“DBQ” is a short form for document based question essay mostly assigned to students enrolled for AP U.S. History exam. It is aimed at determining the ability of a student to analyze documents and then use them to answer questions that have been provided in form of essay.
Let us now see what is a DBQ essay and learn how you can use DBQ examples to write a grade winning essay for (APUSH) by College Board.
AP US HISTORY essay exam is an important part of any class 11th and 12th standard curriculum. We often see our school students practicing this paper at home and having many queries about this topic homework help online here. Click here to get help.
What is a dbq essay?
A dbq essay is a form of essay writing on a specific historical topic. It requires the student to examine essential questions, write an introduction and then three body paragraphs with supporting evidence.
There are two types of dbq essays:
- Form based — Document based question on which the whole essay is centered around.
- Issue based — Questions were assigned together with some historical document related to it. You need to look into the document and base you answers on what was written or implied there.
There are many steps you can go through if you want to write a dbq essay, but we will describe only 4 most important ones: finding relevant information from a source(s), analyzing it and forming an opinion/point-of-view, writing thesis statement proving the relevance of your opinion and developing supporting points.
The first step is to find the relevant information from a source or sources that you have chosen, which can be either primary sources (documents written by people who participated in events described there) or secondary sources (works produced by historians and writers who were not participants but observed what happened and then wrote about it).
Once you have found the important parts, discuss them with an eye on questions given. You will need to distinguish between facts and opinions stated there. Then use those facts in order to answer questions that have been asked. This means, analyze every fact you come across with a critical mind asking yourself “Is this really true? How do I know if it’s true?” Is there any doubt if this is really the case? These are some of the questions you can ask yourself. You don’t need to be silent and passive while reading a document; instead, think it over and interpret what’s there.
Lastly, you will need to frame your ideas in form of complete sentences. In order to do that, you’ll have to write thesis statement for your dbq essay . This statement will state how exactly you view a subject or an event described in the documents located. You should make sure that your point-of-view has both logical and factual background so as not to sound like an opinion without any evidence based on facts. How does one proof his/her opinion? That’s where supporting points come into play! They are your evidence proving your thesis statement and they are supported by facts taken from the document/s. In order to make it all sound coherent, you will need to make sure your words are precise and that you have used correct punctuation and grammar.
Structure of a DBQ essay
The structure is as follows:
A dbq essay has four parts.
The first part or introductory paragraph should answer the question accurately and directly while providing enough detail to interest readers in reading further. Authors are expected to provide clear facts and must avoid giving personal opinion in this matter.
The second section of the dbq essay is divided into three paragraphs where each paragraph is intended to cover one element of the main question from a different point-of-view. In other words students will have to explain why they believe there were certain causes for that particular issue under study while not neglecting other factors.
In the third part of the dbq essay, students are expected to explain how their view of the subject reflects a broader understanding of historical processes.
This section should be broad in scope and should bring together ideas from all three body paragraphs. This is where students can show mastery of knowledge by showing an overall analysis that explains why one particular cause led directly or indirectly to another effect.
The concluding paragraph brings together your overall argument concerning this historical event, its importance and meaning for people living at this time period and its place in history. Your main goal is to summarize your findings which will enable you to convince readers that you have presented a complete picture of the subject under study.
Using evidence: Students will also need to make sure to use the correct amounts of evidence they find to support their own point-of-view in this matter. The dbq essay is a subjective interpretation and it requires support with facts, numbers, texts from primary sources, quotations and so on.
Handling contradictions: One of the major challenges a student will face while writing a dbq essay is how to explain apparent contradictions or opposing viewpoints while sticking to one’s own argument.
The best way for students to deal with this dilemma is becoming aware of the presence of such contradictions right at the start rather than hiding them until later or simply ignoring them completely. That means that any contradictory account must be analyzed carefully not only by your own reasoning but also by factoring in historical context as well as the author’s purpose. A good student will acknowledge any objections before they are raised by anybody else and will provide a suitable answer to them.
In dbq essays students are also expected to put their personal opinion aside and concentrate on the main arguments which are definitely more important parts of such an essay than one’s own thoughts about the subject at hand.
Finally, it is worth noting that dbq essays should not be written from an outsider viewpoint but as somebody who was involved in actually shape the course of events under study – for example, if you were Lincoln or Jefferson during the American Civil War, then your perspective would be very different from those who never saw combat unless they gained knowledge of what really happened through secondary sources.
The dbq essay should always be written in the past tense and it is never, ever completed till your teacher announces so.
DBQ Example: how to write a dbq essay
Let’s write some examples showing how this process works in real life!
Step 1: Find relevant information:
There is a letter of George Washington written on his instructions to kill British soldiers who refused to give up their arms at New York City after being captured in 1776-1777. The content of this letter was published in Nathan Schachner’s book “Washington, Soldier & Man”. According to him, Washington gave such an order on September 18th, 1776. This can be considered a primary source.
Step 2: Discuss information:
Observing the content of that letter, it is possible to answer one question, which is “How did George Washington behave in early days of revolution?” by saying that he was determined to fight until America won independence from Great Britain and that his forces were not going to give up easily. The other two questions can be answered with facts found in another document or documents. “What did Loyalists think about American victory? And why”? One useful document for this will be Thomas Jones’ letter written on October 15th, 1776 where he praises British tactics and shows confidence that their army will win even though they had been defeated at Boston (note: this source is located at Yale University Library, Collection of American Historians. Vol II).
Step 3: Write thesis statement:
My opinion on the subject is that Loyalists thought that British army would eventually win in this conflict and so they were optimistic about their future. I base it on information found in Thomas Jones’ letter written on October 15th, 1776 where he praises British tactics proving his confidence that their army will win even though they had been defeated at Boston.
Step 4: Make supporting points:
Another document showing how Loyalists reacted to American victory was John Adams’ diary entry dated September 3rd, 1776 where H.S. Commager described how delegates from different colonies consulted with each other after hearing news about battle at Long Island saying that they were all convinced that Great Britain would win this war.
Step 5: Proof your thesis statement with facts:
Therefore, my opinion is based on information found in Thomas Jones’ letter and John Adams’ diary entry; therefore it is factual. I can refer to them as primary sources because they are written by people who actually took part in the events they describe. Moreover, I’m not going to argue with these sources as both of them support my point-of-view.
Use a combination of secondary and primary sources (documents) when writing dbq essay.
Tips for writing a good dbq essay
A dbq essay is one that focuses on answering 3 questions: who, what, and why. DBQ essays often take the form of a persuasive or analytical piece.
- The first step in writing a good dbq essay is to find relevant information. This information can be found by searching through primary and secondary sources.
- Once you have found those sources, it is important to evaluate them carefully to make sure they are reliable and factual.
- The next step is to write 3 points of argument for the three questions, which should also be factual.
- Finally, it is important to make sure your thesis statement supports all arguments made within the essay.
Definition of a dbq essay:
A dbq essay is a form of argumentative writing that focuses on answering 3 questions: who, what, and why. It often takes the form of an analytical or persuasive piece.
The first step to writing a good dbq essay is to find relevant information:
You should start by trying to come up with your own answers to these questions before you look at secondary sources. Then you can go about finding sources that support your stance. You may need more than one source as some will be unreliable or incomplete (or both).
After finding valid sources, it’s important to evaluate them for their reliability and accuracy:
It’s important that you check bibliographies, call/write the authors and publishers if
What is the purpose and structure of a dbq essay:
The purpose of the dbq essay is to present 3 points of argument that support your thesis.
These three points are: 1) who (explanation), 2) what, and 3) why. Those three questions must be answered in order to successfully make a statement about an historical event or figure. You must have a reliable and factual source for each point you make.
dbq essay outline – structure
The structure of a dbq essay often follows this format:
Introduction – Your intro paragraph should attract the reader’s attention using relevant information from your sources as well as your own opinion on the matter. Make sure your thesis statement makes it clear which view you are going to take on the issue at hand!
Body paragraphs – Each body paragraph must support your thesis statement. It must explain clearly why you think your argument is correct and may include a quote or two to make your point.
Conclusion – Your conclusion should restate your thesis along with a call to action (i.e., what you want the reader to do after reading)
How to find relevant information for your dbq essay:
Your first step should be to try and come up with your own answers to the question of who, what, and why. You can then go about finding reliable sources that will support your stance on the issue you are writing about.
To begin with, you may want to talk to people who were alive during this time or find books written by those people as they will have valuable information that is much more detailed than a general history book could give. Bibliographies can also help you find helpful information for your dbq essay writing. Not only do bibliographies provide you with titles of important works but they also tell where those works can be found.
It’s very important when evaluating a source for reliability that you check:
who wrote it, when was it written (factual discrepancies can arise from the passing of time), and how many other reliable sources support or contradict your source.
It is also important to check bibliographies, list of works cited, interviews with authors/experts on your subject as well as any kind of fact checking you can do on your own. It is crucial to use multiple sources so you aren’t limited by one point of view or biased information. The more solid (reliable) sources you have found the better!
How to evaluate a dbq essay once you have found relevant information:
Once you’ve read through some primary and secondary sources, it’s important that if seems credible that you analyze its reliability and accuracy. When you are evaluating a source it’s important that you check to see if:
the author(s) have any bias or conflict of interest, what is the primary purpose for this piece of writing (i.e., is it to inform, persuade, entertain), who is the intended audience (based on tone and vocabulary used), what does it contain? Is there anything missing from the description that might be crucial for your understanding of the topic at hand? Does it provide an accurate representation of what actually happened/happens? Does anything in the content contradict itself or other sources?, and finally does any information provided seem irrelevant or useless to your research question?
The more solid sources you can find that support your case, the better!
How to actually write a dbq essay:
The structure of your dbq essay should follow the general format of any other persuasive or analytical paper, the introduction will be your thesis statement and conclusion, and you will have at least one body paragraph that states an example of who (explanation), what, and why. You might also consider using quotes from your sources in order to help make a point as well as to provide evidence for that particular point.
It is very important when writing about an historical figure or event that you support every single one of your opinions with facts taken directly from reliable sources; even if you are referring to someone’s personal account/experience it must be backed up by another source!
Your dbq essay should be written in present tense as a historical document would be.
How to proofread and edit your dbq essay:
Reading through and editing your essay for any spelling or grammatical errors is the last thing you need to do before submitting it to your teacher, so make sure you take care of that!
Beyond that, it’s important to read through for flow and consistency throughout the entire essay and look for sources that will help support each of your claims.
It’s also important when writing a history paper such as this one that you don’t include personal bias (i.e., they did this because I think so) unless you want it to come across as an opinion piece rather than an actual history paper.
It’s also important to take time to edit your essay for flow and consistency throughout the entire essay in addition to making sure it is well-organized and that your thesis statement is clear, direct, and easily identified quickly by the reader.
Just remember to make sure of all these things before you submit your dbq essay!
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