Crucial Features of DBQ Essays

You may think that writing a DBQ essay is a very difficult task but it only looks so scary. If you want to pass the AP exam, you must know what you’ll be going through. As soon as you learn more about DBQ essays, you will realize that you certainly can deal with it.

DBQ, which stands for Document Based Question, is a type of essay that is often required for AP exams as well as for history exams both in the US and Europe. Being a “document-based question,” this essay implies several underlying documents on a certain subject. Your task is to consider the relationship between these documents, tendencies that appear in documents during some period of time, and other details. In addition, you cannot just describe these features of documents. You need to provide an accurate analysis of sources. DBQ essays are also somewhat similar to cause and effect essays because you need to explain the flow of events and relationships between them.

Many students are confused by the fact that DBQ essays are quite different from free-response essays, while in fact there’s nothing special about this task. Check our useful guide and write your DBQ essay following simple steps.

How to Write a DBQ Essay

If you want to write a good DBQ essay, there are only two things you must know. First of all, you must be able to plan your work properly. If you plan your work in advance, you can be more confident and use advanced methods of writing. In addition, you will easily cope with your AP exam if you practice a lot. Follow our advice and work on your writing skills!

Usually, you have only 55 minutes to complete the DBQ essay for the AP exam. Sometimes this limit may vary but, most often, you have 15 minutes to read all necessary materials and 40 minutes to write your paper. However, 15 minutes of reading means that you must also spend some time on understanding your question, generating ideas for the essay and processing new information. You may want to start writing earlier but even if you have a couple free minutes, we suggest taking your time and planning the structure of your essay. Time management is especially important, since the essay isn’t the only task of the AP exam.

  1. Read your question. Not only should you read it, but you also must understand it. Note some important data that may be useful when writing the essay. Jot down facts that you must mention and underline your key tasks. After this, quickly write a few thoughts related to the question. You don’t have time for proper brainstorming so make sure to use a couple minutes that you have.
  2. Analyze documents effectively. You may need to work with many different documents and you will need to provide a good analysis. We suggest considering it an opportunity rather than a challenge, because a proper analysis also provides you with necessary evidence for supporting your ideas.
    There are many kinds of documents that can be used in AP exams, such as speeches, letters, legislative documents, maps, articles, and even pictures. Sometimes you must analyze some classic documents that you certainly have heard of, though they will not sound familiar to you.
    First of all, pay your attention to the author of the document and to the time when it was published. Jot down key ideas of this text. After noting important points, get to the questions about this document. Don’t forget to write notes ? this is how you save your time because otherwise you will need to return to certain parts of your sources and re-read them. Ask yourself a couple additional questions, for example, can these documents be divided into some groups? What are they based on?
  3. Develop your thesis statement. Make a draft of your thesis statement and draw up an outline for your essay. If you already know something interesting about the topic of your task, this information may also be useful in the future. Think about the structure of your essay, and make it so that every paragraph of the essay will consider a particular idea.
  4. Write an essay. Your goal is to write a meaningful text based on a strong thesis. Each paragraph must provide examples and facts related to your question. You also need a conclusion, however, let’s take a look at the whole writing process from the beginning.
  • An introduction of a DBQ essay is no different from this of any other essay. You must introduce your topic, provide your readers with necessary background information on this subject, briefly describe your main points, and come up with a thesis statement. Try to focus on the purpose of your paper.
  • A body section includes one or several paragraphs, each one of which focuses on one idea and supports it with evidence. Start every paragraph with a topic sentence so that it will reflect the overall structure of the essay. If you have divided your documents into several groups, you can devote every paragraph to a certain group of sources.
  • Include more documents so that you will have more evidence for your arguments. You should not just describe documents, in fact, it is the worst thing you can do. Make proper references and include parts of sources in your essay. On the other hand, always make sure that all documents that you include are directly related to your thesis statement.
  • The conclusion is aimed to remind your readers the purpose of the essay and provide them with a concise summary of everything written before. Another important feature of the conclusion is that it can address more global issues. We suggest taking this opportunity to make your paper more meaningful. Ask yourself, why is this topic so important? Think about it in a global context. If you realize that you’re running out of time, write at least one concluding sentence. It’s much better to conclude your essay briefly than if you don’t conclude it at all.
  1. Proofread your essay. We know that 55 minutes is not enough time for proper proofreading but we suggest doing this. Plan at least a few minutes to read your essay, to fix all mistakes, and to check such specific details as places, dates, and names.

Tips on Writing DBQ Essays

  • Make sure that you understand the question well, as your main goal is to answer it correctly.
  • Unless your assignment has such requirements, don’t dig into the historical background. When mentioning documents in text, don’t refer to them as “document 1” or “document 2.” Instead, write the whole title of a source.
  • You may or may not be allowed to use quotes in your essay, however, DBQ essays often benefit from citations because you can clarify what source you are talking about. Anyway, don’t forget to write your quotes according to a required format.
  • Check the paragraph structure and make sure that all your thoughts are presented in a logical order. Keep in mind that sometimes, there’s no right answer to the topic question. Thus, you are allowed to consider any points that you can support with evidence.
  • In order to increase the credit for your paper, you can use outside information.
  • Don’t get too emotional about your exam and don’t panic! To feel confident on the exam, learn more about it, read examples of DBQ essays on the internet, and prepare.
  • Don’t forget that your readers can be too limited in time to consider your essay in details. Thus, it’s important to create a good overall picture of your work. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t work on details.
  • DBQ essays often focus on such issues as art, science, and religion. Therefore, we suggest getting acquainted with methods of writing historical essays.

The most important thing about writing DBQ essays is to stay calm. Sometimes students spend a lot of time preparing but fail their exams just because they panic. Even if you think that this task is hard, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to complete. Thus, just focus on your goal and prepare for your DBQ exam in advance.

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