Dbq and frq: Steps to Writing apush – Steiker A. Outlining: Steps 1-3 should be in the first 5 minutes

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DBQ and FRQ: Steps to Writing

APUSH – Steiker

A. OUTLINING: Steps 1-3 should be in the first 5 minutes:

  • Get in the proper time period

  • Draw in information to flesh out the necessary facts

  • What are the categories of analysis?

2) INVENTORY/BRAIN STORM: List out all the information on the subject before you read the documents – all the particular events/events/events that happened within the time period
3) IDENTIFY PROMPTS: Make a list of the prompts and what they mean => MEMORIZE THESE

analyze: apprise or evaluate

in what ways: provide a narrative

compare and contrast: what’s the same? what’s the difference?

assess the validity: is it true or false?

evaluate: you must decide success or failure

to what extent: accept validity of premise and then rank

explain: list the events and explain the linkage

identify: who are they and why is each significant

making clear the criteria: establish clearly defined parameters
4) OUTLINE: put each of the arguments in circles/boxes – keep arguments chronological if possible


=> then actively read the documents (identify bias, direct content, inferred content)

=> then associate the documents to the particular facts SEE BACKSIDE ABOUT DOCUMENTS ***

Make sure there is an even number of facts between document and non-document association

  • The most important part of the essay because it must get the reader’s attention!!!


  1. the catchy opening remark

  2. introducing the topics you will discuss leading up to the thesis

  3. a strong thesis – a single declarative statement asserting a clear response to the question


NOTE: If doing a free response – 4 and 5 are combined because not enough time to put in a separate paragraph for each step – for a DBQ each should be a separate paragraph

  1. Show you understand the question – create credibility for your analysis in the mind of the reader

  2. Put the reader in the time period

  3. What is leading up to the event at hand? – give your reader a window into the eve of the event

    1. the setting

    2. the characters

    3. the problem at the center of events

3) BODY: RULE OF THREE (3 analytical support claims/warranted and impacted back to the thesis – see previous chart)

The Rule of Three: helps to alleviate the pressure of writing – ask did I complete the idea/the analysis

  • When the reader is told to grade the exam – they are told that they are grading a “rough draft”

  • The DBQ questions are usually written to come down to three examples/reasons to support any analysis

  1. Look for a linear presentation – WRITE CHRONOLOGICALLY

  2. Within each argument (of the 3), come up with three pieces of evidence

    1. Use as much historical vocabulary as you can

    2. Associate the documents as related to the facts (your historical analysis/vocabulary/arguments).

FRQ can combine 4 and 5 for the DBQ you would want to separate each paragraph.
4) CONCESSION STATEMENT [OPTIONAL]: seeing the argument as two polarized ideas – or an event with multiple perspectives

  1. Should be able to explain a divergent viewpoint – how can somebody look at the same material and come to a different conclusion?

  2. Sound historical analysis: here is the question and after looking at all the material you should be able to see how different ideological stances would interpret the information

  3. Always put the author/historical perspective related to the analysis, cite the documentation he goes to – reference particular material

  4. For the DBQ there are always divergent viewpoints within the documents presented – see the bias in your documents!!

  5. Enhances the credibility of your essay.


- Restate

- Reclaim

- Quick warrant

- Closing statement that brings the historical discussion to the present
NOTE: TOM’S RULE – basically, anything that will act as a distraction to the reader – or the interviewer – will hurt you

a) spelling matters

b) syntax matters

c) clear examples matter

d) handwriting matters
*** How to Use the Documents

  • Actively Read documents, which are 8 to 11 documents including maps, charts and cartoons. These are arranged chronologically. Focuses on mainstream topics. Note the dates carefully.

  • Analyze the documents. Why are they significant? What do they show? How are they biased? Do not quote extensively from them - and beware to mention them too briefly.

  • It is specific about the information required, so read the question extremely carefully.

  • Use a minimum of 50% plus 1 – but the College Board encourages the use of all documents however it should not be at the expense of outside information! Strive for balance between documents and outside information.


  • Try to cite the document by type:

“As the map blah blah blah indicates . . .(DOC B).”

“As the cartoon of blah blah shows . . . (DOC D).”

Or cite the document by name: “As Hamilton argued, the National Bank was essential for national growth (DOC F).”
Don’t Stick Too Closely to What the Documents Have to Say. The identification of an issue not in the documents carries large rewards on the A.P. exam!! An example of paragraphs:

“The poor economic conditions that affected the U.S. in the 1890’s affected the farmers, and made for agrarian unrest. The Depression of 1893, for example, was a very difficult time for agriculture. Much of the local land ownership was the result of loans, credit and mortgages, which banks handed out in the pre-depression years. Because of bad lending practices, this system of debt came crashing down as a result of an absence of funds to support this rapid explosion of lending. As we see in the political cartoon taken from The Farmer’s Voice, the foreclosures of the farmers’ mortgages was because greedy businessmen in the East (DOC D). Although questionable corporate practices contribute to the cycling of the system, this cartoon illustrates a local bias. The farmers were fond of blaming big business, when in fact the more direct cause was the broader economic situations in the United States and in the world.

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