|Tips for Writing Your DBQ on the Salem Witch Trials
Introduction: You want to get to the point quickly and not waste too much time. Your thesis should be a single sentence with three reasons at the end of your intro. Below is a sample introduction. For this essay, you are welcome to simply use the sample introduction and replace the last sentence (the thesis) with a thesis of your own.
Twenty women and men were executed in 1692 for practicing witchcraft as fear gripped the town of Salem, Massachusetts. An 81-year-old man was even crushed to death by stones for refusing to confess that he practiced witchcraft. Ever since the event, historians have debated the causes of the witch trials and the twenty deaths. Ultimately, the Salem Witch Trials were caused by the courts accepting faulty evidence, the young girls who pretended to be possessed, and because of hallucinations caused by poisoned rye bread.
Body Paragraphs: Each of your next three paragraphs should begin with a topic sentence that fully explains why your thesis is valid or true. You must cite the documents you use in parentheses at the end of the sentence where you either quote or reference your document. Use the format used in the example below:
“One of the causes of the Salem Witch Trials is fact that Puritans were fundamentalists. Puritans really believed that everything the Bible said was literally true, so they believed that witches were among them and had to be killed. The Bible said, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” and Puritans at Salem literally followed the rule by killing people they believed were witches (Doc. A). The religious leader Cotton Mather told the Puritans that evil spirits under Satan were everywhere (Doc. C). There can be no doubt that Puritans genuinely believed that witches and evil spirits were real. Without this belief in witchcraft, the Salem Witch Trials probably never would have taken place.”
Make sure you fully explain the significance or interpret any quotes that you use. Do not simply just list quotes. Also, sometimes you should use your quotes wisely to make your essay more interesting, memorable, or even eloquent.
Below is a student sample paragraph that shows you how you want to use documents to corroborate or support claims that you make and other documents that you use.
Thesis: These witch hunts were caused by three factors: Puritan fundamentalists, hallucinogenic bread, and jealousy over land and politics.
Paragraph 3: The Salem Witch Trials were directly caused by a poison named Ergot. During the 1600s Ergot, a poisonous fungus, was very commonly found in rye and in swampy areas (Doc. N). The consumption of Ergot in the bread the Puritans made, rye bread, caused the symptoms that coincided with bewitchment. Crawling sensations, tingling feelings in the fingers, and hallucinations just to name a few, were things the girls claimed they were ‘afflicted’ with, symptoms also exhibited by sufferers of ergotism (Doc. N). Ann Putnam Sr, a woman who was accusing Rebekkah Nurse of witchcraft states, “the apparition of Rebekkah Nurse did fall upon me and almost choke me… now she was come out of prison and she had power to afflict me…” (Doc. L). A sure sign something extra was in the mix. The Putnam farm in Salem was heavily infested with the fungus, and the Putnam farm was closely linked to almost all the afflicted (Doc. N). The land didn’t only have problems with ergot, but also with vengeful neighbors.
What makes the above paragraph good is that Doc. L is used to support Doc. N. The author could have used other documents (such as K or F) to further suggest that hallucinations are occurring, but nonetheless, the author makes a convincing case that hallucinations are happening by quoting document N and then using other documents that suggest people are hallucinating.
Also, notice how the first sentence is a direct reason for why his or her thesis is true.
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