Document Based Essay Question

Put on your "historian" hat to demonstrate your ability to analyze source materials and develop an essay based on those materials. Your goal: a unified essay that integrates your analysis of four to ten given documents with your treatment of the topic. Comparative topics on the major themes will provide one of the focuses of the DBQs, including comparative questions about different societies in situations of mutual contact. The DBQ begins with a mandatory 10-minute reading period. Then you'll have 40 minutes to write the essay.

The source materials are chosen for two reasons: the information they convey about the topic and the perspective they offer on other documents used in the section. There is no one perfect DBQ answer; a variety of approaches and responses are possible depending on your ability to understand the documents and, ultimately, judge their significance. Remember: You'll most fully understand some of the documents when you view them within the wider context of the entire series.

When writing the document-based essay, it's important to:

  • Refer to individual documents within the framework of the overall topic.
  • Uses all of the documents.
  • Discuss the materials in reference to the question — don't just summarize them.
  • Cite documents by naming the author and/or by naming the document number.

Also, remember:

  • There are no irrelevant or deliberately misleading documents.
  • It's important that you put your analytic skills to work and demonstrate that you understand context, bias, and frame of reference regarding the documents' sources and the authors' points of view. Group or juxtapose documents in a variety of ways (e.g., according to their ideas or points of view); suggest reasons for similarities or differences in perspective among the documents; and identify possible biases or inconsistencies within documents.
  • You'll be asked to explain the need for additional documents that would help you answer the question more completely. You may also have to discuss which points of view are missing from the given documents. Since the DBQ focuses on historical skills within a world history framework, remember to place documents chronologically, culturally, and thematically.
  • You're not expected to know the author or topic of all the DBQ documents, or to include information outside of the documents.

Continuity and Change-Over-Time Essay 

The Continuity and Change-Over-Time Essay focuses on large global issues such as technology, trade, culture, migrations, or biological developments. It covers at least one of the periods in the course outline and one or more cultural areas. You'll have 40 minutes to write the essay. It's recommended that you spend five minutes planning and/or outlining your answer before you begin writing. You may be able to choose different cases to illustrate your point.

Comparative Essay 

In the final free-response essay you'll answer a comparative question that focuses on developments in two or more societies, and their interactions with each other or with major themes or events (e.g., culture, trade, religion, technology, migrations). You'll have 40 minutes to write the essay. It's recommended that you spend five minutes planning and/or outlining your answer before you begin writing.