What Is a DBQ in AP World History?

Have you ever heard the term “DBQ” in your AP World History class and wondered what it meant? A Document-Based Question, or DBQ, is a type of essay that is commonly used in AP World History exams.

It requires students to analyze and evaluate primary sources to demonstrate their understanding of historical events and processes. In this article, we will explore the key components of a DBQ and provide tips for writing a successful one.

What is a DBQ?

A DBQ is an essay question that asks students to analyze primary sources related to a particular topic or theme. These sources can include letters, diaries, photographs, speeches, maps, and other documents from different time periods. In most cases, the documents are presented along with a prompt that asks students to answer a specific question or address a particular issue.

The Components of a DBQ

A typical DBQ consists of several components:

  • Prompt: The prompt sets the stage for the essay by providing context and framing the question that the student must answer.
  • Documents: The primary sources are provided along with the prompt. These documents are typically numbered and should be referred to by number throughout the essay.
  • Thesis: A strong thesis statement is essential for any essay, but it is particularly important in a DBQ.

    The thesis should respond directly to the prompt and provide an argumentative stance on the issue at hand.

  • Evidence: The body paragraphs of the essay should use evidence from the documents to support the thesis statement. Each paragraph should focus on one document or group of related documents.
  • Analysis: It’s not enough to simply summarize each document in your essay; you must also analyze them and explain how they support your thesis statement.
  • Contextualization: To receive full credit on a DBQ, you must place the topic or theme of the prompt into its historical context. This means explaining how broader historical trends or events influenced the documents and the issues they address.
  • Conclusion: The conclusion should summarize your main points and restate your thesis in light of the evidence you presented in the body of the essay.

Tips for Writing a Successful DBQ

Here are some tips to help you write a successful DBQ:

  • Read the prompt carefully: Before you start analyzing the documents, make sure you understand what the prompt is asking. Pay attention to key words like “analyze,” “evaluate,” and “compare.

  • Analyze each document thoroughly: Take time to read each document carefully, making note of its authorship, date, and any biases or perspectives that may be present.
  • Use all of the documents: You will be graded on your ability to use all of the documents provided in your essay. Make sure to refer to each one at least once.
  • Show off your skills: Use as many historical thinking skills as possible in your analysis, including sourcing, contextualization, corroboration, and close reading.
  • Write clearly and concisely: Your essay should be well-organized and easy to follow. Make sure each body paragraph has a clear point that relates back to your thesis statement.

In Conclusion

A DBQ is a challenging but rewarding assignment that requires students to demonstrate their ability to think critically about primary sources and historical events. By following the tips outlined in this article, you can write a successful DBQ that showcases your skills as a historian.