Chris Freiler

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  • “If there is one area of the AP Euro exam where practice can do the most to improve your score, it is on the DBQ. Unlike AP US History, the Euro DBQ requires no “outside knowledge”; everything you need to answer the question will be directly in front of you. If the topic may be vague to you, this should actually help focus your attention on the documents … Let the documents drive your essay
          • Chris Freiler, AP Achiever

As a citizen …..

  • You need to be able to sort fact from fiction
  • Recognize agendas behind people’s words and
  • Appreciate that there can be many ways of looking at an issue.
  • The AP Euro DBQ helps you to practice these skills!! See how fun it can be!!??

DBQ topics do not always address mainstream issues from the course.

  • We did the ….. German Peasants Revolt, French Revolution Calendar DBQ, Civil Peace in Germany during WW I, European Unification.
  • Other than the European unification, how many of these were “Main issues” in the course?
  • Don’t let this alarm you. Your response will be guided by the documents

Know your Rubric!!!! -- The Basic core is on the exam, but you should know it without having to look at it.

  • The rubric is a checklist / gatekeeper.
  • You MUST address the six tasks in the Basic core to be considered for points in the Expanded Core
    • Even if you perform admirably on five of the tasks the highest score you will receive is a 5.
    • If another student meets these core tasks at a barely minimal level, that student will score at least a 6.

Time Frame

  • 60 minutes to complete the DBQ, of which 15 minutes is allotted for reading the documents and planning your response (if you use the 5-5-5 method)

General Directions

  • Read the documents completely and carefully
  • As you read, consider how each document helps you address the question. You should also begin formulating potential groups for the documents.
  • Pay careful attention to the authors and source attribution. Brainstorm approaches on how to use this information to address POV and/or bias.

General Directions

  • When you are finished reading the documents, make a brief outline that includes your (at least) three groups, along with the document numbers in support of that group.
  • As you begin writing, keep referring back to the question to ensure that you are addressing it explicitly and by using the documents.

Interpreting the Documents

  • Most DBQ’s will include different types of documents; letters, speeches, books, articles, pamphlets, diaries, cartoons, charts, and illustrations.
  • Task is the same for each document: explain how it relates to your thesis.
  • Separately, each document gives you the opportunity to address the author’s bias, tone, or POV.

Interpreting the Documents

  • Political cartoons tend to poke fun at the high and mighty.
  • Illustrators and photographers act sometimes as effective propagandists for or against political movements.
  • There are no “trick” documents. Each document included is relevant to the exercise … however …

In any DBQ two or three more subtle or nuanced documents will be included. Their purpose is to separate the average or above average response from those that offer sharp and detailed insight into how the documents support the thesis.

  • In any DBQ two or three more subtle or nuanced documents will be included. Their purpose is to separate the average or above average response from those that offer sharp and detailed insight into how the documents support the thesis.

POV strategies

  • How might the author’s identity (race, ethnic background, occupation, social class, age, nationality, religion) influence his / her position?
  • Does this source have first-hand knowledge about what it is he or she is reporting? Is the source reliable?
  • What is the context or occasion in which the author is writing? Is this a public or private document? This may effect whether that author’s true intent or purpose is explicit (especially useful for visual sources)
  • How close in time to the events being reported was this document written or published? Could the author’s memory be faulty or idealized by nostalgic reflection?
  • What is the tone of the document? Are there strong words that suggest an explicit bias?

Tone words

  • One way to demonstrate your mastery of POV is to employ adjectives or verbs, other than “says” or “states” to capture the tone of the document.

Tone words -- powerful words

  • Condemned, encouraged, praised, sarcastic, extolled, satirized, ridiculed, informed, patronizing, dismissive, speculated, condoned, mocked, attacked, questioned, idealized, steroetyped, generalized, ignored, overlooked, glorified, contrasted, recorded, noted, observed, criticized
  • Doubted, excoriated, embraced, rejected, challenged, depicted, exalted, claimed, rationalized, compared, exemplified, typified, implied, postulated, exhorted, showed, berated, modified, adapted, issued, decreed, suggested, categorized, classified, defended


  • To receive credit on the core scoring rubric for POV analysis, you must provide three explicit examples.
  • Avoid asserting bias without explaining your rationale. You will not get credit.
  • If you want to earn points in the expanded core (you do!), aim for more than three examples of POV. Our rule has been at least 5 (in case you get one wrong, you can still get the expanded core point)

Grouping the Documents

  • To master the DBQ you must detect patterns among the documents.
  • At least THREE groups
  • One of the surest strategies is to divide the documents based on the types of arguments they advance.
  • Be careful with positive and negative groupings. You will need a third group.

Grouping the Documents

  • You could group the documents based on common characteristics of the authors
  • You need at least TWO documents to make a group!

Grouping the Documents – Change over time

  • When you see the word “change” in the prompt, look for a chronological evolution of views.
  • A grouping might evolve from this where views proceed in stages, say, early, middle, and late perspectives.
    • If you use this, try to ID specific concerns at each stage
    • I you use this, don’t forget to address all aspects of the question within each time stage.

Grouping the Documents – Change over time – Cuidado!

  • Every DBQ places the documents in chronological order.
  • Don’t assume that the question calls for an analysis of “change over time” unless that phrase appers in the prompt OR unless you notice an explicit pattern in the documents.
  • BY NO MEANS should you simply list the documents in order (“Document 1 says”, “Document 2 says”)
    • A serial list without analysis or clear grouping logic, is a tip-off to the reader that the essay lacks a thesis and is just summarizing the documents.

Topic Sentence – Opening Paragraph

  • Think of the historical context.
  • “Prior to World War II, the thought of European political or economic unity would have been absurd, but Western Europeans perspectives began to change in the postwar period.”
  • This leads you into the question and establishes a solid chronological foundation.

Introductory Paragraph – Establish Your Groups

  • Right after the topic sentence, identify your THREE explicit groups.
  • Don’t restate the question or provide vague descriptors, such as “some were for unity, some against, and some were unsure.”
  • For a change-over-time essay, use explicit clues to demonstrate your understanding of chronological development. “At first many believed…” “As time went on …” “Around the 1970’s” “By the end of this period”
  • No More than 5-6 sentences. No extensive background or commentary is necessary. The focus of your essay is the body paragraphs and your document interpretation.

The Thesis

  • An explicit thesis statement gives your essay direction and provides something on which to hand the evidence.
  • A thesis is usually a one sentence statement (at the end of a detained opening paragraph) of the main arguments or points you will develop in your essay

The Thesis

  • A strong thesis does more than simply restate the question.
  • Prompt: “At first European unity proceeded skeptically and cautiously, but as non-member nations came to see the economic benefit of unity, by the mid-1980’s, most of Western Europe ultimately drew together into a powerful economic union.”

Body paragraphs

  • Clear paragraphs are essential to an effective DBQ.
  • Your paragraphs are your groups!
  • If at the end of your response you find that you have less than 3 body paragraphs and / or less than 2 documents per paragraph, the essay will NOT earn the corresponding point in the Basic Core for grouping

Body paragraphs

  • Begin with a powerful topic sentence that indicates how the paragraph fits into the thesis.
  • “The French were at first very skeptical about the thoughts of European economic unity, especially since the though of aligning with West Germany was not appealing to many French citizens as a result of their recent encounter in World War II”

Topic Sentences – Body Paragraphs

  • “The Germans, eager to move on to a new life and better economic times after the devastation and humiliation of World War II readily welcomed the idea of European economic unification.”
  • --Again, accomplishes a topic sentence, a group ID, and a POV!

Topic Sentences – Body Paragraphs

  • “The Soviet Union was naturally wary of an economic union among Western European countries because they would strengthen themselves into a strong economic competitor with the USSR and their collective strength would douse any hopes that Stalin had of spreading communism throughout Western Europe.”
    • Again, accomplishes a topic sentence, a group ID, and a POV!

Body Paragraphs

  • When you use a document, cite the author and the title and type of source.
  • This is your first step toward addressing POV
  • Cite by (doc. 4) to make it easier for your reader to count the # of documents.
  • For each document you should explain how it relates to the topic sentence of that paragraph and potentially address bias or POV.


    • It is NOT necessary to address both with each document, and you probably won’t have time, you should attempt at least 5 POV analyses.

The Conclusion

  • The “dismount” form a gym exercise.
  • A powerful conclusion should add to what you have already written and may tip an AP reader / grader in your favor if they are wavering between two scores


  • Bad conclusions
  • “If it weren’t for the unity of Europe, we would not be alive today.”
  • In conclusion, the unity of Europe was a great thing.”
  • “As you can see, there were many opinions on the unity of Europe.”
  • Good conclusion:
  • “The unity of Europe proceeded slowly but surely over time. Today’s modern Europe has now moved beyond simple economic union to one where there is a modern European parliament and a common currency, the euro. However, the recent economic crisis in Europe has led many to question the value of European economic unity. Time will tell and the debate remains open as to the future success or failure of the European Union. ”

Commandment # 1

  • Make your POV’s stand out. “This person feels this way because …” The reader should not have to infer what your POV is in the essay.

Commandment # 2

  • Groupings need to be creative & not just “pro” and “anti” because not all essays are set up this way. Look for groupings using jobs, gender, class, chronology, ethnicity, race, urban, rural, etc.

Commandment # 3

  • Use the topic sentences of each paragraph to make clear what part of the question you are answering. As with POV, the reader should not be trying to “guess” your groupings. The more clear you are in the early part of the paragraph as to what group you are talking about, the more likely your reader will be to give you the benefit of the doubt.

Commandment # 4

  • Get right into the question in your opening paragraph. You don’t need a flowery or creative introduction. Address all aspects of the question in some detail. This paragraph should be no more than 6 sentences.

Commandment # 5

  • Remember, you have 45 minutes to write the essay. The less time you spend making your essay “pretty”, the more time you can spend on document interpretation, which is what you are being graded on. Address all parts of the question.

Commandment # 6

  • Avoid quoting from the document. Interpret the document, don’t copy it. Quoting wastes valuable time. Brief quotes are OK.

Commandment # 7

  • Refer to the documents by author, and put the doc# in parentheses. Instead of saying “Document 1 says” you should say “Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Russian Revolution, noted that …”

Commandment # 8

  • At some point in the middle of your essay, if appropriate, use the phrase “change over time” because many of the essays ask how events / perceptions, etc. “changed over time.”

Commandment # 9

  • No opinions. The task is about historical analysis, avoid “I” phrases

Commandment # 10

  • Think of the DBQ exercise as your reporting of a conversation or debate on an important topic. Identify the terms of the debate, the different sides, and, at the end (your conclusion), try to indicate the significance of the argument.

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