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DBQ Writing Tips

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 3 years, 8 months ago


DBQ Essay Writing Tips and Suggestions



To prepare for the rigors and realities of your final exam in American History 227 all of your writing assignments will be in class and timed. Take home essays are like taking batting practice against little league pitchers. It is not the most effective way to work the skills necessary to be successful writing in a stressful timed environment. 




Question #1 - How will the hour be spent?


The first 15 minutes will be spent reading over the documents and creating a thesis statement that address all aspects of the prompt. This reading period is CRITICAL for planning and organization.


The next 45 minutes will be spent crafting your essay. You will be making palaces out of paragraphs as you use the documents to defend your thesis.







Questions #2 - How do I reference the documents in my essay? 
The first thing to keep in mind is that this is not a Regents style essay. You will be required to analyze the documents and show the reader that you understand the documents and can use them effectively within the argument of your paper.  Some simple points to remember:


Point #1 - Documents are presented in chronological order. DO NOT quote the documents.

Point #2 - You must use ALL or ALL BUT ONE.  


Point #3 The most unsophisticated way to reference a document in a DBQ essay is to do the following, “According to ‘Document 1’ blah, blah, blah.” “Document 1 says this, document 2 says this . . . etc.” Don’t do this!


Question #3 – What is the difference between referencing a document and analyzing one?

Analysis of primary sources differs from description in that when one describes a source, one provides only a summary of its content; when one analyzes a source, one thinks critically about not only the content of a source but also who the author and presumed audience of the source were, why a source was produced, and what factors influenced the production of that source.



For each document you analyze, being able to identify each of the following components will prepare you for earning the Analysis and Reasoning points on the redesigned DBQ. Remember to earn 1 point you need to EXPLAIN the significance of author’s POV, context, audience, and/or purpose for at least THREE documents. 




Analysis of ‘Historical Context’ for primary sources involves connecting a document to specific historical events or to specific circumstances of time and place. This involves considering the circumstances that have influenced the creation of this document. Please frame the historical context of the above document



a. Who was the source created for?

b. How might the audience have affected the content of the source?

c. How might the audience have affected the reliability of the source?



a. What was the author’s point of view?

b. Does the author’s point of view undermine the explicit purpose of the source?

c. How can you tell, if you can tell, what other beliefs the author might hold?



a. Why did the author create the source?

b. Why was the document created at this time?

c. Why has it survived to the present?

d. How does its purpose affect its reliability or usefulness?




Document #6: Roger Williams, "A Plea for Religious Liberty," 1644.

Historical Context:  Williams settles Rhode Island (1644) Promotes complete freedom of religion, even for Jews, Catholics and Quakers. No oaths required regarding one's religious beliefs, no compulsory attendance at worship, no taxes to support a state church!

Intended Audience
: Puritan New England

Point of View:
Religious intolerance in Massachusetts Bay fostered religious toleration elsewhere.

Purpose/Value: Shows Freedom of religion was established in Rhode Island

Outside Information: Hutchinson, Anne, Separation of church and state,  Freedom of religion,  Providence Plantation Rhode Island” Rogue’s Island”






Question #5- How will my Document Based Essay be graded?   Sample Rubric


The new universal AP writing rubric uses a 7 point scale. Here is a breakdown:


THESIS and ARGUMENT [You can earn a max possible 2 Points]


Thesis Present [1 points] To earn this point a thesis statement simply has to be present. Your thesis should makes a historically defensible claim and responds to all parts of the question (does more than re-state).  Must be located in the introduction of your essay.


Thesis Argument [1 Point] To earn this point you basically, have to make a coherent argument and put the documents in conversation with each other.  This means developing and supporting a cohesive argument [presumably supporting the thesis] that recognizes and accounts for historical complexity by explicitly illustrating relationships among historical evidence such as contradiction, corroboration, and/or qualification. 

DOCUMENT ANALYSIS [You can earn a max possible 2 Points]


USES the content of at least SIX of the documents to support the stated thesis or a relevant argument.

EXPLAINS the significance of author’s POV, context, audience, and/or purpose for at least FOUR documents.


DOCUMENT EVIDENCE and CONTEXT [You can earn a max possible 2 Points]


Contextualization: Situates the argument by explaining the broader historical events, developments, or processes immediately relevant to the question.  NOTE: This must be more than a phrase or reference – use multiple sentences.


Outside Information/Evidence beyond the document: Provide an example or additional piece of specific evidence beyond those found in the documents to support or qualify the argument.  Must be 1) distinct from evidence used to earn other points and 2) more than a mere phrase or reference.


SYNTHESIS [You can earn a max possible 1 Point]

Extends the argument by explaining the connections between the argument and:  A development in a different historical period, situation, era, or geographical area OR A course theme and/or approach to history that is not the focus of the essay (political, social, etc.)








The Thesis Statement – What are you defending?

Your thesis is not only your answer or stand on a question, it is your entire introductory paragraph which includes your answer/stand, analysis of an opposing viewpoint, context, and organizational categories/themes. Your introduction will typically be between 2 and 5 sentences, and it should clearly communicate your answer/stand and what you will be expounding upon in your body paragraphs.






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