DBQ (Document-Based Question ) essay is commonly asked in the AP exams, US, and European history exams. DBQ essay writing is like a sixty-four-thousand-dollar-question; if you answer it correctly, you will score well in the AP exam.
As evident from its name, DBQ is based on a number of documents that are about a specific period of time or topic. You have to work through these documents and find out how they are connected with each other, trends that are visible during the era, etc. Remember, you don’t have to simply explain the events but analyze them as well, just the way a historian analyzes primary sources and establishes the chain of circumstances between events.
There are two main aspects that you need to focus on in order to write a DBQ essay – proper planning and using effective methods. Usually, you get 15 minutes for reading and 40 minutes for writing the DBQ essay in the AP exam ( total time given is 55 minutes). You have to use these first 15 minutes to understand the essay question, think about it, and sort out the documents. There is no need to start writing before 15 minutes, rather use this time to plan your paper. Even if this task seems like a tough nut to crack, you can easily hammer on it if you follow these tips for DBQ academic writing.
1. Read and comprehend the question
Identify critical things like the location, personalities, time period, etc. Underline these things as you might need them if it is a compare and contrast question. Write down your viewpoint and think of other information that you can relate to this question. Make sure you do the brainstorming before reading the documents as it will be difficult to think about other information with documents occupying your mind. Once you understand the question, you will be in a better position to answer it accurately.
2. Analyze the documents effectively
Although the number of documents may vary from exam to exam, you need to examine as many documents as you can. Also, you have to add evidence from your to end to support your arguments. The documents can be in the form of articles, speeches, letters, legislation excerpts, charts, pictures, maps, and diary entries. Some documents may be well-known, but nearly all of them will seem new to you.
3. Briefly write the principal idea of the text
Find out who has created the document. Try to answer the questions in connection with the document. Write down the most important events mentioned in the documents. Sort out the documents in different groups to be able to analyze the information properly. This information will come handy while essay writing. Instead of labeling the documents like “document 1 or document 2,” use the title of the document.
4. Present a thesis statement
Write a summary of your essay and figure out what you are already familiar with and what documents you will use in your paper. Make separate paragraphs for every idea that you want to discuss.
5. Write an essay
Your chief objective is to write a good thesis with strong and clear paragraphs supported by evidence that answer the essay question and conclude it properly.
Introduce the topic to the reader. Give the historical context of the topic and mention the ideas you will describe and present a thesis.
- Body paragraphs
Usually, this section has two or more paragraphs. Every paragraph should discuss only one idea. Analyze the documents that you had sorted into different groups. Start with the first group of documents and begin each paragraph with the topic statement. Try to use as many documents as you can. Write down your own information that you had learned in the class and support your ideas with the documents. Make sure that every point relates to the thesis statement and is support with the suitable document or external information. It’s important to use external information to obtain the maximum credit for DBQ academic writing. Remember, there is no one right answer for the DBQ essay. You can use the evidence to present an argument from your point of view.
Start with paraphrasing the objective of your DBQ essay and give a summary of the ideas you have expressed in previous sections. Discuss the impact of the essay question in today’s world. If you don’t have the time to write a long conclusion, conclude your essay with a few sentences instead of ending it abruptly.
Ideally, you should proofread your DBQ essays after writing to check whether you have got the names, dates, and documents correct. Also, check for the flow of the essay and that all the paragraphs are in a logical order.
If you want to feel confident and improve your chances to write an excellent timed essay on your AP exam, you need to practice more and learn more about the exam. Use these tips to write a DBQ essay and perfect your skills in writing DBQ essay.