How to Write a Document Based Question

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Writing a Document Based Question (DBQ)

Review the process for writing a DBQ. Pay particular attention to how to document other people's ideas. Follow the steps below in writing the DBQ. See the do's and don'ts.

Step 1
Carefully read the question. Know exactly what the question asks you to do: 1. underline the verb in the question: evaluate, assess, analyze, establish the validity (truth), etc. 2. look carefully at any conjunction in the question: i.e. does the question ask you to contrast AND compare, or does the question ask you to contrast OR compare. Step 2

Quickly make a list of everything--the people, documents, issues, topics, battles, social changes, Supreme Court cases, etc.--that you feel is relevant to the question. Step 3
Read all of the documents looking specifically for things you can use. Underline everything relevant. You want to use all of the documents if possible. As a rule, the more you use, the better the essay. Look for "bias", change over time, etc. Step 4

Write your introductory paragraph and do it in the following pattern [NOTE: Most students should write the thesis sentence first, then build the paragraph backwards from the thesis toward the more general statements.]: 3. Write two sentences that address the topic of the question in a general way. Do NOT restate the question as it was worded! 4. Write an organizational statement in which you mention the two or three issues or aspects of the topic about which you are going to write (your argument categories). 5. Write a clear thesis sentence that expresses your response to the question. The best place for your thesis is at the end of the introductory paragraph. [Tip: Try beginning the thesis sentence with the word "although." This may help you frame a thesis sentence that addresses the "complexity" of the question.] Step 5

Begin the first body paragraph with a topic sentence about the FIRST thing mentioned in your organizational statement. Mention lots of...
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