Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


School of Education


The purpose of this study was to investigate what strategies high school teachers are using to teach Document Based Question essays (DBQs) in non-Advanced Placement (AP) history classes. DBQs are essays in which students are given a question and a set of primary and secondary source documents that they must use to support an argument in answering the question. They must write a well-developed five-paragraph essay that includes a thesis statement in the introduction and must analyze the documents, not simply mention them in the essay. In the researcher's experience, many students in non-AP history classes have difficulty with this task; the research literature supports this theory.

The study used a cross-sectional survey design; a survey instrument was developed by the researcher for the study. The survey was posted online, and teachers from eight high schools in northern Illinois were emailed an invitation to take the survey. Out of a possible sample of around 100 teachers, there were twenty-seven completed surveys.

Almost half of the respondents reported using DBQs three to four times a year, and most used them as a summative assessment with the purpose of developing critical thinking, writing, and document analysis skills. The most successful strategies that teachers reported using were cultivating students' background knowledge before writing, explicit instruction in writing, and having students use graphic organizers before writing. For students who read below grade level, slowing down the process and one-on-one instruction were reported as the most successful strategies. Pre-service training seems to be keeping up with the changes in history assessment: teachers with ten or fewer years of experience were found to be significantly more likely to have learned about primary source document analysis and DBQs than were teachers who had been teaching eleven years or more.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.