Adapted from: http://www.thecaveonline.com/APEH/dbqhowto.html
A GUIDE TO WRITING A DBQ
The purpose of the DBQ (document based question) is not to test your knowledge of the subject, but rather to evaluate your ability to practice the historian’s craft. You will be required to work with the documents and use them to answer a question.

Writing a DBQ is an acquired skill, one that takes practice. You should not get discouraged if you do not “get it” right away. The goal is to acquire the skill.

Remember that there is actually no right or wrong answer. Your answer is YOUR interpretation of the content of the documents. As long as your answer is logical and your interpretation is supported by the content of the document you are correct.

The following is a guide to writing a successful DBQ.
HISTORICAL CONCERNS
1. Read carefully the question prompt. Underline the tasks demanded and the terms which might be unique to the question.
2. Read the documents carefully.
a. make sure that you understand the content of the document
b. What is the author’s point of view?
c. Where is the tension or differences in view?
d. Is there any sign of bias or of great knowledge?
e. What is the origin of the document?
f. Is the document valid or hearsay?
g. if time, gender, and age were changed would the person be saying the same
thing?
3. Consider what is the overall picture presented by the documents?


ACTUALLY WRITING THE ESSAY
1. Refer to the documents in your answer by simply writing Doc A, Doc 1, etc. You may abbreviate.
2. Your essay should by an analysis or examination of the documents and their contents.
3. Make sure the documents are used as evidence to support your answer/thesis
4. If the question allows then use the following in your answer:
a. The point of view of the documents is both indicated and discussed from several angles
5. Be certain that your answer is always focused directly on the question. Do not drift afield.
6. *Change Over Time is recognized and discussed if this occurs in the classroom

BASIC WRITING STYLE CONCERNS
1. You have an answer in the form of a bold thesis.
2. You have not referred to yourself in the essay and you have not told the readers what they are “going to learn.”
3. Quotations are limited to phrases which are placed within the context of your answer.
4. ALL PARTS OF THE QUESTION are answered
5. You have written a conclusion that summarizes the evidence and restates the evidence.
6. Base all your comments on the documents. Outside information should only be used to enhance understanding but the basis of your argument should rely on the documents.