HomeBlogHow to Write a DBQ (Document Based Question) Essay

How to Write a DBQ (Document Based Question) Essay


There are many dbq essay examples online, but most will end up confusing you especially if you have no idea on where to start. One of the questions that people are searching on Google regarding this topic is how to write a dbq essay for AP world history showing you the importance of such an article.

In this post, we are going to guide you on how to write a dbq essay. We will show you how a dbq essay outline looks like and the information required for you to write an excellent article. There are lots of categories for this type of essay. You may be asked to write on topics such as:

  • How accurate a concept or period is for a given historical stereotype?
  • Reasons that cause a particular movement to develop
  • Compare and contrast differing attitudes towards policy or idea analyze the truth in a specific statement
  • Assess and examine the impact of an event in society. Like how did the constitution guard against tyranny dbq essay example?
  • Importance of a particular factor to an occurrence or concept

The best essay questions are the ones that you can debate. They are also the ones that give the best dbq essay example AP world history. You are expected to argue out your idea, and a great topic will provide you with enough source material to work on your essay. Each category requires a separate paragraph. Here is the structure of each one:

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  1. You need to have a topic sentence. In it, you will give an overview of the entire body paragraph plus what you're going to explain. You are also required to show how this body paragraph connects to the thesis. Everything you write has to relate to your thesis.
  2. Then, you will need to quote the document provided, after which you proceed to analyze that quote. Explain why this quote supports your argument, topic sentence or thesis.

Finally, you are required to do one of the following:

  • State the intended audience of the document. Who is the author targeting to read this document?
  • State the purpose of the document. What motive does the document seek to achieve?
  • State the point of view of the author of the document. What are the biases of the writer towards this topic?
  • State the historical context of the document.

For every document that you use, repeat steps b to d. So, if you do 3 categories, you would want to use 2 documents for each.

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Before you start writing your cold war dbq essay paper, progressive era dbq essay, or any other topic, there are some steps you need to bear in mind. Read and understand the prompt. They allocate you a specific period to read and understand the topic, roughly 15 minutes. During this time, there are some critical issues that you take note of:

Assess and analyze the question. How did the event that you're supposed to write on occur and what is its significance, for example, what negative impact did world war two cause?

Analyze the reason why the particular event occurred. What contributed to its spread and why the people involved were unable to prevent it? For example, why World War 2 happened and who was the principal architect

Compare and contrast different opinions about the event; were there only negative impacts of the Second World War?

Check how true the statement is. Give your reasoning of the issue. For example, was World War 2 a necessary evil?

Analyze the significance of an event, for example, what impact did the Second World War have? Or why did Japan attack Pearl Harbor dbq essay?

Outline of a DBQ Essay

Once you finish going through the prompt and writing down the essential facts, you need to think about the overview of your topic, be it a French revolution dbq essay or any other. Its main components are:

  • The hook statement - it's supposed to grab the reader's attention to the subject
  • The background information - also referred to as the historical context.
  • Thesis statement - it's your primary point or argument. It shouldn't be a long one.
  • Roadmap - serves as a guide for your essay.

How to Write a Dbq Essay

You need to answer the question, do not merely discuss the documents provided.

Contemplate on the topic first before examining the documents. What questions are they asking? What time frame is it addressing? What categories of analysis come to mind? What is your perspective or opinion on the discussed?

There is nothing more important than using information from outside sources be it people, places, events, dates and concepts to answer the dbq essay rubric. Think progressively before examining the documents given. Ask yourself what information comes to mind about the period or topic given.

Come up with a tentative thesis before you read the documents. The thesis should convey an answer to the question in a straightforward manner. Take time and include analyses.

Check the documents to find out which idea each document portrays or tries to pass forward. How does it relate to the question of your thesis? Does it back your thesis? Check the source of the document for biases.

Use the documents to come up with as many outside sources of information as possible to use in your essay response.

You should set the logical order of the essay as it relates to the thesis statement. Don't let the order of the documents control how you will arrange your essay.

Your analysis and argument of both the document and the outside sources should support your thesis and topic sentences. In review, explain why and how the concepts and facts of history relate to your point of view. Do not merely reiterate facts.

Use the majority of documents for your reference in the essay but avoid lengthy quotes.

Do not just paraphrase the document. Never quote a sentence in your essay with any form of "Document A says..." You can reference the documents within your essay in any way that you like, but do reference them at the end of the sentence in which your thought came.

History is complicated, and a student should have prior knowledge of the subject to ease their work.

How to Write a Thesis

A thesis should take a stand while answering the question. You should check out a sample dbq essay to get an idea of how a thesis looks like. It's basically a preview of the argument that you will put forward in your essay. Write a thesis statement that will point to the direction that your essay will take. The thesis statement should not repeat the topic question. It should contain a paragraph that explains the entire dbq essay you will write on. If your thesis statement compares two things that are similar in nature then that is not a thesis statement.

If you begin to write your essay in the introductory paragraph, you have not written a good thesis statement. A thesis statement introduces the three areas that you were tasked to address and weaves them into that paragraph. Once you've written a strong thesis, you have an outline to help guide your essay. Don't include details in your thesis paragraph. You do that in succeeding ones.

The conclusion needs to restate the main ideas of your essay. In other words, tell them what you're what your stand or verdict is, with details that support your thesis and sum up with a firm conclusion.

How to Contextualize Your dbq Essay

Contextualization falls under the "Making Historical Connections" category or historical thinking skills. In short, contextualization is the ability to state events in a more significant context. It means connecting a historical event with a clearer picture what else was taking place at the same time in different areas, how this fits in with events that came before and after it, and what processes are at play. Your dbq essay will require this skill.

The "5 Ws" - what, who, where, why, when coming into play here. These are what you require to contextualize your essay. When you're assessing a document or thinking about a historical event, ask yourself questions based on those 5 things to assist you to get the larger picture.


Who authored the document? Who are the people involved in the event?

Which groups were they a part of? Think regarding gender, race, religion, socioeconomic status, occupation, membership in an organization, etc., can all be crucial to place the person and their opinions in historical context.


What happened during this event? What evidence does the document give to support this?

What greater events or occurrences was this a part of?


Where did this event occur and where was this document authored.

Where did this event take place geographically? Where is this place located, either a state or region?

What are the features of this place? Is there a unique characteristic about it? Think political leanings, social classes, geographic features, religious affiliations, demographics, major industries, etc.

How do the events that occurred in this place affect the rest of the state, region, country or world?


When did this event take place? Or when was this document written?

What other activities were going on at this time either locally, regionally or globally.

How does this event relate to what happened before and after it in history?


Why was the author of this document to write it? Was he affected by the occurrence and it made him create it?

Why does this document and the events it portrays matter? Are those events relevant now or did its impact on history still linger till today?


The conclusion is not mandatory, but it is where you will earn your points. It's where you take your analysis a step further and apply it to the future. At your conclusion is where you try and summarize your entire essay and what you think will continue to happen. You should remember that you must use all the documents or minus one of the documents provided for your dbq for you to get full credit.

Today, we are in a progressive era where writing a dbq essay can be tricky and quite challenging for the student who has no idea of how to write one. However, as soon as you learn how to use the guidelines in this article, you will be one step closer to acing that test.

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