Don’t let friends freak you out or teachers terrify you. Document Based Questions (DBQs) are nothing more than essay questions with answers provided. You’re given anywhere from three to fifteen documents (letters, art, maps, statistics, flyers, etc.) and a related question to answer in essay format. The test is not whether you know the information or not; the test is if you can construct an intelligent answer using the information provided. That being said, it isn’t something most students grasp quickly. Analyzing takes practice, but with practice comes skill and soon you’ll be cracking DBQs with ease.
You can defeat DBQ’s in the following ways:
First, read the question. Then re-read it, and read it again until you completely understand what is being asked. Underline key words and take notes, anything to help you focus on the question. Remembers, the point is not to show how much you know, it’s to use the articles to take a side, and answer the question. A good practice is to consider what the answer could be and what side you’d agree with before looking through the articles. This way you’ll know what you’re looking for before you begin; this could help cut down time you need to organize your argument.
Interpret and organize. Read each piece and determine where it fits best. Is the author reliable? What’s their point of view? Is there an overall change in opinion between all documents? What specific evidence can you use to support your answer? Usually, you can take notes on the pages or utilize scratch paper to keep track of important facts or points. As you read, organize the articles into categories, supporting one side or another. This provides you a way to see the bigger picture; what the articles are saying and what evidence best supports your thesis.
Write a stellar thesis and outline completely. In terms of format, DBQs are like standard
essays. Outline a clear introduction, body paragraphs (supporting evidence) and a conclusion. Your thesis, as usual, is within the introduction and should act as the “answer” to the DBQ question. Along with your thesis should be the main points of your argument and background information. Nothing lengthy, only provide enough to give the reader an idea of the topic and context of the question.
Write, write, and write. Use your outline as a guide for how you’ll proceed. Keep an eye on your progress, ensuring you’re answering the question.
Clear and concise body paragraphs. One way to begin is to discuss the strongest evidence first and work your way down. You want the reader to agree with you, so let your resources and analysis prove your thesis. It can be challenging to use every document, but try not to leave out more than one or two. Also, there’s no need to use lengthy quotations. Instead, paraphrase or use short quotations while referencing the document used. In summary, don’t just tell the reader about the documents; tell the reader how the documents substantiate your thesis.
Don’t forget your conclusion. Nothing complicated here either; rephrase the thesis, summarize your argument and indicate areas of further exploration.
Double check. Once you’re finished, go back to make sure your thesis is clear and you’ve
included citations where needed.
Give yourself a pat on the back. You finished a DBQ that probably scared most students in the class. However, you remained cool and calm, knowing you had all the skills and tools to answer even the toughest questions.
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