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The Document Based Question (DBQ) is a time-based exam essay where the student is provided with various types of documentation upon which they are expected to base their answer(s). DBQs are a feature of the Advanced Placement (AP) Program’s examinations, and because of the time limit and format, students often become anxious and/or panic-stricken as exam time approaches. But do not worry.

The following tips explain how to write a good DBQ thesis and an exam-winning essay!

 Preparing for a DBQ

Clearly, students need to study before exams. To establish a study timetable, decide how much time you want or are able to study each week, a factor that usually depends on how much material you have to cover.

Another preparatory step is practice. You can take practice DBQs or use example papers to familiarize yourself with the timings and format. From your first practice test, you will be able to establish a baseline from which you can keep monitoring your progress. You can also ask a tutor or some other trusted person to check and mark your practice tests. The idea is to keep building the skills you need for the real exam.

When the actual exam day arrives, you will have fifteen (15) minutes for reading the prompt, analyzing any accompanying documents, and completing the pre-writing stage. After this time is up, you will have forty (40) minutes for writing your essay. This first section deals with the 15-minute preparatory part.

  1. Study the prompt(s) you are given. Decide what evidence you will need from the provided documentation. Underline or circle any specific concepts, movements, time periods, etc. that are referred to in the question’s prompt. You may need to analyze, evaluate, compare and contrast, or use other techniques to develop your answer.

  2. Make a note of any ideas or information that comes to mind as evidence. This is essentially the beginnings of an outline for your essay. Outlines are essential for organizing information, pulling everything together, preventing you from forgetting anything, and ensuring the final paper is cohesive and earns you high scores.

  3. Decide what your viewpoint, perspective, or opinion is in relation to the prompt.

  4. Develop a working DBQ thesis statement. The art of writing good thesis statements is a skill you should practice since not only will you need this for DBQ exams but for every academic paper you write. An effective thesis does not just restate an essay’s question or prompt. Rather it makes a plausible and defendable claim, answers the question, and makes clear what will be discussed in an essay.

  5. Analyze every document to understand its content and establish how you can use it to support your thesis and viewpoint.

  6. Look for logical groupings or categories to place the documents in to answer the essay’s question, and to show the different sides of your main argument.

  7. Choose the ideas or viewpoints of one or more authors where these support and add credibility to your central thesis.

  8. Look for at least one external document to use in your essay i.e. one that you have not been provided with but one that supports your argument or thesis and lends authority to your opinion or viewpoint.

  9. Tighten up your working thesis to make it stronger, more concise, and capable of standing up to debate.

 How to Write a Successful Essay on Exam Day

  1. Since there is a limit on how long you have for writing, it is essential to plan and manage your time effectively in order to cover everything.

  2. Start with the introductory paragraph. Write a couple of sentences about the background or context of the time period concerned, incorporate the DBQ thesis from your outline, and finish with a short sentence about the topics to be covered in the subsequent paragraphs. This paragraph should not be overly long.

  3. Start writing the body paragraphs. These paragraphs should be in logical and sequential order and each one should begin with a topic sentence. The number of body paragraphs will vary but should include as many as seems sensible for the prompt and the amount of material to be covered.

  4. Every point and body paragraph should relate to the central thesis, otherwise, marks may be deducted.

  5. Make sure that every document and source you use is relevant and correctly cited. Instead of referring to documents as “document 1,” “document 2,” etc., add the document title and number in parentheses at the end of any sentence where a reference appears.

  6. If you ever buy thesis online for reference purposes, you will know the last part of an essay is the conclusion. This restates the central thesis and sums-up all main points.

 Finishing Off Your Essay

 1. Read back over your essay to ensure you have:

  •  A strong thesis statement.
  • Grouped all documents appropriately.

  • Explained how each point, document, and citation supports the thesis.

  • Discussed the viewpoints of at least two authors.

  • Included and explained at least one document other than those provided.

 2. Add any parts that are missing if time permits.

  1. Check again that names (including place names) are spelled correctly and that places and dates are described accurately.

And do not forget, you can always buy thesis online if you want to learn how to write a good essay! 

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