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How to Write a DBQ Essay

As a student, you will come across various types of essays one of which is the DBQ essay. And let us admit that learning how to write a DBQ essay can be a difficult challenge for students because DBQs frequently involve extremely high levels of academic skill as well as the capacity to think outside the box.  However, you do not need to worry. After the internet is steeped with information that can help you learn how to write a DBQ essay in no time. 

Besides, it is a task for students that assesses the student’s analytic and comprehension abilities. They also put a student’s ability to think outside the box to a trial. These abilities are required to succeed in obtaining this academic qualification. With that being said, keep on reading to learn the best step to write a DBQ essay. 

What is a DBQ Essay?

First, let us clarify the definition and meaning of a  DBQ essay. 

The Document-Based Question or DBQ is a rare mix that requires a maximum of eight short answers for an essay based on a supporting document. Before you begin identifying things, each DBQ task will also provide detailed info, such as the particular topic of your essay and its historical context.

A DBQ requires a thesis statement and seeks to demonstrate a point while keeping the historical background in mind. It is given to students to assess their knowledge, analysis, and comprehension of a specific topic. 

Moreover, students are usually asked to read numerous documents given by the subject teacher. And these documents are related to an important historical event or historical figure. 

Thus,, as you go through the documents, you are looking for patterns. Besides that, you will also need to figure out how the information in the documents is related. 

All in all, a DBQ can be considered a source of information for one’s writing. Meanwhile, each DBQ may seem very similar. However, there are certain things that differ in each one.

  • Historical Context: It tells you about the historical background of a specific topic. And this is essential in writing the introduction of the DBQ essay.
  • Task: The task is the reader question that you are assigned to answer in your DBQ essay. Besides that, it will help you write the last sentence of your introductory paragraph or the thesis statement.
  • Scaffolding Questions and Document: It is generally a 5 to 7 pages long document that will help you write the essay. Besides, each document has a couple of questions that you must answer before you start writing your DBQ essay. These questions are meant to help you further in shaping and structuring your essay.

The DBQ Essay Outline

We recognize that learning how to write a DBQ essay can be challenging for amateurs. Therefore, we have tried to write an article that helps in thoroughly understanding what is a DBQ essay, how to structure it, and how to write it. 

So, now that you know what is a DBQ question, you are good to start learning how to structure a DBQ essay. Like all the other essay types, a DBQ essay includes an introduction with a thesis, body, and conclusion.

The introduction

To make sure that you write a good introduction, the first sentence of your introduction should be a hook. A hook is basically an exciting and interesting fact or a question, sometimes. The main purpose of a hook is to grab your reader’s attention instantly.

Furthermore, it contains the background of the main topic. To construct good background data for your subject, you will need hard-core information on related historical events and related historical figures. Besides that, you will need to add correct dates and figures to make sure that you write a strong introduction.


The thesis of your essay provides the backbone of your essay. It basically illustrates the argument or claim that you have made in your essay which is further supported by evidence in your essay. So, write a paragraph that answers the questions that your essay addresses. Moreover, give a concise description of the evidence and supporting details that you will add to the body paragraphs of your essay.

Body Paragraph one

In the first body paragraph, you should include your strongest argument. And it should directly link back to your thesis statement. Besides that, you should also add references that are related to your strongest argument. However, do not mix it with any other new idea or argument in the paragraph.

Because you only have to add supporting details to back up your main argument in the paragraph. Furthermore, end the first body paragraph with a sentence that links to the second body paragraph of your DBQ essay.

Body Paragraph Two

In the second body paragraph, add your second strongest argument and make sure that it connects back to your thesis and your first argument in the first body paragraph. Then, provide an evaluation of the references that are relevant to your best argument.

Besides that, draft a statement that confirms the analysis from a different perspective.  Also, include a link to your thesis. Lastly, add a transition sentence to the third body paragraph.

Body Paragraph Three

Similar to the previous paragraphs, provide a rational argument that is related to your thesis as well as the second argument from the previous body paragraph.
Besides that, include an evaluation of the sources of information that are relevant to your best argument.
Then, add a statement that concludes the analysis from a different perspective. Include a link to the dissertation.
Lastly, write a sentence that links to your concluding paragraph. 


Lastly, write your concluding paragraph to wrap up your DBQ essay. Like all the other types of essays, the concluding paragraph has the same elements. Firstly, the conclusion rephrases your thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. Then, it summarizes the main arguments from each body paragraph and provides the historical significance of each argument.

Lastly, the conclusion ends with a sentence that proves or challenges that the proof or the evidence that you provided in your essay is accurate.

How to Write a DBQ Essay

Having to Write a DBQ essay could be challenging for some students. However, worrying or stressing will only make things worse. Instead, we suggest you that thoroughly follow this guide till the end. Besides that, do some practice to make sure that you master writing a DBQ essay. 

So, we believe that by now you have learned what is a DBQ essay and how to structure it. If so, follow the rest of the article to learn how to write a DBQ essay. 

Step 1: Read and Comprehend the Instructions or Assignment Thoroughly

How to Write a DBQ Essay

Determine critical factors such as destination, personality, time frame, and so forth. Then, highlight these items because you may require them if there is a try comparing and contrasting question. Also, write down your thoughts and any other details that you can connect to this question. 

Besides, make sure you do the strategizing prior to actually reading the documents. Because it will be hard to think about other data while the documents are occupying your mind. 

Once you properly comprehend the question, you will be easily able to answer it correctly.

Step 2: Analyze the Document Carefully

How to Write a DBQ Essay

Even though the number of documents varies from test to test, you must analyze as many as possible. You must also include proof from beginning to end to back up your claims. Publications, speeches, letters, legislative action excerpts, charts, photos, maps, and journal entries are all examples of documents.

Among all, some documents might be well-known. However, some of them will be unfamiliar to you.

Step 3: Interpreting the Data

How to Write a DBQ Essay

The documents for the DBQ test aim to tell you more about a historical figure or event. After reading the document, you will have to interpret the data in the documents. Besides that, you will also have to find patterns or draw connections between each piece of data in the document.

Yes, you read it right. Just like a detective, you have to interpret the data and draw connections between them. To start, you have to ask yourself a few analytical questions. Here are a few questions, for instance, to help you get started.

  • What is the document exactly? Is it an advertisement, newspaper, article, annotated paragraph, speech, drawing, or letter?
  • Where was this document published?
  • Who published this document?
  • Why did they write this document?
  • Is the document formal or informal by nature?
  • What is the aim of the document? Is it to persuade the reader, entertain the, or make them take an action?
  • Is it a political document?
  • What were related events at that point in time?
  • Where was this document written?
  • Who was the audience of this document?
  • How was the document perceived at the time of its publication?

We have listed a few questions only. Besides, you can create more related questions for your paper.

Step 4: Briefly Write Down the Main Idea of the Document

By now, you might have created a few related questions to your document. And you might know who wrote this document too. So, now try to answer the above questions. Besides, highlight the most essential points and events in the document.

You can also divide the documents into sections to help you easily analyze the information in the document. This step is essential because it is going to be very helpful while writing the DBQ essay.

Step 5: Write Your Thesis Statement

The thesis is essentially the most important part of any essay. It presents the main idea of the essay to your reader. Thus, you need to make sure that you will succeed in writing a strong thesis statement. But it will only be possible if you thoroughly read all the provided documents.

Moreover, it is not essential that you write your thesis statement first. Because most students find it very hard to write a thesis statement first. Thus, you can also write the rest of your DBQ essay and write your thesis statement at last.

Step 6: Write an Essay

One of the lengthiest steps of learning how to write a DBQ essay is to write the essay itself. During the test, you may get tired or feel peer pressure. However, you need to make sure that you stay calm.

Nevertheless, if you have followed the above steps, you will not face any difficulty. Just try to stay focused and just write. Do not worry about making any spelling or grammar mistakes. Because you can correct them after you have written your essay.

Step 7: Proofread

Preferably, you should spell-check your DBQ essays after writing to ensure that you have written the correct names, dates and times, figures, and records. Besides that, you should also check the flow of the content and that all of the paragraphs are in a logical sequence.

Moreover, if you wish to enhance your chances of writing an outstanding essay on your AP exam, you should start practicing more and gain more knowledge about the test.

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