Toolkit.”

Hook activity

In the DBQs, the hook is in the “Teacher Toolkit” instead of being embedded in the lesson as it is in the Mini-Qs.

Rigorous Bucketing Process

With more documents, students wrestle with more complexity. Students group 2-5 documents in each category.

Mini-Q Features

Mini-Qs are Short

Students usually work with 4-6 documents. This provides practice reading and interpreting without overwhelming students.

Differentiation by ability level

Units come in 2 versions. The enhanced version is highly scaffolded. The clean version includes the same documents, but no support.

Document support

Document analysis questions located directly below each document in the EV version.

Hook Activity

In the Mini-Qs, the Hook Exercise is embedded in the materials and appears as “Step One” in every Mini-Q lesson.

Straightforward Bucketing

Since Mini-Qs have fewer documents, each bucket might contain evidence from only one or two documents.

“Before now, the benefits of the Document Based Questions have been almost exclusively limited to the AP classroom.  But, with The DBQ Project materials and training, all of our students are starting to benefit.  Plus, with the focus on how Social Studies teachers can contribute to the Common Core and the emphasis on non-fiction informational texts, this is a great fit.  We are only in the beginning stages of implementation, but I already like what I am seeing in classrooms.”

– Stacy Moore, Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator, Union County, NC.

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