|A GUIDE TO WRITING A DBQ
The purpose of the DBQ (Document Based Question) is not to test your knowledge of the subject, but rather to evaluate your ability to practice the historian's craft. You will be required to work with the documents and use them to answer a question.
Remember that there is actually no right or wrong answer. Your answer is YOUR interpretation of the content of the documents. As long as your answer is logical and your interpretation is supported by the content of the document you are correct.
1. Read carefully the question prompt and the historical background. Underline the tasks demanded and the terms which are unique to the question.
2. Read the documents carefully.
a. Make sure that you understand the content of the document.
b. What is the author's Point of View (POV).
c. Where is the tension?
1. Are there people from the same place with differing POV?
2. Is a Frenchman critiquing the French or is it an Englishman? Which is biased, which has great knowledge?
d. What is the origin of the document?
e. Is the document valid or is it hearsay?
f. If time, gender or age were changed would the person be saying the same thing?
3. You should strive to use most of the documents (omitting no more than 1).
4. Do not simply site the documents in "laundry list" fashion. You should strive to IMPOSE order on the documents. Find groupings for the documents. Can they be organized into a format? What is the OVERALL picture presented by the documents. Can you use the documents implicitly?
5. Your essay should be an ANALYSIS of the documents and their content. You are demonstrating analysis if you are doing the following:
a. The essay contains a thesis which divides your answer into categories.
b. The documents are used as evidence to support your thesis.
c. Frequent reference is made to the terms of the question. Be certain that your answer is always focused directly on the question. Do not drift afield.
6. Be certain that, if the question allows, you exploit all of the following in writing your answer.
a. Point of View (POV) is both indicated and discussed from several angles.
b. The Validity (VAL) of documents is noted.
c. Change Over Time (COT) is recognized and discussed (if this occurs in the documents)
d. Did the pendulum of history swing in the chronological course of the documents? Did it swing back again?
1. The essay has an adequate introduction in which the time frame is noted.
2. The thesis provides an answer to the question and divides the answer into categories.
3. Proper essay style is used (think 5 paragraph format where applicable).
4. Grammar and spelling are adequate (do not misspell words that are supplied in the documents).
5. You have not referred to yourself in the essay and you have not told the readers what they are "going to learn".
6. A great majority of the documents have been used in a manner which makes their use readily apparent to the reader.
7. Quotations are limited to a phrase which is placed within the context of your answer.
8. ALL PARTS OF THE QUESTION have been answered.
9. A conclusion exists which summarizes the evidence, restates the thesis and indicates a direction for further study or occurrences.
10. Base all of your comments on the documents, NOT on outside information. Outside information may be used to enhance understanding but it must not be the basis of your argument.
Both APUSH and APEH DBQs are designed to test the ability of the student to think like a historian, but there are a couple of key differences.
By far, the biggest difference is the requirement for outside information in the APUSH DBQ. This is not a requirement in APEH, though students may certainly bring in outside information if they can; they will get some recognition for it IF they meet all of the core requirements.
The APEH DBQ really emphasizes point of view; students need to be able to show that they understand not only what the documents are saying, but WHY the source of the information may be saying it.
In AP Euro the students are required to evaluate the documents' validity through an examination of point-of-view in the authors. In APUS the documents are accepted as evidence.
In AP Euro the documents are shorter and there are usually more of them. The students are encouraged to comment on all documents by at least grouping them.
The authorial point of view is the key in the AP Euro DBQ. Graders seem to appreciate attribution of sarcasm or personal interests served by the author's statements. Irony of statements made by famous or semi-famous people quoted in documents also scores well. It all comes down to how the documents are used as evidence.
The Euro DBQ is meant to examine whether the students' knowledge of history allows them to evaluate historical documents in a discerning way, and the APUS DBQ assesses how one uses documentary evidence to support one's knowledge of a specific time period. The tasks are similar but substantially different.
There are no irrelevant or deliberately misleading documents in AP Euro.
What is POV?
“Tell me who is it, what does he know, and why does he know it?”
The DBQ is written so that there is at least one possible Point-Of-View to be found for nearly every single document. You can usually tell what the POV is going to be just by reading the attribution given, before you even read the document. Is the writer a woman-- she'll have a different perspective than a man. Is the writer a Catholic writing about Protestants or Protestants about Catholics? Is he a noble describing peasants, a worker describing a bourgeois factory owner, a Communist, Socialist, anarchist, fascist, etc. etc. etc. All of these things and more will affect his POV. Sometimes POV is more subtle-- if you have three documents written by nobles that all describe peasants in a contemptuous tone and a fourth noble takes the peasants' side, you must ask yourself why. What is different about that one person? (There is an example of this in the DBQ on Russian peasants-- the fourth nobleman is described as "living in exile". Students could therefore assume that he has been banished for his sentiments-- perhaps he is an anarchist.)
POV is not an explanation of WHAT the author believes but it should explain WHY a document takes a particular viewpoint (Is there a characteristic about the author that predisposes him to a certain viewpoint? Is intent of the document to persuade people to a certain viewpoint? Does the type of document influence the message?). They must identify the characteristic and explain its influence on the message. Students don't have
to "prove a POV beyond the shadow of a doubt." The issue raised merely has to be plausible, based on a
rational knowledge of the historical facts.
Examples of POV (Note: Even when two documents are used, credit is given for only ONE POV)
Louis de Jaucourt and Denis Diderot were presumably scholars, not merchants, and as slavery did not offer them any personal advantages, they had no difficulty condemning slavery.
Guillaume Raynal and the speaker in doc. 13, a delegate of St. Domingue French administration, and a colonial landowner, respectively, indicate that French treatment put the slaves in far better conditions than their
original state. These were probably untrue statements, as Raynal and the landowner of doc. 13 in the colonies probably were not observed by any Frenchmen who would care to give an accurate, unbiased account of the
treatment of slaves.
Antoine Barnave and Charles de Lameth, whose positions are unknown, propose, in speeches to the National Assembly , attempts to reconcile practical and philosophical discrepancies. Barnave and Lameth were perhaps the most clear-thinking of all the speakers and writers, neither condemning slavery, nor applauding it. They obviously had not bought into humanist philosophies, and neither could they be considered greed-blinded merchants.
Thomas Macaulay, as a liberal MP (Member of Parliament), would probably have a vested interest in promoting the burgeoning prosperity of an industrial Great Britain and the subsequent rise in standard of living for the working classes. As such, Macaulay's social and political status are well-served by his one-sided description of Manchester.
Edwin Chadwick's experience in public health makes him an "expert" on public health, someone who has more "street cred" than the average schmoe on the street when the issues of disease or urban living conditions are being discussed.
Doc 9, the "brochure" by Wheelan and Company paints this glowing picture of Manchester and play up its productivity. That's to be expected--Wheelan and Co. was basically writing up a "chamber of commerce"-style PR piece.