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The DBQ and FRQ:

How to rock an essay

(and keep your sanity, too!)

STUDENT NAME:

PERIOD:

DBQ and FRQ: What’s the difference?


ESSAY SECTION: 50% of Exam




DBQ

FRQ

TIME

45 minutes,

15 minute reading period



60 minutes

10 minute reading period



HOW MANY

1

2

PERCENTAGE OF TEST

25%

25%

DOCUMENTS

10-15 Included, plus student

background information



Dependent solely on background knowledge


Remember:

    1. 130 Minutes for all three essays on the AP Exam.

    2. At the start there is a 15 minute mandatory reading period for the documents and questions before one can begin to write.

    3. Plan to use about 45 minutes to write your essay after the 15 minute reading period.


A short lesson on writing an excellent thesis statement
The College Board requires three essays on the current form of the AP US History Exam. Each of the three essays must be a thesis-based response to a prompt that requires students to take a stand on an issue and then present enough factual information in the context of their essay that proves their thesis.
The main focus of a thesis statement is to address the prompt with a strong and clearly relevant thesis statement. A simple formula can help students write a complex thesis if they can recall these four interrelated steps:

  1. Determine the stem of the prompt—what is the topic of the prompt?

  2. Determine the time frame of the question

  3. Determine the operational functions the student needs to perform in the essay

  4. Determine what task the prompt is asking the student to do

Below is a sample prompt from the 2012 APUSH Exam:



Analyze how western expansion contributed to growing sectional tensions between the North and the South. Confine your answer to the period from 1800 to 1850.


  1. What is the topic of the prompt?

Sectional tensions between the North and South about expansion

Relevant info: slave vs. free; competing economic/constitutional philosophies


  1. What is the time frame?

1800 to 1850

Relevant info: “antebellum” years and Manifest Destiny


  1. What is the operational function?

Analyze

Relevant info: HOW and WHY did sectional tensions grow?


  1. What is the task?

Analyze how western expansion contributed to sectional tension

Relevant info: competing purposes for expansion
EXERCISE: Underline and label the four steps in the thesis below (there can be overlap)
From 1800 to 1850 the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican War, and the acquisition of Texas are all examples of western expansion that contributed to sectional divisions. Disagreements about whether a new territory should be slave or free resulted in the rise of new political parties, such as the Free Soil Party and the Republicans, and divisions within other parties, such as the Whigs and Democrats.
Other examples:

Prompt: Analyze the impact of the French and Indian War and its aftermath on the relationship between Great Britain and the British colonies. Confine your response to the period from 1754 to 1763.


The French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763 was a turning point in the relationship of the British and Americans because it led to the end of salutary neglect and beginning of a period of taxation and restrictive acts that led to break away from Britain in the American Revolution.
How can analysis be illustrated in a stronger manner in the thesis?

DBQ Self-Analysis
Now that you’ve finished your DBQ, you’ll need to do some evaluation in order to improve future work. To do this, you need to really analyze your paper to understand what each score means (1 to 9) and how you can achieve your personal best. (Remember, your audience is a high school or college instructor trying to determine if the author (YOU) have an adequate grasp of historical information to merit earning college credit)
This is a required assignment worth 25 points.
PART I: Reading for Understanding and Improvement

Steps:


  1. Read your paper out loud to yourself, or better yet, a friend. That way, you can gain perspectives as to whether or not your paper makes sense.

  2. Ask yourself: Does this essay DIRECTLY ADDRESS the question?

  3. Notice the opening sentence of your paper. Is it a “grabber,” or did you get bored just looking at it?

  4. Underline or highlight the FACTS in your paper (NOUNS you are using as evidence)

  5. Underline or highlight the sentences (or parts thereof) that EXPLAIN or ANALYZE the factual support.


Note: If you don’t underline much in steps 4-5—there’s your problem!


  1. Ask yourself: is there too much factual information from OUTSIDE of the TIME FRAME of the question?

  2. Ask yourself: did I cover most or all of the entire timeframe of the question?


PART II: Think and write

Based on the outcomes of the above steps and the rubric attached, you are ready to write an analysis. This should be a separate, typed assignment.




  1. Write a paragraph highlighting the POSITIVE aspects of your essay (what you did correctly).

  2. Write a paragraph that explains (in specifics) the errors/miscues/problems of your paper that could help you improve in the future (see list below).

  3. Turn in the written analysis with your original paper, which is now highlighted.


ANALYSIS POINTS TO CONSIDER:

What is the THESIS of the paper? What are you proving?



  • Is the thesis CLEAR, CONCISE (effective), and FOCUSED (direct)?

  • How can the author demonstrate the thesis/argument in a stronger manner? What would be the best way to say this?

  • What arguments can be made against the thesis?

What specific factual evidence/information is included in the main essay?

  • What (other) evidence can the author use to support/prove the thesis? Does the essay need more solid facts?

  • How is the paper trying to prove the thesis?

What is the strongest argument? Why? Is this the first argument presented in the paper [should be}?

  • How sophisticated does the argument sound?

  • How can the author more effectively make their argument?

Does the author use active voice, but past tense? (Not, “it has been”, but “it was”)

How can the author structure the essay to make it stronger? Clearer?



  • How effective is each paragraph?

Does the conclusion not restate the thesis, but address the question “so what?

DBQuiz DUE:
Using the DBQ given to you, complete the assignment below. This assignment is worth 50 points (a quiz grade).
Read the question.

  • Hand-write the question THEN underline/highlight the main focus of the question and related key terms (3 pts.)

Write a “working thesis” (5 pts.)


Brainstorm all the facts you can BEFORE reading the documents (5 pts.)
Read the documents.

  • Highlight the main point(s) of each. (8 pts.)

Next to each document, write down AT LEAST one fact (more if you can) that comes to mind (what other facts does each document remind you of?) (8 pts.)


Categorize facts and documents into sub-topics (three would be great). (6 pts)
Write an introductory paragraph with a refined, complex thesis, a time frame reference, and brief background information (10 pts.)
Write at least three sub-thesis statements (intro sentences) and LIST the supporting facts you would use. (15 pts.)


Essay Analysis Tool/ APUSH Essay Outline

As you read your essay, fill in the following required elements. After you have completed the paper and filled in this outline, you will see if you have any missing required elements. If you do, go back and revise your paper. If this document is complete and you read your paper out loud to yourself (and it makes sense), turn it in for credit.
ESSAY QUESTION:



INTRODUCTION

Background (including time frame reference):

Terms defined (if necessary):


Your Thesis Statement:

Remember, this should present an argument—not resemble a textbook sentence.

FIRST SUPPORT PARAGRAPH

Analytical sub-thesis related to thesis and question (argumentative introductory sentence):



Specific, relevant fact #1 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):



Clincher sentence/transition for PARAGRAPH 1 (analytical summary of what you wrote in this paragraph):



SECOND SUPPORT PARAGRAPH

Analytical sub-thesis related to thesis and question (argumentative introductory sentence):



Specific, relevant fact #1 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):


Clincher sentence/transition for PARAGRAPH 2 (analytical summary of what you wrote in this paragraph):


THIRD SUPPORT PARAGRAPH

Analytical sub-thesis related to thesis and question (argumentative introductory sentence):



Specific, relevant fact #1 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):

Specific, relevant fact #2 WITH ANALYSIS (importance of point and how it relates to the thesis):


Clincher sentence/transition for PARAGRAPH 3 (analytical summary of what you wrote in this paragraph):



CONCLUSION
Synthesis of topic sentences:
Tie everything back to thesis/make final analytical point:



Generic FRQ/DBQ Grading Rubric
The 8-9 Essay (This person really knows what they’re analyzing)

  • Contains a well-developed thesis that addresses all parts of the question

  • Supports the thesis with effective analysis

  • Effectively uses a substantial number of documents

  • Supports thesis with substantial and relevant outside information

  • Creates a link between factual evidence and thesis/question

  • Maintains the context of the time period and covers the time frame of the question completely

  • May contain minor errors

  • Is clearly organized and well written

The 5-7 Essay (This person has created a support for a good argument)



  • Contain a thesis that addresses part of the question

  • Has limited or implicit analysis of these ideals

  • Effectively uses some documents

  • Supports the thesis with some relevant outside information

  • May have errors that do not seriously detract from the quality of the essay

  • Shows acceptable organization and writing; language errors do not interfere with the comprehension of the essay

The 2-4 Essay (This person has heard of the topic, but cannot really formulate a good argument)



  • Contains a limited or underdeveloped thesis

  • Lack analysis; deal with the question in a general, simplistic, incomplete, or superficial manner.

  • Merely paraphrases, quotes, or briefly cites documents

  • Contains little outside information, or information that is inaccurate or irrelevant

  • May contain major errors

  • May be poorly organized and/or poorly written

The 0-1 Essay (This person has no clue what to do with this question)



  • Lacks a thesis or simply restates the question

  • Exhibits inadequate or incorrect understanding of the question

  • Has little or no understanding or the documents or ignores them completely

  • Contains no outside information

  • Contains numerous errors, both major and minor


Writing Essays in APUSH
Remember that the DBQ and FRQ are analysis essays, not a textbook-like report. Do not just “tell” about the topic—examine it, relate the information to a thesis, and use your information to support your sub-theses.
An analysis is not accomplished by copying quotes from a document. You need to use the main idea that the document is trying to make. The intended recipient of the document is not necessarily important. If it is, then identify the significance—do not just use a name that might not mean anything.
Do not use contractions. This detracts from the sophistication of the analysis.
In reference to documents, do not say: “Document A says…” because this is not analysis. Document A is not a relevant fact. Use the idea of the document, but do not make direct reference by mentioning the word “document” in your essay.
Avoid general statements at the beginning of sentences; for example: this, they, them, he, they. Identify what or who you are discussing, as it makes your essay more clear and sophisticated. Consider as well if you can combine two sentences to make it a more analytical statement.
In reference to the United States: do not say, “our country” or “we” (in talking about Americans). Say instead, “The United States,” “America,” or “Americans” where appropriate. Do not use pronouns. (see #5)
Make sure you address the entire scope of the question. Many students just address half of the question.
If the question has a chronological aspect to it (most do), try to address the essay somewhat chronologically (for example, an essay about 1763-1781 should follow approximately in that order). The essay becomes very confusing if the writer jumps around from event to event and they are not in a logical order.

Addressing FRQ/DBQ Question Types
Understanding the Prompt
Much of your writing will be prompted by an assignment, essay or exam question. Students often do worse than they should in examinations or when writing assignments, not because their writing skills are weak or because their knowledge of the subject matter is insufficient, but because they have not fully understood what they have been asked to do. To score high marks in an examination or an assignment, it is important to fully understand what a question or brief means and how it should be answered.
Key words tell you the approach you should take when answering an essay question. There are three types of key words:

Task words: Tell you what you have to do; the action you need to perform

Content words: Tell you what the topic area is and what you should write about

Limiting words: Limit and focus the essay, making it workable


Example essay question: Computers have had a significant impact on education in the 20th century. Discuss the changes they have made.
Task word: DISCUSS

Content word: education, computers

Limiting word: changes, significant impact, 20th century



Implied or complex questions
Some assignment questions are more complex than that above. They might have a number of parts or may not include a clear task word, which can make them appear confusing. Some tasks are implied rather than explicitly stated. In order to understand what you must do, you need to work out your task by looking at the entire question. Look for clues in the limiting and content words and in the relationships between words, phrases, and parts of the question.
Some questions consist of a statement or proposition that requires a discussion. Such questions often provide a quotation or statement, followed by a task word such as “discuss.” Other questions include a direction such as “explain the significance of…” a given statement. Still others might require an evaluation, using task words like, “to what extent…” or you may be given specific instructions as to how to approach the essay. Be sure to follow these instructions for full credit.
Other questions may include guidelines as to the scope of the essay, specifying a time period, location, or framework for discussion. Finally, you may have a number of related questions which may have a number of task words or specific questions. Be sure to answer each part of these questions or you will not earn full credit.


Sample questions
“Discuss the changing ideals of American womanhood between the American Revolution (1770s) and the outbreak of the Civil War.”
“Analyze the causes of growing opposition to slavery in the United States from 1776 to 1852. In your response, consider both underlying forces and specific events that contributed to the growing opposition.”
“Analyse the ways in which the Vietnam War heightened social, political, and economic tensions in the United States. Focus your answer on the period 1964 to 1975.”

Commonly used task words/verbs and how to approach them


Analyze


Explain how AND why something occurred. Any question that uses “how” and/or “why” is an analysis question even if the word “analyze” is not in the prompt.

Assess the validity


How true is the statement? Pay attention to positive, negative, and disputable aspects, citing the judgment of known authorities and your own.

Evaluate


Which factor was most important? You usually need to rank several events or factors and specify which is most and which is least significant.

To what extent


This prompt frequently requires you to specify a cause and effect relationship and then state which causes were more important. Or, indicate the criteria on which you base your judgment and cite specific instance of how it applies in this case.

Discuss or Consider


These are frequently used in free response prompts. They should be written as analysis essays. Examine key points and possible interpretations, giving reasons for and against the case. Draw a final conclusion.

Compare/Contrast

Identify the characteristics or qualities of two or more things, comparing what they have in common (compare) and differences (contrast).

Explain

Tell how things work or how they came to be, including descriptions or analysis.


After you are clear as to your task (analyze, evaluate, etc.) sketch out a quick, informal outline of how you are going to proceed. This is very important to guaranteeing that you cover the whole prompt.
About using Documents for the DBQ:

You should refer to the majority of the documents in your essay, but you do not have to use every one. Be judicious in choosing ones that will really bring home your thesis point(s). Do not merely paraphrase the documents. Show that you understand how the document relates to your thesis. Extract the main idea of the document relative to this question; never start the sentence with any form of “Document A says…”, as the idea of the document should be the subject of the sentence, not the document itself.


Attempt to figure out why each document is included. Sometimes this can help you trigger the memory of outside information and draw significant connections between ideas and people of the period. This is often the key to a great score and an even better essay.
Many documents can be used to support both sides of a question—carefullly analyze to determine how it can support your thesis and clearly related it back to your thesis with interpretive commentary. The manner in which you refer to the documents is not important, however, use parenthesis around the letter of the document at the end of the sentence including the document information to tell the reader where you got the information from (if it is not outside information, such as “The Civil War was … as seen in X’s letter, where they describe…this is significant because….” (A). Avoid lengthy direct quotations from the documents like you would the plague. You are to be the author of the essay, not the editor.
The reader spends 2 MINUTES per paper—get to the point clearly, concisely, and with focus to earn the maximum points.

Approaching Essay Prompts
Change over time” (period-based questions)

Note: establish the two “points” of the question (beginning and end)

Example: “Analyze the origins and outcomes of the intense conflicts of the 1850s. In your response, focus on TWO of the following:



  • Economic issues

  • Political issues

  • Social issues”


Paragraph 1: Intro

  • Formulate a short background statement about the topic(s) you select from the prompt

  • Define/describe the “problem” addressed in the prompt (historical context)

  • Create a thesis that directly addresses the prompt—TAKE A STAND

  • For a prompt that asks you about change over time, make sure you address what was happening at the start of the period and at the end, along with descriptions of what caused the change

  • Break down the thesis into sub-theses that you will use to prove your thesis


Paragraph 2/3/4: Supporting paragraphs

  • Create a strong sub-thesis that addresses a part of the prompt/thesis, selecting ONE of the topics from the prompt—beyond the basic statement by adding a “how/why” clause

  • Use a FACT with interpretive commentary (explain WHY or HOW this is important in relation to the prompt/thesis)

  • Repeat previous step twice more

  • Write a clincher sentence at the end of the support paragraph. This should relate back to the thesis and acts as a transition to the next paragraph


Conclusion:

  • Synthesize the topic sentences and directly relate them back to the question. For a change over time essay, you should work to tie together the two topics—perhaps demonstrate HOW similar events may have caused the changes over time


To what extent”

Example: “American farmers of late-19th century were justified in their complaints.” To what extent is this statement accurate?


Paragraph 1: Intro

  • Formulate a short background statement about the topic(s) you select from the prompt

  • Define/describe the “problem” addressed in the prompt (historical context)

  • Create a thesis that directly addresses the prompt—TAKE A STAND

  • For a prompt that asks you to answer to what extent something is true/false or to assess the validity of a statement, PICK one argument, but leave room for exception

  • Break down the thesis into sub-theses that you will use to prove your thesis


Paragraph 2/3: Supporting paragraphs

  • Create a strong sub-thesis that addresses a part of the prompt/thesis—beyond the basic statement by adding a “how/why” clause

  • Use a FACT with interpretive commentary (explain WHY or HOW this is important in relation to the prompt/thesis)

  • Repeat previous step twice more

  • Write a clincher sentence at the end of the support paragraph. This should relate back to the thesis and acts as a transition to the next paragraph

Paragraph 4 (time permitting): the EXCEPT paragraph

  • This paragraph should have some information that might refute your thesis—BUT you will briefly explain how your argument is more valid


Conclusion:

  • Synthesize the topic sentences and directly relate them back to the question. Make sure that you maintain the theme of proving your thesis as an extreme (pro/con) with room for exceptions.


Compare/Contrast”

Example: “Compare and contrast the ideals of the Populist movement of the late 19th century with those of the Progressive movement of the early 20th century. Confine your analysis to the years 1875-1925.


Paragraph 1: Intro

  • Formulate a short background statement (two-three sentences) about the topic from the prompt

  • Define/describe the “problem” or issues addressed in the prompt (historical context)

  • Create a thesis that directly addresses the prompt—TAKE A STAND

  • For a prompt that asks you to compare/contrast, makes sure you clearly demonstrate that there are similarities and differences between the two topics.

  • Break down the thesis into sub-theses that you will use to prove your thesis


Paragraph 2/3: Supporting paragraphs

  • Create a strong sub-thesis that addresses a part of the prompt/thesis—the topic should be one of the appropriate history stand-by topics (social, political, economic, cultural…)

  • Support with FACTS from the two topics that illustrate a comparison and/or a contrast and EXPLAIN how/why these points are significant

  • Repeat previous step twice more

  • Write a clincher sentence at the end of the support paragraph. This should relate back to the thesis and acts as a transition to the next paragraph


Conclusion:

  • Tie the sub-theses from the support paragraphs together and demonstrate how your thesis was/is correct.



The Fifty Word Assignment

The following is a great way to create a fifty-word (or less) complex thesis or sentence for an analysis essay.
A complex (analytical) sentence follows the following pattern: term + identification phrase + interpretive commentary (explanation)
1. What is the main focus/theme of the document?

2. Add a clause of “how and why” the information in the document is significant.



3. Add a clause that explains how the information you have is relevant to the prompt.

Example: The Stamp Act, a tax on legal documents during the colonial era, united the colonies in protest against British policy.


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