How to Master Response Papers and dbqs



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How to Master Response Papers and DBQs
Response Papers and Document Based Questions are two types of essays you will have to master in most history classes. In a history class, writing can be an art, but it is absolutely a science as well. In order to earn the maximum amount of points in both of your Response Papers and DBQs, here are some strategies and tips to learn the science of historical essay writing.
Response Papers


  1. Response Papers test what you know about a certain topic in history. You will not do well on these questions if you do not know your history, and cannot analyze it. You will also not do well if you do not read the required sources to answer the question.




  1. When it comes to Response Papers (and DBQs)…follow a very simple acronym… ATAQ!!!! Answer the Actual Question!!!! Don’t over-think the question or complicate elements of it. For each Response Paper (or DBQ), identify and underline key words to form the structure of your essay. Do not get tripped up by extra phrases. You must understand what the question is primarily asking you to answer. Usually, the question is asking to Analyze, Judge, Evaluate, or Compare and Contrast.




  1. Response Papers MUST be at least 5 paragraphs.

    1. Introduction with Thesis Statement

    2. 3 Body Paragraphs that correlate to the 3 supporting Points of Proof

    3. Conclusion with Thesis Statement restated




  1. How to write a Thesis Statement

    1. The Thesis Statement is the foundation to either a great essay, or a poor one.

    2. A bad Thesis Statement RUINS YOUR ENTIRE ESSAY!!! The two biggest mistakes seen with Thesis Statements are:

      1. Restating the Question

Question = “How should we judge the historical convergence of Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress today?”

Poor Thesis = “Columbus, the Indians he encountered, and the notion of Human Progress converged creating various effects.”

      1. Providing 3 Points of Proof to the question, but no central Thesis Statement for those 3 Points of Proof to orbit

Question = “How should we judge the historical convergence of Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress today?”

Poor Thesis = “We should judge the convergence of Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress based on the viewpoints of the Western World, the Native Americans, and from a neutral perspective.”

    1. Thesis Statements must make historically-defensible claims, and respond to all parts of the question. If your Thesis Statement does not have a stance/claim/angle that allows the reader to ask, “Oh really? Prove it,” then it was not written properly.




    1. You can write a Thesis Statement in 2 sentences, if you feel more comfortable. It is best to write it in one sentence though.




    1. When you are trying to form a thesis statement, try working in reverse. Discover your 3 Points of Proof first, and then formulate your Thesis from those 3 Points of Proof.




    1. For most Response Papers, there is more than one way to answer the question. Do not feel pressured into thinking there is one correct thesis statement or collection of points of proof. If you feel you know the information, formulated three decent points of proof, and synthesized an original thesis that answers the actual question and has a defensible claim/stance, then you completed the introduction of the essay properly.




  1. Use the words from the Response Paper and DBQ question throughout your essay.

    1. Let’s look at your essay that asked you, “How should we judge the historical convergence of Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress today?”

      • The key phrase in the question is, “historical convergence.”

      • Try to utilize the entire phrase or words from the phrase in your Thesis Statement and throughout your essay in the proper locations.

    1. Let’s look at your essay that asked you, Evaluate the experiences of the English settling in the Chesapeake with those settling in New England during the 17th century.”

      • The key phrase in the question is, “experiences.”


Here is the complete essay structure your Response Paper should follow

  1. Introduction

      1. Opening Sentence(s)

      1. THESIS STATEMENT

        • THE MOST IMPORTANT SENTENCE IN YOUR ENTIRE ESSAY!!!

        • Should be derived from the 3 points of proof and good planning

      1. Three Points of Proof

        • Like a table of contents for a book, the Three Points of Proof will tell the reader what to expect and in what order.

        • They must be listed in order of the body paragraphs, and should be succinct.

        • They are supporting arguments to your main argument (Thesis)

        • they are not a list of facts or evidence




  1. Body Paragraphs

  1. Topic Sentences (TS) must start each paragraph

        • The topic sentence should MATCH the Point of Proof (POP) you wrote in your Introduction

          • POP1 = Paragraph and TS1

          • POP2 = Paragraph and TS2

          • POP3 = Paragraph and TS3

  1. Following sentences

        • Information should support the TS/POP, and not deviate from what you are trying prove

        • Sentences should look like a layer cake of claims followed by evidence

        • Summary Sentence – make sure you clearly explain how this paragraph proved your thesis.




  1. Conclusion

  1. Rephrased THESIS STATEMENT will be the first sentence

  2. 1 sentence explaining each of the 3 points of proof again

  3. Closing sentence should give your final opinion/analysis of the question



Understanding what Compare and Contrast means
In some occasions, a Response Paper or Test Short Essay will ask you to Compare and Contrast two historical people or events. Sometimes, a question that asks you to Evaluate or Analyze, is indirectly asking you to compare and contrast as well. Compare and Contrast is a phrase you will be reading and hearing a lot, and it requires a different type of planning.
Step 1: Prewriting Planning…Answer the Actual Question by MAKING A CHART

Step 2: Thesis and Three Points of Proof writing

      • Your chart provides similarities and differences that will make up your 3 Points of Proof. After you synthesize your 3 Points of proof, you can form a Thesis Statement from them.


Step 3: The Three Compare and Contrast Body Paragraphs

      • Whenever you are comparing and contrasting two historical figures/events, you need to include both figures/events in each body paragraph




      • DO THIS!!!

        1. Body Paragraph 1 (POP1)

          • Apples vs Oranges

        1. Body Paragraph 2 (POP2)

          • Apples vs Oranges

        1. Body Paragraph 3 (POP3)

          • Apples vs Oranges




      • DO NOT DO THIS!!!!

  1. Body Paragraph 1

          • Apples

          • Apples

  1. Body Paragraph 2

          • Oranges

          • Oranges

  1. Body Paragraph 3

          • Apples vs Oranges

DBQ – Document Based Questions
The Document Based Question (DBQ) is an essential activity you need to master when it comes to analyzing history. DBQs require you to analyze multiple points of view of a singular historical event, group the points of view accordingly, and then use ALL of the points of view to prove your thesis statement. You are basically writing a 50-minute research paper where all of the sources are already provided for you. These skills are also crucial to learn in order to become a more questioning, skeptical, and logical adult and citizen as well. You take part in many DBQs every week, whether you are hearing different views of an argument amongst family or friends, or hearing a debate about the latest political topic. These DBQ skills will transcend beyond the 50-minute essays you will be writing in class this year.
DBQ Rules and Tips

  1. You have 50 minutes to complete a DBQ. The first 10 minutes are used to analyze the documents and plan your essay. The last 40 minutes are used to write the essay. If you need to use an extra 5 minutes to analyze the documents, use it. But do not use any more time!




  1. The basic rules to essay writing apply to DBQ writing.

    1. Your introduction MUST include a clear and original thesis statement and 3 Points of Proof (supporting points)

    2. You need to ANSWER THE ACTUAL QUESTION




  1. You can include outside information in your DBQs, if you feel it helps you explain some of the documents, and it bolsters your thesis. But it is essential that you prove in a DBQ is how well you can…

    1. Analyze the Points of View (POV) within the documents

    2. Group the Points of View from the documents to support a thesis




  1. DBQs must have an introduction and conclusion, and you need AT LEAST 3 body paragraphs…but 4 is acceptable too.




  1. How to analyze the documents.

    1. You can form a preconceived framework/thesis before you read the documents, but be flexible with it…it might change.

    2. Quickly look at the SOURCES of the documents

      1. You might be able to form ideas and/or groups just by looking at the author of the document

    3. Read the documents and make notes on the packet

      1. Circle key words or phrases

      2. You must accomplish the two big DBQ Skills…POV and Grouping

        1. Continue to look for varying Points of View based on Authorial POV, Reliability, and Tone

        2. Begin to form your ideas based on the grouping of your Documents

      3. Spend 10-12 minutes…you need to read quickly!!

      4. You need to find at least 3 POV Groupings

Tips for writing out the DBQ

  1. You MUST use almost EVERY DOCUMENT in your DBQ.




  1. You can use documents more than once…it is encouraged to do so.




  1. With Introductions, NEVER just copy the background information that is provided to you in the question!!




  1. NEVER EVER QUOTE FROM THE DOCUMENTS!! Paraphrase instead. Put the information in your own words…that is what impresses!!




  1. NEVER just summarize the documents…make sure you are using them in an analytical manner!




  1. NEVER create a list of documents one after the other.




  1. Make statements of your own that prove your thesis and then use information from the documents to support your statement. Build a layer cake within every paragraph.

Example: Using the DBQ you just wrote where you were asked to evaluate the experiences of the English settling in the Chesapeake with those settling in New England during the 17th century.


Another reason why the colonists of the New England region were more successful than their southern neighbors was due to the designed social structure each region was looking to establish. New England was being colonized by young families, including young children . These families possessed some level of respectable wealth if their servants were migrating to the New World with them. Conversely, Jamestown’s first list of passengers in 1607 revealed that only men, usually unskilled ones, would be tested with creating a thriving, self-sustaining civilization from scratch. (Docs A, D)



  1. ALWAYS include the author/source in the essay. [see above example].




  1. Conversely, NEVER write the following…

In Document A, unskilled men and soldiers would be left with the responsibility of establishing a successful new settlement.”


OR
Document A says…”

Besides, Documents don’t/can’t talk...




  1. ALWAYS write a history essay in the PAST TENSE




  1. ALWAYS include both topic sentences and summary sentences in all of you body paragraphs




  1. NEVER use a document in the introduction. Don’t go on a tangent and fluff up your introduction either.




  1. Thesis, Groups, and Point of View Visual Tip


Here is the complete essay structure your DBQ should follow


    1. Introduction

      1. Opening Sentences

        1. gives the reader a framework of what they are about to read

        2. should be 1 or 2 sentences…no more

        3. do not repeat what the test question gives you

      2. THESIS STATEMENT

        1. Should be derived from the 3-4 groupings you discovered after analyzing the documents

        2. The thesis statement is the overall theme of the groupings you created

          1. Chesapeake vs New England DBQ question you already wrote

            1. Thesis = Despite enduring similar difficulties and conflicts, the English settlers in New England enjoyed a more organized and ambitious experience in colonizing their region versus the colonists in the Chesapeake region.

            2. Your thesis came from lumping arguments (Points of Proof…or POP) from the documents that were provided to you

              1. Both regions faced crises with Native Americans

              2. Both regions faced crises with survival in the early years, however the New England colonists handled it better

              3. New England was colonized with better social planning than Chesapeake

      3. 3-4 Points of Proof

        1. Should be written in one sentence

        2. Points of Proof = the supporting argument/grouping you create after you analyze the documents

        3. Do not write 3 long sentences explaining each point of proof…you will do that in the Body of the paper



    1. Body Paragraphs

      1. Topic Sentences (TS) start each paragraph

        1. The topic sentence should MATCH the Point of Proof you wrote in your Introduction

          1. Group/POP1 = Paragraph and TS1

          2. Group/POP2 = Paragraph and TS2

          3. Group/POP3 = Paragraph and TS3

      2. Following sentences

        1. A Layer Cake of claims and analysis of the documents should support the TS/POP, and not deviate from what you are trying prove.

        2. Information must be accurate and specific. Don’t be vague.



    1. Conclusion

      1. THESIS STATEMENT will be the first sentence

        1. Rephrase the thesis in a different style

      2. Explain the 3 Points of Proof again

      3. Closing sentence should give your final opinion/analysis of the question

5-Paragraph Essay Wedding Cake Structure


Closing Sentence

Thesis Statement…reworded this time

Point of Proof 3 re-explained

Point of Proof 2 re-explained

Point of Proof 1 re-explained

Summary Sentence

Evidence

Claim

Evidence

Claim

Topic Sentence 3 = Point of Proof #3

Claim

Evidence

Topic Sentence 2 = Point of Proof #2

Summary Sentence

Claim

Evidence

Topic Sentence 1 = Point of Proof #1

Summary Sentence

Evidence

Claim

Evidence

Claim

3 Points of Proof/Arguments

Thesis Statement…must have a STANCE!!!

Opening Sentences


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