Document-Based Questions require students to think critically and express reasoning. You can use the CERCA Framework as a tool to both analyze historical documents and respond to DBQs.
Using CERCA to Analyze Sources
- What claim is the source making? Another way to think about this is to determine why the source exists. Does it persuade people to do something? Is it a piece of art or music for people to enjoy? Use the document itself along with historical context to determine this.
- What evidence in the source supports the claim or purpose? Annotate anything in the source that provides historical context including dates, names, and places. Add notes about how these features contribute to the document’s purpose or claim.
- Determine the audience the source addresses. A letter may only be intended to be read by one person, while a transcript of a speech is likely meant for a large audience. A flyer may have only been viewed by people in a small geographical area.
- Use historical reasoning to determine how the purpose, evidence, and audience combine to assess the question posed in the DBQ.
Using CERCA to Compose a DBQ Response
- Compose a claim that responds to all parts of the question. The claim should take a stance on the issue and be able to be defended based on the information in the documents.
- Support the claim with evidence from the documents. The evidence should accurately describe, and not just quote, the content from the documents.
- Use reasoning to connect the claim and the evidence by explaining why a document’s purpose, point of view, and audience is relevant to the prompt and larger historical discussions.
- Write the response in audience appropriate language. Most DBQs are written for an academic, scholarly audience and use a formal style and objective tone.