• Amani Alvi

How to Write a DBQ

In my last blog post, I explained how to write the general outline of the DBQ and how to get started. Now I will move onto the body paragraphs of the DBQ. This is the “meat” of your essay. You want to make sure you are using at least 2 pieces of evidence per paragraph. You want to try to use all the documents to ensure that you will get all the points. I highly suggest you read the DBQ rubric and know what is on it before you take the AP exam.


Before I start writing, I put 2-3 documents under each of my reasons in my outline. Once I start my body paragraph, I first write a topic sentence that restates the thesis and the first claim. For example, “One way US foreign policy stayed the same throughout this period is because the nation continued to use an isolationist policy.”


Next, we have to use the documents to support our claim. Make sure to never quote the documents or use the exact wording. You have to paraphrase the evidence that you would like to use. After paraphrasing the evidence, it is very important to explain WHY that evidence supports your point. Ask yourself “why does this piece of evidence/document matter?”. Finally, you can use the acronym HAPPY that I explained in the last blog post to finish using the document. You do not need to source every document, but try to source as many as you can.


Finally, I think the easiest way that I earned the complexity point is by addressing counterarguments and the nuance of my argument. For example, in my first body paragraph, I could explain an instance of when the US did not display an isolationist policy. I could explain how the US had military conflicts with other nations. I could also fast forward to a different time period such as the 1900s and contrast how US became an imperialist nation instead.


If you have time, you can write a conclusion where you restate your thesis in slightly different words. Although a conclusion is not needed, it is nice for the person who is reading your DBQ to see the recap of your DBQ.


HAPPY Sourcing Handout
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