Document Based Questions

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Document Based Questions
You’ve heard the stories. Sleepless nights, hours of torment, confusion, and

self-doubt, do not believe a word of it. The DBQ or Document Based Question is nothing to be feared or dreaded. By following the guidelines setout over the next few days and with a little hard work you will be able to successfully write a DBQ.
What is a DBQ? (Document Based Question or Data Based Question)

First, you will be presented with a question.


  • Make sure you understand what the question is asking of you.

  • The DBQ requires you to answer the question and take a position on the question presented.

Second, the documents required will be provided.

  • You will use the information from the documents to assist in answering the question.

  • The documents contain the evidence you must use to support the position you have taken on the question.

  • Approximately one-third of the grade will be based upon the use of appropriate evidence to support your position.

Major parts of the DBQ.

- It sets out the purpose of the paper.


- Background information or key terms used should be included in the opening. This information will provide some historical context and clarify the purpose of the paper.


  • Supporting Evidence

- The body of the paper will consist of a number of paragraphs each designed to present evidence in support of the thesis.

- The idea is to use the evidence to construct a logical argument so the reader will agree with your thesis.

- Each paragraph should be related to a single point.

  • Closing

- The closing ties your paper together by rephrasing the thesis statement and recapping or summarizing the evidence.

Tips for Writing the DBQ
1. Read the question that must be answer carefully.
2. Carefully read all the documents and think about the question to be answered.

Note or highlight useful and important information in the documents as each is read.
3. Review the evidence, think about the information in the documents and decide on an answer to the question.
4. Make a list of facts from the documents that support the position taken.

It is not necessary to use all the documents but be careful not to leave out important evidence.
5. Create a thesis statement. (Answer the question)

Remember to KEEP IT SIMPLE!
6. Gather the evidence that was listed earlier in step 4.

a. Group like information together to support the thesis but be sure to keep track of the source for each piece of evidence.

b. Arrange the information from the strongest point to the weakest point.
7. Create an opening paragraph. It must contain a thesis statement and clearly setout the purpose of the paper. In addition it should identify the main points of the argument.

8. Develop separate paragraphs to deal with each of the main points.

a. There is no need to explain each document; however relevant information from the documents must be related to the reader.

b. Paraphrase or use brief quotations but always refer to the documents.

Remember to use citations or attribution when providing evidence from the documents.

c. Draw conclusions and relate the evidence to the thesis statement.

d. General guidelines:

1. Write in the past tense.

2. Do not use contractions or personal pronouns such as I and you.

3. Avoid statements such as “I think” or “In this paper”.
9. Prepare a concluding paragraph.

a. The closing paragraph should include a restatement of the thesis and a summary of the main points of evidence.
10. Final Check

a. Are there any one or two sentence paragraphs?

b. Does the paper make sense and progress logically from one point to another?

c. Has someone else proofread the paper?

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