Questions and Prompts For Social Studies Skills

Use the questions and prompts below to help your students analyze social studies skills.



Focuses on a document’s author and the circumstances of its creation.




Identified the category of source.

  1. What kind of document/artifact is this?

Identified the date and creator of source.

  1. Who created the artifact/document and when did they create it?

Identified if the source is primary or secondary.

  1. Is the source primary, secondary, or both?
  2. Did the creator have first hand knowledge of the event? Did they report what others saw or heard?
  3. Was the source created immediately after an event or some time later?

Described the audience of the source.

  1. Who would have access to this document? What would be the bias of the people who had access to this type of document?
  2. Who was the creator of source (talking/writing/addressing) to?
  3. How does the audience of the source affect the writing?
  4. Was the source created to be private or public?

Described the purpose of the source.

  1. Why was this source created?
  2. What was the purpose of the source?
  3. Did the creator want to inform or persuade?

Described characteristics, bias, or perspectives of the source’s creator.

  1. What specific information, details, and/or perspectives does the source provide?
  2. What kind of person was the creator of the source?
  3. Based on the source, what can you say about the creator’s bias?
  4. What perspectives are indicated in the source?
  5. Whose side does this (document/artifact) represent?
  6. What is the perspective of the (author/creator)?
  7. What specific information, details, and/or perspectives does the source provide?
  8. Can you determine the profession, race, gender, class, age, religion, or any other identifier of the source’s creator? Does the author’s identity affect the source? How? (Word choice, emphasis of certain words, the way they depicted people/places/things).

Described the trustworthiness of the source.

  1. Is there anything about the source that you question or do not trust?
  2. Can you trust the words of the author? Can you trust this source? Why or why not? 
  3. Why or why not is the source credible?



  1. It may help you to imagine how this source would have been different if a different person wrote it. For example, how might a piece written by a black woman living in Kenya be different than something written by a white man in England? What about a black man? What about a child? What about a person living in another part of the world? Or another era? Use this thinking to help you analyze how an author’s race, class, gender, ect. influences their writing. Do they write more emotionally because they identify with the person they are writing about?
  2. Typically, there are dozens of different topics that a source might be useful for. It is hard to be “wrong” about how the source would be useful, but try to stick with something the source would really be good for.
  3. Remember that even if you believe the piece doesn’t seem “biased,” you should still go through the questions about bias above and see how this text stacks up. You may find that an author was a pretty neutral observer with n biases. However, it is much more likely that, after answering the questions and considering who the author was (gender, race, class, profession).



Considers important details across multiple sources to determine points of agreement and disagreement. Corroboration is used when two sources are being put against each other.




Listed similarities and differences of the two or more sources.

  1. Create a list of similarities and differences between the two sources.
  2. How much time has passed between the two (documents/artifacts) being (printed/published)?
  3. On what points do the two (documents/artifacts) agree? On what points do the two (documents/artifacts) disagree?
  4. Compare and contrast the two _________. How are they different and similar? Use evidence to support your answer.

Identified the different and/or similar characteristics, bias, or perspectives of the sources’ creators.

  1. Create a list of similarities and differences about the different creators of the sources.

Used the sources to question, disprove, or confirm a historical idea, belief, or fact.

  1. Which of the images presents a more accurate representation of the historical event?
  2. According to both (documents/artifacts), what was the cause of historical event?

Rejected or accepted a source based on analysis of other sources.

  1. Where the (documents/artifacts) conflict, which one do you think is more trustworthy? Why?
  2. Which of the two documents seems more reliable? Why might they differ?
  3. Which argument did you find most convincing? Why?

Corroboration between political cartoons

  • Describe the African Americans in this cartoon. Is this a positive or a negative image? Explain.
  • What is Liberty trying to do?
  • What is the message of this cartoon? How does it differ from the message of Cartoon #1?
  • In what ways are these cartoons similar?
  • In what ways are these cartoons different?
  • Why might the cartoons have different messages?
  • What do these cartoons tell us about the how the North felt about freedmen during Reconstruction?



Readers must consider the validity of sources and generate questions on how the source could be used and coupled with other information.




Created questions based on analysis of the source.

  1. Immediately after looking at the source, what questions do you have?
  2. After examining the source, what questions do you have about it? 

Identified ideas, images, or terms that need to be further defined or explained.

  1. What additional evidence beyond the source is necessary?
  2. What ideas, images, or terms need further defining from the source?

Described additional evidence needed to better understand the source.

  1. How do you plan on answering the questions that you created?
  2. What specific information do you need in order to better understand the source?

Describe how useful the source is for answering specific questions.

  1. How useful or significant is the source for its intended purpose in answering the historical questions?

Described the strengths and weaknesses of the source.

  1. Create a list of strengths and weaknesses that the source possesses.
  2. How can you use this source to strengthen your argument?
  3. How can you use this source to bring up questions against someone else’s argument?
  4. How does this source weaken your argument?



Requires readers to situate a primary source in time and place. Students must consider the document’s historical context, piecing together major events, themes, and people that distinguish the era in which a document was created.




Described a historical moment, person, group, or action.

  1. As you reviewed the source, do you see any people or groups that are important? Can you describe them?
  2. As you reviewed the source, do you see any events that are important? Can you describe them?
  3. How does the primary source further expand upon, explain, or elucidate something you read in the textbook this week? How does the primary source contradict, complicate or make you reconsider something you read in your textbook or something else?

Correctly connect the primary source to an outside fact to better explain a historical idea, belief, or theme.

  1. How well does the (document/artifact) represent the author’s perspective?
  2. What was happening within the immediate and broader context at the time the source was produced?

Described what people would have thought about the source, while considering the source’s time period.

  1. How might attitudes of _______ changed about ________ between _________?
  2. What might have people thought when they first saw the (document/artifact)?
  3. Imagine the event the source describes. What might have the people in the source thought about?

Used a historical event, person, or thing, that was not mentioned in the source, and explained how it affected the source.

  1. What happened (during ______/or at ______) that led to something from the source?


Contextualization Example

Declaration of Independence-’All men are created equal”


  • Today-duh…1776-Wow! This is a revolutionary idea!




Inferring/Close Reading

The text will be the primary means to answer the questions. A student’s opinions ground in fact from the source.


Inferring/Close Reading


Described the main point of the source.

  1. What is suggested by the source?
  2. What interpretations may be drawn from the source?
  3. What is the main take away from the source?

Listed important details about the source and described why they were important.

  1. Does anything about this source surprise you? Why?
  2. What influences may be drawn from absences or omissions in the source?
  3. List three important (facts/complaints/disputes/agreements/most important ideas/themes) from the primary source?
  4. Activity
    • Opening Up the Textbook: Before answering these questions, read an account of the (historical event/person) from a typical textbook.
    • Using the primary source, what can be said about the (historic event/person) that is not included in the textbook?
    • Do you think anything from the primary source belongs in the textbook? Why?
    • How does the document challenge or expand the information you read in the textbook.
    • Examples
      1. According to Jefferson, have the colonies been peaceful or chaotic? Support your answer with evidence from the document.
      2. What else was going on at this time? Why do you think that Thomas Jefferson included a paragraph about slavery when he first wrote the Declaration of Independence? Why do you think it was removed?
      3. Why does this author think of Nat Turner in this way? Think about when this article was written: How does the author’s historical context shape how he thinks of and represents Turner?
      4. John Brown delivered this speech on the last day of his trial, after hearing the jury pronounce him ‘guilty.’ He knew he would be sentenced to die. Given that context, what does this speech say about him as a person?

Described the meaning of symbols or objects, or with written documents, the purpose of word choice or specific quotes.

  1. What do you think the (author/creator) meant when he wrote _________?
  2. What does it mean when the author says a quote from the document?
  3. What words or language does the author focus on? Why do you think the author focuses on that language or word?
  4. Describe the historic figure according to the secondary or primary source author?
  5. Read the following quote: ___________. Students need to take a stand on what the quote means, then have them find another piece of evidence to prove what they argued is true.
  6. Based on the symbols in the political cartoon, how does the author feel about (race, gender, class, political decision, historical event).
    • Example: With whose perspective do you sympathize with MOST? Irish? African Americans? Store-owners? Chinese? Explain your answer.

Inferred something about a person, place, or thing based on how the author described it.

  1. Inferring from the source, what you can you say about the people mentioned in the source?
  2. Inferring from the source, what you can you say about the place mentioned in the source?
  3. Inferring from the source, what you can you say about ________ mentioned in the source?
  4. How does the author describe important term from history? (for example, slavery).
  5. Describe the author according to himself/herself.
  6. According to the document/s, what happened during historical event?
  7. Based on the author’s description of (race, gender, class, political decision, historical event), what were the stereotypes of ____________?

Used a historical concept, theme, belief, or idea to further explain the significance or characteristics of the source.

  1. Taking into account the context of the time period, would you support the historical figures philosophy?
  2. Why might have the two (authors,creators) wanted to portray the historical event differently?


Ask students a text based questions, such as 

  • Does Lemay believe that Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life? What evidence does he provide for his argument? 
  • According to the author of this speech, what kind of person is Nat Turner? What proof does he provide to illustrate that Turner is this type of person?
  • Carefully read Lincoln’s response to Douglas. On what points is Lincoln willing to agree with Douglas? On what points does he differ from Douglas?