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The DocumentBased
Question
Chris Iriarte
Veronica De Armas
AP U.S. History
 A DBQ is similar to a Free Response in that it is
composed of:
- An introduction
- Body Paragraphs
- A Conclusion
 The only difference is the addition of documents that
must be used in order to answer the question
 In fact, the documents provide you with information
about the time period that may help you remember
facts about the era.
 A document may be in the form of a literary text, a
political cartoon, a picture, or a graph
 A majority of the documents must be used! A majority
is generally two documents less than the total number
of documents (ex: if there are 9, use at least 7 documents)
BEWARE! You must include outside
information for every document.. Citing the document
only is not enough!
 Literary Text Document
Document A
Source: The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
“Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free
exercise thereof; or abridging the
freedom of speech, or of the
press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a
redress of grievances”
 Political Cartoon
Document B
Source: New Hampshire on Hilary Clinton 2008
 Historical Picture or Map
Document C
Source: Map of the United States in 1803
 Graph or other Data
Document D
Source: U.S. Unemployment Rate from 1890-1923
An Example of a DBQ
Use this sample question to guide you through
the steps of writing a Document-Based
Question.
“To what extent did the American Revolution
fundamentally change American society? In
your answer, be sure to address the political,
social, and economic effects of the Revolution
in the period from 1775 to 1800.”
 Similar
to a Free-Response question, a
great introduction should contain the
following in this order:
 A 1-2 Sentence Historical Background
 A concise and well-developed thesis no longer than one
sentence
 A final introductory sentence that introduces the supporting
topics or arguments that will support your thesis in each
paragraph
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


You should NOT include any specific information or documents
in your introduction
The purpose of the historical background is to introduce the time
period, setting, and the events of the era in question
The background should be broad and emphasize the overall aim
of the essay, while at the same time guiding the reader towards
the point of view you will express in the thesis
Example:
“In the late 18th century, the United States officially declared its
independence from Great Britain after a series of tumultuous and often
violent battles. Following the end of the American Revolution in 1781, the
former colonists were confronted with the difficulties of cooperating to
create a newly distinct American society.”
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
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The thesis is the brain of the
DBQ that states what you will
prove in the rest of your essay
It must provide your personal
point of view on the essay
question
For example, if the question asks
you to assess the validity of an
event, then you would describe
how effective/ineffective it was in
your thesis
The thesis should include the
four W’s: who, what, where,
and when did the event occur
The topic sentence of every
paragraph, and all of your
supporting details must correlate
to the opinion expressed in your
thesis.



Although the thesis does express
an opinion, the remainder of the
essay should include FACTS that
SUPPORT the opinion from your
thesis
The thesis should be strong and
completely represent your opinion;
do not use possibly, maybe, or
perhaps; DO NOT EXPRESS
DOUBT!
Example:
“In the aftermath of the American
Revolution from 1775-1800,
American society experienced
numerous significant changes that
fundamentally contributed to a
newly established country.”
WHEN
WHO
“In the aftermath of the American Revolution
from 1775-1800, American society
*WHERE is not that important considering
that this is AP U.S. History, it should
happen in the U.S.!
WHAT and the POV
* The POV (point of view) is your personal
opinion on the essay question; the
question asked to what extent did the
American Revolution affect American
society. This thesis clearly states that it
had a large impact on American society.
Choosing the Topics
 Following the thesis, the topic
sentence should include the main
points that will support your
argument or opinion
 Each topic must be discussed in
one complete body paragraph; you
should generally have at least 2-3
topics
 You can choose any topics that are
pertinent to the essay; however,
you should choose broad topics
that can be discussed in great
detail
 You may often find it difficult to
choose topics; when in doubt, use
this helpful acronym: PERSIA
 Political
 Economic
 Religious
 Social
 Intellectual
 Aesthetic (Arts)
 P,E, and S are the most commonly
used topics in the DBQ
 Some essay questions will already
provide you with the topics (such
as the one we are using); in this
case, do not spend time thinking of
topics, but use the ones given to
you
Writing the Topic Sentence
 The topic sentence should include the topics you choose
for the essay question, and should reinforce the opinion
in your thesis by demonstrating that these topics provide
evidence or proof for your opinion
 Example:
“Evidence that the Revolution caused profound
changes in American society throughout the postRevolutionary period is demonstrated by the political,
social, and economic reforms that swept the nation.”
The Complete Introduction
Historical
background
In the late 18th century, the United States officially declared its
independence from Great Britain after a series of tumultuous and often
violent battles. Following the end of the American Revolution in 1781,
the former colonists were confronted with the difficulties of cooperating
to create a newly distinct American society. In the aftermath of the
American Revolution from 1775-1800, American society experienced
numerous significant changes that fundamentally contributed to a
newly established country. Evidence that the Revolution caused
profound changes in American society throughout the postRevolutionary period is demonstrated by the political, social, and Thesis
economic reforms that swept the nation.
Topic Sentence
The body paragraphs should all be formatted and structured
in the same manner as a free response; however, now is
when the interpretation of documents plays a role; The body
paragraphs should all include:
-A
Topic Sentence
-Supporting
Details and
the analysis of documents
-A
Clincher Sentence
This sentence introduces the main topic (taken from
the introduction) that will be discussed in the
remainder of the paragraph, while simultaneously
supporting the thesis
These sentences include facts that support your thesis
and pertain to the specific topic of the paragraph;
Both documents and outside information will be used
as supporting details in these sentences; moreover,
defining the terms is not enough, but interpret and
analyze the events to demonstrate how they support
your thesis
This sentence concludes the paragraph and restates
how the particular topic reinforces your thesis;
moreover, this sentence finalizes the paragraph
without leaving the reader with any doubts
** Since we mentioned it four times, you should OBVIOUSLY support your thesis EVERYWHERE!
POLITCAL
SOCIAL
ECONOMIC
-Separation of church and state (Virginia Statue of Religious Freedom)
-Declaration of Independence; Thomas Paine and “Common Sense”
-Termination of the Loyalist Party; emergence of state governments and the Presidency
-Treaty of Paris 1783
-Creation of New Government- Political parties (Federalists and Antifederalists)
-Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution; Bill of Rights
-Checks and balances and separation of powers
-Loose and strict interpretation
- The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
-Annapolis and Philadelphia Conventions
-Great Compromise, New Jersey Compromise and Virginia Compromise; 3/5 Compromise
-Women’s Rights (“Republican Motherhood”, Molly Pitcher, Daughters of Liberty)
-Native American treatment (Battle of Fallen Timbers and Treaty of Grenville 1795)
-Northwest Ordinance (prohibit slavery; create new states)
-Rebellions and Revolts (Shay’s Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion, and Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion)
-Cult of domesticity
-Educational reform (more colleges, The Enlightenment, etc.)
-Egalitarianism (belief that all people are equal)
-Virtual elimination of the aristocratic hierarchy (Alexis de Tocqueville: “Democracy in America”)
-Agricultural society of small farmers (Agrarian Republicanism)
-Termination of the mercantilist policy and Navigation Acts
-Cotton Gin and agriculture development in South
-Abundance of land for expansion and cultivating
-Hamilton’s economic plan (assumption, funding at par)
-Bank of the United States
-Tariffs and excise taxes on foreign and domestic products
-Decline in value of currency, or continentals
-Economic weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation (no taxing power)
-NOT
WHERE?
in the introduction, conclusion,
topic sentences, or clincher
sentences
-Use them in the body paragraphs as
supporting details
-Use them at the start of a sentence
(when using the title) or at the end of
a sentence (when using the letter of
the document)
HOW?
-There are two ways to reference
the documents:
-By source/title
-By abbreviation (ex: Doc.A)
REFERENCING
-Correct: Following the American
Revolution, the establishment of the
Northwest Ordinance in 1787 was the first
major legislation that challenged the
status of slavery in the states.
-Correct: Following the American
Revolution, the government under the
Articles of Confederation had a strong
success in promoting the termination of
slavery in future states. (Document H)
-Incorrect: According to Document H, the
Northwest Ordinance provided the
foundation for prohibiting slavery in newly
established states.
-Information provided within the
document itself DOES NOT count as
outside information; for example, the
document on the previous slide- stating
the Northwest Ordinance would award
you ZERO BROWNIE POINTS as outside
information!
-Example: The document above states
the text of the 1786 Virginia Statute of
Religious Freedom; however, since this
title is displayed in the document itself,
then it would not count as outside
information
-Analyzing the documents themselves
(although the purpose of the DBQ) will
not result in full credit without providing
outside information that somehow
relates to the document
- What would count as outside
information includes the mentioning of:
separation of church and state, the rise
of new denominations such as Baptists
and Methodists, the first amendment,
and the disestablishment of the
Anglican Church
-The beliefs of your grandmother do
not count as outside information!
•When
using documents you must do
three things with them, two of which
have already been mentioned:
• Reference the document
• Provide outside information
• Analyze the document and
outside information to support
your thesis
“In 1786, the passage of the
Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom served
as the precedent of both separation of
church and state and the foundation of
religious toleration. This eventually had a
major impact on the society of the U.S. by
ending the domination of Puritanism in the
United States and creating a plethora of
other religious denominations, such as the
Baptists, Methodists, and Evangelists.
•When
analyzing a document, you must
make inferences that help support your
thesis and develop a better understanding
of how the particular topic supports your
point of view (POV)
•Analysis is the most crucial part of your
essay because it reflects both your
understanding of American history and
your ability to defend your POV
•Example:
Reference/Outside information
Analysis
We will now apply the principles we have learned about using
the documents to construct your body paragraphs
There are three body paragraphs for this particular DBQ
(political, social, and economic); however, we will focus on the
social paragraph only
Follow the same format of writing you would on a regular FreeResponse question, but now add what you have learned about
documents
All of the documents that follow are those that relate to social
changes that occurred as a result of the American Revolution
“One significant effect of the American Revolution
was its role in increasing the status of women.
Patriotic women were generally viewed as
sympathetic to the American cause, and were often
admired in works of art. (Document A). For example,
the concept of “Republican Motherhood” changed the
former view of women by enhancing their status as
the proprietor of the home, whose duty was to raise
the children to be virtuous citizens. Moreover, women
began to enjoy larger political roles, in forming
organizations such as the Daughters of Liberty. Some
women, such as Molly Pitcher and Deborah
Sampson, even joined the military throughout the
war.”
“Due to the fact that the Native
Americans supported the British
throughout the war, the U.S. and
the Indians desired a mutual
peace that would end hostilities
in North America. (Document
C). In the post-revolutionary era,
the U.S. government attempted
to resolve conflicts with the
natives through the Treaty of
Grenville in 1795, and by
assimilating the Northwestern
tribes.”
**Underlined Statements are analysis. They serve to support the thesis
and PROVE that the Revolution did greatly impact American society .
“Following the American
Revolution, the establishment of
the Northwest Ordinance in 1787
was the first major legislation that
challenged the status of slavery in
the states. This banning of slavery
serves as evidence of a
fundamental social change in
American society, which would
eventually culminate in Civil War in
the next century.”
“Educational opportunities for
women became prominent after the
Revolutionary period, which was
strengthened by Molly Wallace’s
valedictorian speech in 1792. After
the Enlightenment, and the
teachings of Mary Wollstonecraft,
women were urged to break apart
the “separate spheres” and
challenge the cult of domesticity
that restrained them.”
THE COMPLETE BODY PARAGRAPH-SOCIAL
Topic
Sentence
The American Revolution had a profound impact on the social developments of the United
States’ transition from a coalition of independent colonies to a federal nation. One significant effect of
the American Revolution was its role in increasing the status of women. Patriotic women were generally
viewed as sympathetic to the American cause, and were often admired in works of art. (Document A) For
example, the concept of “Republican Motherhood” changed the former view of women by enhancing
their status as the proprietor of the home, whose duty was to raise the children to be virtuous citizens.
Moreover, women began to enjoy larger political roles, in forming organizations such as the Daughters of
Liberty. Some women, such as Molly Pitcher and Deborah Sampson, even joined the military throughout
the war. Educational opportunities for women became prominent after the Revolutionary period, which
was strengthened by Molly Wallace’s valedictorian speech in 1792. After the Enlightenment, and the
teachings of Mary Wollstonecraft, women were urged to break apart the “separate spheres” and challenge
the cult of domesticity that restrained them. Due to the fact that the Native Americans supported the
British throughout the war, the U.S. and the Indians desired a mutual peace that would end hostilities in
North America. (Document C) In the post-revolutionary era, the U.S. government attempted to resolve
conflicts with the natives by the Treaty of Grenville in 1795, and by assimilating the Northwestern tribes.
Following the American Revolution, the establishment of the Northwest Ordinance in 1787 was the first
major legislation that challenged the status of slavery in the states. This banning of slavery serves as
evidence of a fundamental social change in American society, which would eventually culminate in Civil
War in the next century. Following the separation of the U.S. from Great Britain’s monarchy, the United
States experienced major social transitions from a materialistic and aristocratic society to a society that
aided minorities and eventually the “common man.”
Clincher
Sentence
**Red words denote a reference to documents.
**Green words denote outside information for the documents.
The Conclusion (Finally!)




As Aguilar has already probably told you,
the conclusion is the least important part
of the DBQ as well as the free-response
The conclusion should be concise and
should restate your thesis
Moreover, the conclusion should
summarize all of your topics and
demonstrate one final time why your
particular point of view is correct
DO NOT use documents in the conclusion
and DO NOT leave the reader with any
doubts or questions
The Complete Conclusion
The emergence of the United States as a nation, rather than
as a mass of extremely diverse colonies, in itself displays the major
transition American society underwent as a result of the American
Revolution. With the institutions of a new political democracy,
agrarian economy, and greater social stability, the United States
grew further isolated from it’s previous political monarchy,
mercantilist economy, and aristocratic society. Overall, the
American Revolution had an impact of utmost importance on
American society from 1775-1800.
The DO NOT DO THIS list
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NO documents in the introduction, conclusion, topic sentences, or
clincher sentences!
Do not leave the reader with any doubts, or imply any subliminal
messages (this is not mystery history!)
Do not say “I, me, we” or any other personal pronouns; unlike your
grandmother (or Aguilar), we were not there during the time periods
Do not try to connect the past to the present, because it usually sounds
like something Bill Clinton would say in his “I did not sleep with Monica”
speech; basically, it makes no sense and is probably irrelevant
Do not place all of the documents into ONE paragraph; divide them
evenly for maximum points; do not place 6 documents in one paragraph,
and only 2 in the other paragraphs
Do not write I believe, In my opinion, My grandmother says, etc. because
the essay readers do not care about your opinion; rather, make your
opinion a strong fact that you are going to prove
Do not refer to historical figures by their first names; always include the
last name alone or the first and last names together
Do not write in the present tense, because if you are writing history, it
probably already happened
Good luck to all of you, and we hope we
have helped you write awesome DBQs!
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