How to Write a DBQ (Document Based Question) (Part A/...

How to Write a DBQ (Document Based Question) (Part A/ #1)
1. Read the prompt carefully, and look for key words, time periods, and potential categories.
2. Determine 3 possible groupings (categories) of your documents that are suggested by the
prompt. You may have to read the documents first if groups are not specified. Groups or
categories could be organized by:
a. Stated groups from the prompt (political, economic, social, etc…).
b. Sub-categories (all three essay categories might relate to political for example).
c. Change over Time.
d. Groups that you have to create from your own knowledge. This happens a lot!
3. Read and analyze the documents.
4. You must have three groups. It takes a minimum of two documents to create a group.
5. In the conclusion, wrap up the main idea of the essay. You could also state a relevant missing
document for the DBQ.
DBQ Essay Formula: You MUST follow the formula provided below!
After analyzing the documents, (repeat exact key words from the prompt) (include the time period),
then list your three groups (the groups answer the prompt).
 The wording of the thesis may vary slightly depending on the prompt and your verbs, but you
need the opening phrase (after analyzing the documents), the EXACT key words from the
prompt, the time period, and your 3 groups no matter what!
 DO NOT list documents in the thesis. No exceptions!
 No more than two sentences for the thesis.
 Absolutely NO positive, negative, or neutral/indifferent categories.
 If the prompt gives you groups, you need to use the specified groups. However, you will have
to set up sub categories for your groups. For example, if political effects are a given group, then
you must create smaller topics within the political effects group, such as leadership, organization
of the government, law codes, etc…
Sample: After analyzing the documents, African actions and reactions to the European Scramble for
Africa during the age of Imperialism were violent, nonviolent, and often involved peaceful
negotiations between the sides involved.
Body Paragraphs:
Sentence 1/topic sentence: Addressing the document and its grouping
Documents (list at least two documents) are (describe their group) in (theme/topic from prompt)
because (grouping analysis – big picture: why are they similar in this group?).
 Repeat this formula THREE times, once as the first sentence of each body paragraph.
 You must have grouping analysis for all three groups, once for each body paragraph.
Sample: Documents 2, 3, and 7 are violent reactions of Africans to European scramble for Africa
because they all demonstrate how Africans rebelled against European control.
Copyright Allen High School 2013
Sentence 2: Supporting the thesis with evidence
Document (#) shows (should support grouping and the prompt/topic) because (do not repeat words
from the document or summarize, instead give evidence of why it is in this group).
 What is the meaning of the document (the main idea)? Explain it, give evidence from the
document, and tie it back to the subject in the prompt.
 You cannot quote from the documents (even a small phrase from the document). You are
expected to paraphrase and explain the documents.
 You must give evidence for EVERY document – despite what the rubric says.
Example: Document 7 shows violent reactions of Africans wanting to fight against Europeans because
the Herero people are sick of the treatment by the Germans, therefore are rallying Africans to
Sentence 3: Point of View
(The author) feels (tone) because as a (occupation, social status, religion), he/she (wanted/ believed/
acknowledged/understood/suggested/desired, etc.) (personal motivation).
 The source line of the document (bolded portion) gives you 50% of the POV statement. That
information is put in there for a reason by the test committee!!! Always use it and think about
why it is there.
 You must give POV for EVERY document provided – despite what the rubric says.
Example: Samuel Maherero feels pride for Africa because as a leader of the Herero people, he is
responsible for the welfare of his people and desires freedom from foreign control so pleads
to other African leaders to help rebel against the oppression.
Sentence 4: Missing Document
To better understand this group, the viewpoint of a (insert missing document) would be helpful because
(analysis as to why you need a missing document – and it cannot be because the document is missing).
 Add in THREE missing documents for the essay – despite what the rubric says.
 The missing document must be relevant to the prompt and address what the prompt asks (always
see sentence 2 of your DBQ prompt).
 Missing voice can be based on any of the following: gender, social classes, occupation, an
outside party/observer, a chart/table with relevant information or statistics. Flipping the
document is an easy strategy with missing document. For example, if the document is kings
talking about peasants, then give a missing document from the peasants.
 Missing documents cannot go in the thesis.
Example: To better understand this group, the viewpoint of a Herero warrior expecting to fight in the
Herero tribe would be helpful because it would give the reaction of a non-elite member
fighting against superior European technology.
Follow the structure! This is what will earn points on the AP exams, not what you have learned
in other classes!
Copyright Allen High School 2013