How to Write a DBQ in 5 Easy Steps

How to Write a DBQ in 5 Easy Steps

DBQ was once a marginal aspect of history examinations. That has since changed as learning how to write a DBQ has become integral in excelling in the AP US History (APUSH) exam or any other standardized social studies paper. Unfortunately, writing a well-organized DBQ, supported by information from the given document, is also one of the most formidable challenges, requiring analytical and critical skills to evaluate complex historical documents. Struggling to write a DBQ? Here’s a step-by-step guide our professional history writers use to craft comprehensive DBQ essays across various topics. They also help students take the AP US History Exam.

What’s a DBQ?

DBQ, also referred to as a document-based question, is a type of essay test in history and social studies classes. These tests include sets of documents students use as sources of information to write DBQ essays. DBQ essays aim to assess students’ ability to critically assess and evaluate historical sources and write comprehensive essays based on the provided documents.  

How to Write a DBQ

Writing a DBQ follows a structured format. Here are step-by-step instructions on writing an excellent DBQ essay.

Step 1: Document Analysis

DBQ essays are timed. In about 15 minutes, read the document, identify bias, draw connections, and formulate argumentation in your own words. Highlight questions and determine potential arguments for the thesis during document analysis.

Step 2: Create the DBQ Essay Thesis

Highlight a DBQ thesis sentence after reading the essay recommendation. The thesis is the summary of your arguments that addresses the DBQ question and offers a personal perspective on the topic. Start with a clear context, preview the main points, and offer a concise argument. Avoid broad or vague statements that repeat the given clues.

Step 3: Read the Documents and Note Key Points

Read the document carefully, noting down key points and potential answers to your questions. Here are helpful tips to make your reading more effective.

  • Read all the given documents, which could be in the form of written text, maps, images, or any other primary and secondary sources related to specific historical events.
  • Specify the document’s author, intended audience, and the writer’s point of view, such as the historical context.
  • Determine the document’s reliability and deduce what might have informed the author’s opinion.
  • Identify keywords, such as political, social, economic, and other important data about the era or society in question.
  • Examine historical connections and find supporting evidence.

Step 4: Create an Outline

An outline is a critical component when writing a DBQ essay that many students overlook. It guides the essay structure, enhances organization, clarity, and coherence, and supports argument development. Here’s how to create an outline before you start writing a DBQ.

  • Brainstorm on things you read
  • Organize your content concisely, placing the thesis at the top of the page
  • Create an essay structure, noting down brief notes under each section (introduction, body, and conclusion)

Step 5: Write the DBQ Essay

Writing a DBQ essay should be less stressful once you get all the above steps correct. Like writing other academic essays, a DBQ essay follows the introduction, body, and conclusion format. Here’s how to go about each section.

How to Write a DBQ Introduction

DBQ essay points start from the first sentence of the introduction. Begin with a concise historical context about the period you want to talk about in the body paragraphs. Follow with a good thesis statement, ensuring it links with the historical events. Finally, write a third statement, reflecting on the areas you want to discuss in the DBQ essay body. Make your introduction brief and to the point.


Elaborate the thesis, incorporating vital supporting evidence from the given documents. Blend the knowledge derived from the document in your own words to demonstrate comprehension of the research source.  Two paragraphs, each discussing a different point, will suffice. Keep it as precise and clear as possible.  

How to Write a DBQ Conclusion

The conclusion is as important as the introduction. Restate the thesis and close the essay in two or three sentences. Do not introduce any new points here. 

Tips for Writing a DBQ

Here are helpful tips to remember at every stage of the writing process;

Before you read the DBQ document:

  • Recall any information you know about the discussion era.
  • Read the source details for every document.
  • Admit possible contracting opinions that may require comparison and contrast.

As you read:

  • Note textual elements, visual indicators, or expressions in the document that can help you activate background knowledge, identify bias, and answer questions.

As you write the DBQ essay:

  • Compare documents and group them
  • Ensure you have a clear and concise thesis.

How to Write a DBQ: Final Thoughts

Mastering how to write a DBQ is a challenging art that requires critical analysis of complex historical documents, proper organization, and a clear thesis development. Contact us today and get a professional history writer to walk you through the process, ensuring your success in APUSH exams.

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