The Document Based Question
Your DBQ response should be a standard five paragraph essay: Introduction three paragraph body, and conclusion. We will use the following actual DBQ to illustrate how to write the rest of the exam:
Prompt: "Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt is commonly thought of as a liberal and Pres. Herbert Hoover as a conservative. To what extent are these characterizations valid?' (Following the question were documents which are not given here.) At this point you would have read the Question, underlined key points, jotted down your notes, re-evaluated the key points, read the documents, and made notes on them in the margins of the test.
The first 2 or 3 sentences of the introduction and background, showing you know the essential facts about the question: Who, what, when, and where, e.g.,
"Herbert Hoover, a Republican, was president from 1929 until 1933, and Franklin Roosevelt was President from 1933 until his death in 1945. The major event that tested their political orientations was the Great Depression that began in 1929 with the Stock Market Crash and ended in 1939 with the beginning of World War II."
In the next sentence define terms used in the question (this has been partly done in this question: however, each prompt is different.). e.g., to continue with this paragraph:
"A liberal is generally considered to want greater involvement by government in the lives of the people, in order to help them. A conservative is usually thought of as wanting limited government, which usually benefits business first."
(Note that even though Hoover was president first chronologically, liberal is defined first in the answer question, because it is asked first. This is very important! Always deal with the issues of the question in the same sequence the question does.)
A. Roosevelt WAS a liberal and Hoover WAS a conservative. (The rest of your essay will prove this statement by the documents and by outside knowledge.)
B. Roosevelt WAS NOT a liberal and Hoover WAS NOT a conservative. (What will the rest of your essay be about?)
C. Roosevelt WAS a liberal and Hoover WAS NOT a conservative. (Prove it)
D. Roosevelt WAS NOT a liberal and Hoover WAS a conservative.
By the way, any of these are valid theses, but 'A' is easiest to prove, depending on the documents. Once you determine what is the easiest thesis for you to prove, use it. Do not be heroic and think you will take the hardest thesis and impress the readers.
Continuing with the introduction, you will organize the next three sentences of the introduction using the information you wrote on the back of the test book or scratch paper.
(You do not need to name or refer to the documents in the introduction.)
''Roosevelt was indeed a liberal because he created numerous government agencies to alleviate the problems of the Depression. Hoover was indeed a conservative because he initiated no new policies that would increase government's role in alleviating the people's suffering." (These 2 sentences are your thesis. Now you are going to give the topic sentence of the next 3 paragraphs.) "FDR's TVA, for example, revolutionized government involvement in areas government had never entered before." (This sentence will be the basis of the second paragraph.) "Roosevelt also initiated direct relief." Surprise! This sentence will be the basis of the third paragraph.) ''Hoover on the other hand, created primarily the Reconstruction Finance Corporation that loaned money only to large corporations, benefiting primarily the business community.'' (And this sentence becomes the basis for your fourth paragraph.)
In the final sentence of your introduction, "Salute the Question." This means that you directly address what the Readers want from this Question. "Saluting the Question" is a very good DBQ writing strategy and should be used once or twice more in the essay. e.g.,
"These acts, among others, show Roosevelt to be a liberal and Hoover to be conservative.”
Your introduction is finished. You have the topic sentences and the bases for your next three paragraphs. Use each document as it supports each point in the paragraphs, but emphasize outside information.
Your conclusion is your last paragraph of the DBQ. Rephrase your thesis confidently. You might want to refer to any documents you have not used yet.
Since two essays are to be written in a 60-minute period, you will not have time to develop a five-paragraph essay with a lengthy introduction as in the DBQ. However, you must develop a thesis and support it in each one. You must argue a historical point, and use factual information to support it.
Each of the questions will cover a time period or historical theme. By specializing in your groups, you will find; that you can become an "expert" on a particular historical era. so you can choose the best questions to answer.
Most essay responses should emphasize relationships, for example, the political implications of an economic issue; or, the concepts of "national interest" in foreign policy; or, how group experiences reflect socio-economic, ethnic, racial, or gender differences. Be sure all your examples are relevant.