are DBQ's and why are they important?
DBQ's are document-based questions.
In this case, documents are defined as any primary source
material or resources that provide firsthand evidence of historical
events. Photographs, literature, deeds, wills, advertising,
and census records are all example of primary source documents.
On a personal level, there are licenses, birth records, social
security cards, tax records, family photographs, drawings,
and post cards. School records including attendance records,
blueprints, yearbooks, literary pieces, meeting minutes are
also considered primary source documents. Many community resources
including libraries, historical societies, museums, churches,
and government offices are repositories for documents of this
Why are these documents important?
For one thing, these resources give us a first-hand account
of life in previous centuries and help us to put those times
into perspective with the present. The importance of this
is evidenced by the revised history curriculum recently released
by the New York State Education Department. Students in New
York State elementary, middle and secondary schools are being
asked to use these documents as tool to expand higher thinking
skills. The ability to analyze a group of documents and suggest
reasoned answers is a life-long skill and one valued in this
Students at various grade levels are
now taking exams that involve the use of these evaluative
skills. They are asked to read a collection of documents and
answer a series of questions relating to each document. They
use their new skills
to examine these items for content, statistics, demographics,
etc. They must be able to compare the present, near past,
and distant past, and then draw conclusions based on that
By using historical documents as a
supplement to current instructional resource, teachers are
able to instruct students in their relationship to the citizens
of the past. These resources force the eyes to focus on concepts
and, in doing so, open students' minds to a higher level of
thinking. In using these primary resources, students are offered
a new and more personal perspective on history. These documents
provoke stimulating and sometimes unanticipated discussion
among the students.
Currently, many primary source documents
are available to teachers via the Internet, one example being
the Library of Congress and its "American Memory" website.
In addition to online resources, historical documents are
available from 2,500 historical records repositories and 4,400
local government agencies in New York State. However, these
resources, however useful, are not as stimulating or valuable
as something of local interest might be. It is for this reason
that the resources included in this book have been collected,
scanned, and provided in this format to our schoolchildren.