Sample DBQ Question: Based on the following documents, analyze the responses to the spread of Buddhism in China. What additional kind of document(s) would you need to evaluate the extent of Buddhism’s appeal in China? Point
CommentaryExamples and Commentary
1Has acceptable thesis.
Thesis addresses the specific focus of the question.
The thesis should reflect a sophisticated understanding of the complexities within the question. Thesis should be located at the beginning of the essay (1 paragraph).
Unacceptable. “There were many responses to the introduction of Buddhism into China.” Thesis is too vague. “Many” is a virtually meaningless qualifier. “Buddhism had a large impact on China.” Off topic. The question asks the reader to focus on the type of responses to Buddhism, not the amount of impact of Buddhism in China. This is an example of why it is so important to read the question carefully. Not only would this ’thesis’ not earn the Thesis point on the DBQ Rubric, it might distract the author from earning other points (#3 Evidence, #6 Analysis/Grouping).
Acceptable. “Chinese reacted to Buddhism in both positive and negative ways.” Bare minimum of acceptability. There are at least 2 categories, but good historical analysis should be more descriptive than just ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ (Can you think of anything that hasn’t had both good and bad aspects to it?) “Chinese peasants responded positively toward Buddha’s message, but aristocrats and those with a vested interest in the status quo rejected Buddhism.” This thesis shows the student understands the socio-economic differences within Chinese society (peasants vs. upper class). “Chinese initially welcomes Buddhism, as it gave them shelter during politically uncertain times, but as imperial security improved, government authorities increasingly saw Buddhism as a threat to their political power and moved to discredit it. Excellent! This is essentially a ‘Change over Time’ thesis (first ‘A’, then ‘B’) that also incorporates the socio-economic awareness of the previous example.
Uses all, or all but one of the documents.
The key word is “use.” It is difficult to precisely define what “use” entails, but it is NOT sufficient to merely mention a document in a list. Unacceptable. “Doc 2 supports my thesis.” This is a mere ‘listing,’ as opposed to ‘using’ of the documents. Acceptable “Zhi Dun (Doc 2) reflects the initial Chinese acceptance of Buddhist philosophy.” This shows the reader that the student has used the content of Doc #2 to support the thesis (as well as correctly interpreted the meaning of the document, Point #4).
#Generic Description Explanation/Commentary
Examples and Commentary
3Supports thesis with appropriate evidence from documents.
The key to the Evidence Point is Analysis: To study the parts and their interrelationships in making up a whole. Break a complex puzzle into bite-sized pieces, and describe how those pieces contribute to the overall whole. The most common mistake is students merely quote, summarize, paraphrase, or attribute something to a document, rather than truly supporting the thesis by analyzing the document.
Unacceptable. “Zhi Dun says in Doc #2, ‘blah blah blah.’” This is NOT support, merely evidence from documents. quoting the doc, or identifying/attributing the source of the quotation. Keep in mind, your reader knows the documents better than you do. If you want to earn credit for using all the doc’s (Point #2), just write ‘(Doc #)’ after you use some evidence from that document that supports your thesis. The DBQ instructions on the first page say explicitly that a good answer “Does not simply summarize the documents individually.” This example merely summarizes. Acceptable. “The Anonymous Chinese Scholar’s (Doc #3) defense of Buddhism reflects the growing criticism of Buddhism as political order and...