How to Write a dbq! Document Based Questions What is a “dbq?”

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How to Write a DBQ!

What is a “DBQ?”

  • An essay that answers a specific question.
  • An essay that cites specific documents to support the writer’s point.

How to write a great DBQ

  • 3. Write an amazing thesis
  • 2. Group the Documents
  • 1. “Read” (Analyze) the Documents
  • 4. Organize the Essay
  • 5. Write an awesome DBQ!

1. Analyzing the Documents

  • Not about paraphrasing
  • Show that you know what the doc means by using it to answer the question.
  • Analyze for POV: SOAPSTone or APPARTS:
    • Who? When? Where? Why? For whom? What is the author’s POV? Is it reliable or not?
  • Important facts?
  • Inferences?
  • Main idea?
  • How does this document answer the question? [Which bucket does it fit into?]

2. Grouping/“Bucketing” Documents

  • Group your documents into 3 “buckets
    • consider grouping by similar qualities, contents, or purposes.
  • Each group is the basis of a paragraph.
  • Use all of the documents!!!!!
  • Docs 1, 3, 7
  • Docs 4, 10, 11
  • Docs 2, 13

Write an AWESOME Thesis

  • Great essays have a clear thesis statement
    • Answers the question- (indicates era or time period)
    • Takes a position
  • Preview main points
    • “road map” of the essay (your buckets!)
  • Think of it like a “chicken-foot”
  • Point 3
  • Point 2
  • Point 1

Using the “Chicken Foot”

  • Thesis is the leg
  • Each group (main point) will branch out with supporting ideas. (toes)
  • #2: cultural interaction
  • #3: skill of Arab leaders
  • The Islamic empire spread through conversion, cultural interaction, and the skill of Arab leaders.

4. Organize the DBQ

  • Introductory Paragraph
    • Thesis Statement!
  • Body Paragraph
    • Docs __, __, and __
    • At least one POV
  • Body Paragraph
    • Docs __, __, and __
    • At least one POV
  • Body Paragraph
    • Docs __, __, and __
    • At least one POV

Are We Finished?

  • No!!
  • Include the “missing voice”
  • What “voice” (POV) is not represented in the documents?
  • Whose “voice” would help you answer the question?
  • Identify a document; bill of sale, ship manifest, diary entry, census report, bank deposits, itemized statement, etc.
  • Think about: religion, gender, occupation, social status, time, etc
  • Why do you want this POV? Would it confirm or refute your thesis?

Where should you include the “Missing Voice”?

  • Anywhere
  • As soon as possible
  • In the thesis
  • At the end of a body paragraph
  • At the end in its own paragraph
  • Even in the conclusion is fine
  • Just don’t forget to include it!!!

5. Write your Essay!

  • Outline provides structure
  • Keep the body paragraphs in the order of your thesis statement
  • Create an intro and conclusion!

The Introductory Paragraph

  • Establish TIME & PLACE.
  • Use a clear THESIS STATEMENT.
  • Allude to the MAIN POINTS or categories that develop and support thesis statement
    • (your “buckets” of documents)
  • Focus on the question at hand—do NOT begin with a “flowery” sentence!

Body Paragraphs

  • Identify sub-topic or category in the first sentence.
  • Include the documents that are relevant to support the ideas in the paragraph.
  • Use all of the documents given.
  • Complete at least one POV analysis-is the source reliable or not? Why?
  • Bring in supportive outside information.
  • “Missing Voice”


  • Not necessary but if you do…
  • Start with a “concluding phrase.”
  • Restate your thesis statement a bit differently.
  • Put your essay answer in a larger historical perspective-global perspective.

You’re Ready!

  • Now go conquer your DBQ!

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