DBQs are document-based questions that test a student’s ability to read and use primary sources in answering historical questions in Advanced Placement classes. Students can be presented with quotes, journal entries or even photographs and are then asked to assess how they influence our interpretation of history.
Writing a DBQ Response
Read and analyze the question
Read and analyze the question. Determine what the question is asking you to do. Pay close attention to the verb used in the prompt. Marcella Ruland also suggests looking for conjunctions (and, or) to ensure that you are answering the question completely.
Make a list
Make a list of relevant information before you read the documents. Write down everything you think is important about this time period or event.
Read the documents
Read the documents. Underline information that is relevant to the question. It is important to consider the point of view of the documents, including who wrote it and under what circumstances. The context of the document is just as important as the information it contains.
Write the introductory paragraph
Write the introductory paragraph. This paragraph should include a general introduction to the period or event, a statement of two or three key issues or aspects of the topic, and a thesis sentence.
Write the body paragraphs
Write the body paragraphs. Each issue or aspect that you listed in the introductory paragraph should get its own body paragraph. Provide support explaining why each issue is important, using both the documents given and your list of relevant information.
Write the conclusion
Write the conclusion. Restate the thesis from the introductory paragraph now that you've supported it. In some cases it's appropriate to explain how this issue is relevant today.