Tips for writing a “9” DBQ:
1. As you read the question, come up with at least three categories. Then try to fill in as much specific factual information that you can think of, and put this into the categories. It’s important to do this BEFORE you read the documents, so that you don’t forget them when you are analyzing the documents.
2. After you do this, and ONLY after, start reading the documents. When looking at the documents, be sure to look at who is the author/painter/political cartoonist/historian – many times you will recognize that name and can give the document some context by what you know about the person, even if you have never seen the document before. Recognize that not all documents are equal in significance.
3. Sometimes the documents are intended to trigger reader memory – for example, a first hand account of a labor protest turned violent in 1896 means they want you to recognize that they are talking about the Haymarket Square Riot.
4. After you figure out what the document is saying, write it down in the appropriate category. If it supports your position, put a + next to it; if it is contrary to your position, put a – next to it. Be sure that you put the letter of the document (A, B, C, etc) when you write down the point the document is making, because this will make it MUCH easier when you are putting all of this information in essay form. If you go to the College Board AP US History Exam website, you can view released prompts and suggested document analysis.
5. Do not be afraid to use a point that contradicts your position. You are expected to acknowledge the complexities of history. Just show why it doesn’t defeat your position. For example, if your essay is about the impact of Reconstruction, and your position is that the U.S. government did not do much to help the freed slaves, you should not ignore the Freedmen’s Bureau. Rather, you should point out the inadequacies of the Freedmen’s Bureau – it didn’t last long...
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