Document-Based Question (DBQ)

Outline:
How to Write a DBQ:

Attached below is a worksheet with an outline organizer for your DBQ. When practicing for your DBQ, feel free to download & print this to use:

What is a DBQ?

 

60 minutes

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7 documents

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One prompt

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You are given 7 documents, and you are given a prompt, similar to an LEQ prompt. You need to write an essay, responding to the prompt, using evidence from the documents. ​You have 60 minutes in total, but of those 15 minutes are recommended for reading. The sections below describe the types of documents, types of prompts, and the rubric and how to earn each point. 

How to Read the Documents:

You are given 7 documents. The different types are described below:

Excerpt / Written Document

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Photo

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Graphic, Diagram, Map, Cartoon

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General Tips

  • Look at the sourcing before you read each doc to get an idea of what the doc might say

  • Write a quick summary (~3 bullet points) to summarize the content of each doc

  • Write a note of how each doc fits in with the prompt

    • Does it support or refute your thesis?

    • Which side of the prompt does it cover?

    • Which aspect (which body paragraph) of your prompt / thesis does it cover?

Written Documents

  • Any document with written paragraphs

    • Newspaper, letter, speech, historian's interpretation, constitution, religious text, etc.​

  • Special tips:

    • Before you read, read the sourcing & title and try to get an idea of what the doc might say

    • Take your time to understand the content of the doc; no need to rush​​

    • Write a few notes summarizing the doc

    • Figure out how the doc relates to the prompt

      • Does it argue one side or another?

      • Does it provide evidence for a specific geographical region?

      • Does it refute your thesis?

      • Which sub-category of the prompt does it answer?

 

Photos

 
  • Any document that is a photo

    • Any photo that a photographer might take, or an artist's depiction of a historical event

    • NOT a diagram, map, or something manmade or designed by historians

  • Special tips:

    • Read the sourcing & title to try to figure out what the photo might depict

    • Look at all aspects of the photo, get an idea of what it depicts

      • Does it represent a historical development?​

      • Does it represent an artistic movement?

    • Look for all signs of bias in the photo

      • Is it depicting a specific point of view?

      • Does it portray a certain culture as superior?

      • Does it portray a certain culture as inferior?​

      • Does it represent a military victory?​​​

        • This would mean one side is better than the other​

      • Does it portray something as bigger or exaggerated?

        • Means that the exaggerated thing is depicted as superior

      • Does it portray something as smaller?

        • Means that the thing that's depicted smaller is portrayed as inferior

    • Based on the point of view (bias) and the content, figure out how it relates to the prompt

      • Does it support / refute your thesis?

      • What aspect of the prompt does it answer?​

Graphics

  • Any document that is a man-made photo

    • Graphic, diagram, political cartoon, map, etc.

  • Special tips:

    • Before you read, read the sourcing & title and try to get an idea of what the doc might depict

    • Look at the doc and try to figure out what it represents, or what topic it depicts

    • Think about the bias or point of view of the doc:

      • Does it represent the views of one side or another?

      • Is it depicting one side as exaggerated or superior to another?

      • Cartoons are generally biased

    • If it's a map, what is it representing?

      • Is it representing the map of industrial factories, trade routes, westward expansion, deciphered wind patterns, etc.?​

      • Once you figure this out, understand the historical context of the map

    • If it's a graphic or a diagram, what information does it detail?

      • If it's a population growth map, what allowed for population growth?​

      • Think of what the diagram depicts, and what allowed for that, and what's the historical context of that historical development?

 

How to Answer the Prompt:

Compare & Contrast

Cause & Effect

Change & Continuity over Time

 

Compare & Contrast

  • Involves comparing & contrasting 2 different things

    • Most important thing is the argument: Not what the differences/similarities were, but HOW THEY WERE SIGNIFICANT

  • How to use the documents:

    • Some docs might explain the features of one of the comparand (the thing you compare), other docs may explain the other comparand

    • Some docs might cover both comparands

    • Figure out what the docs are saying for each comparand, and write your thesis based on that

      • What are they saying are similar & different about the 2?​

 

Cause & Effect

  • Involves examining what a certain historical development, and what were its causes & effects

    • What's more important is examining the significance of the causes, or how one cause/effect was more important than other causes/effects

    • Generally, 2 causes and 1 or 2 effects

  • How to use the documents:

    • Some docs might explain the event

    • Some docs might explain the causes, others might explain the effects

    • Draft a thesis based on the info about the causes & effects mentioned in the docs

      • Try to mention which causes were more significant than other causes

 

Change & Continuity over Time

 
  • Involves examining what changed & what remained the same as a result of one event​

  • How to use the documents:

    • Some docs might explain the catalyst (the event that caused the changes/continuities) you write about

    • Some docs might describe the changes

    • Some docs might describe the continuities

    • Draft a thesis based on what the docs say about the changes & continuities

How to Earn all 7 Points:

 

Contextualization

(1 point)

Thesis

(1 point)

Evidence

(3 points)

Analysis

(2 points)

Contextualization (1 point)

  • Examine the historical context of the story

    • Kind of like a "recap" or a "flashback"

    • Like at the beginning of a TV show, it shows a recap of the previous episode

  • How to write one

    • Always include the time period & possibly the location​

      • "In Europe in the period 1450 - 1750, ..."

    • Provide a brief 3-5 sentence recap of how the world arrived at the situation you are writing about in your essay

  • The contextualization should finish with how the world arrived at the historical development you write about in your thesis, so that there is a smooth transition from contextualization to the thesis

 

Sample Contextualizations

Topic: Related to the industrial revolution​

Before the 1750s, people were performing manual labor, making items by hand, which was very inefficient. From 1750-1900, Europe and the rest of the world underwent an economic transformation called the Industrial Revolution. Starting in Britain due to its abundance of raw materials & strong financial support, industrial capitalists built factories powered by waterwheels or coal that artificially produced goods such as textiles, eliminating the need to make them by hand. This brought a lot more people from the countryside to the cities, where they worked in factories for low wages. From Britain, the industrial revolution spread throughout Europe as well as to US, Egypt, Russia, and Japan. [Insert Thesis Here]

Topic: Related to imperialism​

In the period 1750-1900, Europe underwent an economic transformation known as the industrial revolution, where people would use artificial power to cheaply & efficiently manufacture goods in commercial factories in the cities, rather than making goods by hand at home. In order for these factories to produce goods, they needed raw materials, which is why they had to look to other nations like those in Africa and Asia to supply raw materials to them. Thi​s led to European imperialism, a development where Europeans started colonizing other nations throughout the world, especially in Africa and Asia, to establish export-oriented economies to get raw materials to supply to their factories. [Insert Thesis Here]

Thesis (1 point)

 
  • This is your argument

    • Must be something that can be opposed​

      • Someone else has to be able to write an essay whose thesis is the opposite of yours

    • Must contain an argument, and generally 2-3 examples (topics for body paragraphs)

    • Better to have a concession

      • Useful for complexity point

Format of Thesis & Examples

Color Key: 

Concession / Counterargument*

Similarities / Continuities / Causes

Difference for Comparand 1 / Changes / Effects

Differences for Comparand 2

Argument

*Concession is always optional. Described in the analysis section, it can be used to get the extra complexity point

Prompt: Compare & Contrast

Although some may believe [counterargument]*, while [comparand 1] and [comparand 2] both [insert similarities], [comparand 1] was [insert difference for comparand 1], and [comparand 2] was [insert difference for comparand 2], which [is why / allowed for] [insert argument]. 

Example:

Although the Delhi Sultanate had very strict religious authority, while the Delhi Sultanate and the Chola Kingdom both used religion to maintain stability, the Delhi Sultanate was attempting to impose Islam on a Hindu-majority population, and the Chola Kingdom imposed Hindu on a Hindu population, which allowed for the Chola Kingdom to be more successful than the Delhi Sultanate. 

Prompt: Change & Continuity over Time

Although some may believe [counterargument]*, as a result of [catalyst], while [continuity] stayed the same, [change] changed, which [is why / allowed for] [insert argument]. 

Example:

Although some may believe the Catholic church actually became more powerful, as a result of the Protestant Reformation, while women still maintained strictly subordinate roles, there were more religious wars, and more monarchs were able to consolidate more power for themselves, which caused the Catholic church to decline in power. 

Prompt: Cause & Effect

Although some may believe [counterargument]* are the most important causes of [event][causes] were the main causes**, which caused [effects]. 

Example:

Although some may believe that the desire to spread Christianity was the main cause of European imperialism, the desire to get raw materials and the need for more markets were the main causes, which led to a more integrated global economy and the development of technological infrastructure in the colonies. 

 

**Here, the argument is that the causes you described in the blue section are more important than the causes in the yellow section. There is no need for an extra argument at the end

Evidence (3 points)

 
  • This is where you put examples / pieces of evidence to support your thesis​

  • To get 1 point: Use evidence from 3 of the docs

  • To get 2 points: Use evidence from 6 of the docs, and put an extra analysis to connect it to the thesis

    • It's always better to use all 7 docs in case you use one incorrectly

  • To get 3 points: Use an extra piece of evidence (from your own knowledge, not from the docs), and put an extra analysis to connect it to the thesis

Examples of How to Write your Evidence

How to earn the first point:

To earn the 1st point, you need to describe / state evidence from 3 docs without connecting it to the thesis

Examples:

According to document 3, the Chola Empire used Hinduism as the state religion. 

According to document 7, there were more factories in Britain than in France. 

How to earn the second point:

To earn the 2nd point, you need evidence from 6* docs, and you also need to connect it to the thesis

Examples:

According to document 3, the Chola Empire used Hinduism as the state religion. Because the population was also mostly Hindu, the Chola Empire was able to maintain stability by using a common belief in Hinduism to stabilize its rule. 

According to document 7, there were more factories in Britain than in France. Thus, Britain had a larger industrial output than France, which is why it was able to manufacture more weapons during World War 1 and why France relied on Britain for support. 

*Always use all 7 docs to in case you use one doc incorrectly

How to earn the third point:

To earn the third point, you need to include one piece of evidence that is not in the documents and is from your own knowledge. 

Think of what evidence or what viewpoint is missing

If it's a compare & contrast: is there any other similarity or difference? Do you have any other evidence to support the topics of your thesis?

If it's a change & continuity over time: Is there any other evidence to support one of your changes or continuities?

If it's a cause & effect: Is there any other evidence or historical content that can support your causes or effects?

Analysis (2 points)

  • This is the hardest part

  • For 1 point, you need to explain how the source of 3 documents affects either your argument or what the document has to say

    • There are 4 parts of sourcing, and you ONLY NEED TO CHOOSE ONE

    • Explained in more detail below​

  • For the 2nd point, you need to use complex analysis in your argument

    • This is the most confusing

    • The easiest way is to weave a counterargument through your essay, which the concession already sets you up for

    • The best way is to not think about it too much and just put a bit more complex arguments into your essay rather than sticking to a strict format

 

Sourcing

Historical Context

Audience

Purpose

Point of View

You need to choose ONE of the above and follow the instructions below. Each of the sections below has information about each aspect of sourcing. 

You need to do this for THREE different sources to earn full points (we recommend you do 4 in case one is wrong)

Historical Context:

Explain how the historical context of any document affects what the document argues

Examples:

This document was written after WW1 when everyone was feeling depressed and economically poor, which explains why the priest is talking about a revival of religion and cheerful spirits. 

This document was written in a time after the Protestant Reformation when there were a lot of religious wars, which is why the document argues that Lutheranism is better than Calvinism. 

Audience:

Explain how the intended audience of any document affects what the document argues

Examples:

This document was written for the Armenians of the Ottoman empire, a Christian minority that was believed to conspire with the Allies, which is why the document is very aggressive toward them in asserting Ottoman dominance. 

This speech was written to the American people to gain support for the Treaty of Versailles, which is why it intends to boost nationalist sentiment and promote American power. 

Purpose:

Explain how the purpose of any document affects what the document argues

Examples:

This speech was written by the Republic party with the purpose of convincing its audience to vote for them, which is why it argues that Free Silver, a democratic idea, is bad. 

This speech was written by John of Montecorvino, the Archbishop of Khanbaliq who sought to convert the Mongol boys to Christianity, which is why he emphasizes how Christianity allows one to achieve salvation. 

Point of View:

Explain how the point of view of any document affects what the document argues

Examples:

This speech was written from the point of view of an Indian cotton farmer, which is why he writes that the British completely destroyed the Indian handmade textile industry. 

This document was written from the point of view of Grover Cleveland, an anti-imperialist president, which is why he writes about the harms of annexing Hawaii. 

The Complexity Point

The final point is the complexity point. This is given if you have a complex argument, and it is hard to achieve. The best way to think about this is do more than the prompt asks, and add a bit of extra analysis into the essay. 

The easiest way to do this is weave a counterargument through the essay. In our thesis samples above, we already set you up for this with our concession clause. 

How to Start Writing the DBQ:

 

First step is to outline your essay. Follow the steps below:

  1. Read through each document, write a brief summary, and figure out how it relates to the prompt (which side/aspect does it argue?)​

  2. Write your thesis. Write each aspect of the thesis (concession/counterargument, evidence 1, evidence 2, argument), and combine them

  3. Write the outline for your body paragraphs. Write the topic for each body paragraph, and which docs you'll use in each. Also, denote where you'll use your outside evidence

  4. Write an outline for your sourcing. Choose 4 different documents, and write the sourcing sentence following the guidelines in the sourcing section above

  5. Start writing. Good luck!