A Comprehensive Guide to A Perfect DBQ Essay

Document Based Question, commonly known as DBQ essay, is one of the most common types of essays assigned to students in their academic years. Such documents are written to allow instructors to evaluate the Student’s knowledge, understanding, and writing skills. Since they are important academic papers, it’s very important to understand the essentials of writing them.

If you are given a DBQ assignment, and you are not familiar with it, this blog is for you. We have discussed all the essential guidelines and helpful information regarding the DBQ detailed essay.. If you aren’t quite sure what to do, perfect essay writing can provide you assistance in all your assessments.

What is a DBQ Essay?

DBQ essay is a form of essay that demands students to thoroughly read and analyze the document to answer the questions based on the documents. Such documents are assigned in order to give students an opportunity to display their writing, analytical, and comprehension skills. DBQ assignments are the most popular A.P. U.S. history exams that the United States College Board sets.

But now they are only bound to the history exams but also used in social studies classes across the grade levels. Having an understanding of such exams is essential for every student in order to polish their skills to score well. DBQ assignments are usually assigned by giving some documents to the students that contain material regarding a certain topic. Students are then asked to analyze the document in order to answer the questions at the end with the help of supporting evidence.

How to write a DBQ Essay?

Writing a DBQ essay is a daunting task, and it requires a certain level of skill to make it perfect. If you are struggling with writing your essay assignment, you can reach out to our writers, who will level up your work with their expertise.

Before we proceed to the steps of writing, you need to understand that the time allotted to you is limited if you are taking a DBQ exam. You will be given a certain deadline ranging from 45 minutes to 2 hours, and you need to plan your work speed according to it. You can’t afford to miss some important details, and that’s why you need to divide the time according to the steps. Let’s take a look into the process of writing an effective DBQ essay in 7 easy steps.

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Read and Understand the Given Document

First of all, you need to read the given document to understand the topic and what is asked from you as output. It’s very important to review the document in order to underline the important points of discussion that you can use to develop your argument later. During the A.P. exam, you will be given limited time to write the essay. You need to utilize the first 10 to 15 minutes in reviewing the given material to make a thesis statement and organize your thoughts.


It would help if you planned what you were going to discuss in your essay. After reviewing the given material, you must have some important points of discussion, a thesis statement, the keywords, the evidence you want to provide, and a reasoned approach. Analyze all the key points and plan where to add them to the essay. Planning will help you complete your work on the given time without missing out on important points.


Start your essay in a compelling way because it is going to make your impression stronger. Don’t extend it too much with information you will be disclosing in the body of the essay anyway. Keep the introduction short and interesting. Add an introductory hook sentence at the start to engage the reader.

Thesis Statement

The main difference between DBQ essays and the other forms of essays is the strong role a thesis statement plays in its structure. A DBQ thesis statement requires three separate paragraphs that will analyze the statement from three different perspectives. The main thesis statement can be made according to what question was asked from you regarding the given documents. If you are facing a problem with coming up with a thesis statement, you can try to use our thesis statement generator tool to practice as much as you can and get the right help.

Body of the Essay

The body of the essay will be of three main paragraphs that will analyze the main thesis statement and discuss all the important points. In the first paragraph, you are required to provide the evidence to support the claims you can make. The second paragraph will summarize the main points of the author of the given document and describe what they concluded. The final paragraph will be all about your perspective on that topic and what, in your point of view, causes that issue.

Every paragraph should have a main point, and it must be well-structured. Refrain from mixing different ideas in the paragraphs that might lead to misinterpretation or confusion at the reader’s end. Be clear, simple, concise, and to the point.


The conclusion is going to sum up all the important points you’ve made in your entire essay. This is the final and most vital part of the essay because it will be your last chance to persuade your reader of your ideas and statement. Give the answer to the main thesis statement that you’ve proven through the decisions.


Proofreading is the final and most important step of the DBQ essay writing process. In proofreading, you are going to carefully read your entire essay in order to make sure that you added everything that was required by the instructors. It will also help in eliminating mistakes that might lower your grade if ignored. Proofreading will also help you to ensure that all body paragraphs answer the question and link to the thesis. You can use practice on our free spelling, plagiarism or grammar checker tool to make your work perfect and error free.

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DBQ Essay Structure

DBQ essays follow the standard structure of three main parts of essay writing. For your essay, you need to organize your thoughts and structure them properly to maintain the workflow. Let’s take a look at the process of structuring the essay.

Essay Introduction

First of all, you need to introduce the topic with a hook sentence to grab the reader’s attention and interest. It shouldn’t be too long. Your introduction should just be a brief overview of the historical figure and major events of the prompt given to you. At the end of your introduction, you need to introduce the audience with your thesis statement or the main point of argument in your essay.

Essay Body

The body of the essay contains all the paragraphs you are writing in order to support your thesis statement. Make sure that every paragraph in the body has a different topic sentence and a brief description of every piece of evidence you are providing. Your content in the body will explain the answers to your DBQ essay question. Include reasonable arguments that relate to the thesis, and refrain from adding unnecessary information. Connect all the paragraphs to show consistency in your work.

Essay Conclusion

Summarize your essay for the final statement. Include the main points of the essay briefly and how the evidence you’ve provided has approved your thesis statement. You need to be clear on how your work has answered the required essay question. A concluding sentence will be added to clarify that the essay has achieved its primary purpose.

Purpose of a DBQ Essay

You must be wondering why DBQ essays are so important in academic writing. DBQ documents are different from any other common forms of essays because they are written to find the answers to the questions. Students are given five to seven history documents to analyze before starting the essay. Those documents may consist of primary or secondary sources such as maps, newspaper articles, letters, and more. The students, with the support of logical arguments and evidence, then answer the main questions regarding those documents.

DBQ essays are essential to judge the Student’s expertise level and their understanding of the course they are studying. The main purpose behind this tough exercise of DBQ is to let students analyze the historical events in the light of other authors’ opinions and then brainstorm new ideas and perspectives. They also have to analyze the given material from the perspective of the author, and the target audience it was written for.

Instructors desire to see the logical explanations and different interpretations arising from students’ mindsets and learning abilities. Also, the comprehension skills of students to understand and connect important historical events is another important aspect of these essays. The DBQ exam is essential for students who want to become historians in future and dream to excel in their A.P. course. Students will learn how to write a thesis statement and back them with valid proofs.

Types of DBQ Essay Prompts

Even Though DBQ essays have the main purpose of analyzing some historical event or actions from a popular historical figure, the main essay questions may differ from essay to essay. There are different types of questions that are usually asked from the students. Let’s take a look into the types of DBQ essay prompts and what they aim for.

Reasoning DBQ Essay

As the name suggests, this type of essay is written in order to find and analyze the reasoning of some activity in history. You will be given the supporting documents that will detail a record of an event and then you will be asked to find out what are the reasons that you think may have caused it. The documents may contain a series of events that led to the actual big event.

Instructors are basically looking for how the students are going to comprehend the documents and how they are going to logically find the potential reasons for those events. The reasoning ability of students will lead them to link the most relatable and direct reason to the failure or success of certain events in the records of history. This type of essay is similar to argumentative essay but focused more on historical document based questions.

Compare and Contrast DBQ Essay

In the compare and contrast DBQ question, students are given documents from different authors who have different views over a particular historical event. Students are given the reading material to review and analyze the different views and then asked to write detailed essays to compare and contrast those points of view. Students are required to critically analyze them and support their ideas with the help of logic.

The essay question has been about two different events that happened in a similar way like world wars or popular assassinations. The last paragraph in the essay body will consist of the student’s analysis and judgment regarding that certain event. These kinds of essays aim to evaluate a student’s skills and ability to comprehend historical records and logically assess different statements and points of view. You can check out our detailed blog on compare and contrast essay to learn the basics of such essays.

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Impact Analysis DBQ Essay

Impact analysis essays aim to analyze the impact of a certain historical event or figure. Students are provided with documents containing information regarding any significant event or an influential person who was the center of attention or the main reasons behind a big event or significant movement. It can also be a record of some events that were the triggering point of a revolutionary act or movement in any field.

Students are asked to analyze and then write an essay to judge the impact certain events or figures have on the world after years. For example, the impact of Adolf Hitler that he left on the world following his suicide in 1945 that marked an end of genocide and war.

Relative Importance DBQ Essay

Some of the essays come with a question that requires students to analyze some historical figures or people and then clarify their importance in the happening of a big event. Students are provided with supporting documents that might contain details of some historical events. Students are required to analyze the people responsible for such events and how they were related to the big event. Such types of essays help students recognize the importance of those little events that may lead to a big change in history.

For example, a DBQ essay on analyzing and assessing the relative importance of Martin Luther King Jr. in the black liberation and abolishment of slavery. Another example of such essays would be the importance of Michael Jackson in popularizing Music videos and pop music. These essays will focus on one person or event that had an important impact on a broader level.

Continuity and Change DBQ Essay

Some essays aim to analyze the continuity and change of some practices, beliefs, and rules. Students are provided with reading material about some historical practice or progress of some movement that is continuing. The main question in these kinds of essays is to analyze how some movements started, how they continued, and what changes were made in them over time.

Students are required to write essays on what factors help in continuing those practices and how the changes made affected the community or groups related to them. The best example of these essays would be the analysis and assessment of constitutions or sets of laws in a country or a community. Students are required to analyze who made those rules first in history and what impact they had at that time.

They need to check its continuity and what amendments are made in the laws and codes, and how their change impacted the people of that country. Other essay questions of this nature may ask students to analyze the factors that aided in the continuation of that process.

Common Challenges of DBQ Essay

DBQ Essay continues to intimidate plenty of students due to its distinctive nature and tight deadline. Let’s take a look into what challenges students face and the major mistakes they make while writing DBQ papers.

Time Management

One of the biggest challenges of DBQ papers is the limited time that is given to attempt it. Students found it very hard to go through all the given documents to make a well-thought-out thesis in such a short time. Every section in the essay requires a specific time to be completed. But students tend to miss so many things in the struggle to finish their work in the given time.

Not Understanding The Essay Question

Another mistake that students make is that they tend to misunderstand the main question of the essay. There is no possible way to attempt and score in a DBQ exam if you haven’t understood the primary essay question. The essay question tells you what and how you need to write in the context. The main question can be anything like explaining, discussing, analyzing, or comparing, and a student needs to identify what is asked of them.

Misinterpreting Historical Background Information

Because the time is short while attempting the essay, students tend to go through the given documents faster, and that leads to misinterpretations and missing out on so much useful historical information in the documents. The documents given to you are going to be the main pillars of your essay because they provide evidence and build your thesis statements. If you haven’t read them thoroughly, there is a massive chance that you are not going to understand the historical events properly and proceed to write an irrelevant essay.

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Weak and Repetitive Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is what carries your essay to success and if it’s weak, your whole essay will fail to impress the people reading them. Another mistake students make is to repeat the thesis statement as mentioned in the information document. This problem can be caused by not understanding the given documents. Nothing irritates the professors more than the thesis statement that is vague, repetitive, and completely irrelevant to the essay question.

Using the Word ‘Document’ In the Essay

Another big mistake that students make is to mention the word ‘document’ again and again while referring to the given material. For example, writing a statement like Document 1 is discussing the effects of global warming. In this statement, the word document seems irrelevant because the reader couldn’t understand which document the student was referring to without the context, main statement, and the name of the author.

Irrelevant Evidence

Students tend to add evidence that is not related to their thesis statement. This issue can occur when a student hasn’t read the given documents properly and proceeds to relate the evidence to their thesis statement. In such essays, the evidence provided is not going to align with the context of the essay.

Summarizing The Documents

Many students make the mistake of just summarizing and repeating what the given document is saying. For example, Document 1 discusses the impact of Martin Luther King Jr. on the civil rights movement, and you are putting everything mentioned in the document in your essay. That’s why you are going to lose marks because the professors already know what the document says and they are looking for how you are going to extract the main points of that document and how they relate to your thesis statement.

Unable to Do Proper Content Analysis

The biggest challenge that students face is the failure to analyze the given document properly and understand what exactly is the primary point of discussion. That will lead your essay to become nothing but an irrelevant discussion with no direction, track or timeline.

Unorganized Essay

Students are sometimes so focused on their thesis and writing that they forget to organize their evidence and overall essay text. The essay needs to be divided into its recommended structure, containing an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. A structured essay helps readers to understand and comprehend the context well.

Disconnection With Global Context

One of the biggest challenges students have to face is the disconnection of the essay from the global context. It mostly happens with the students who have less or no knowledge of what is happening in the world politically, economically, and geographically. When they start writing their essay, they won’t be able to connect their words with the global context and how different factors affect certain phenomena.

Overcoming the challenges of DBQ essay

Let’s take a look at the solutions to overcome the challenges of DBQ papers.


That’s being said. Practice is the ultimate step to becoming perfect at everything you do. In this case, you need to practice writing the DBQ papers while setting the time limit. The more you write, the better your analytical, reasoning, and writing skills will become. Uplift your writing speed with daily practice and make reading your daily habit.

Read the Content Efficiently

To avoid misunderstanding the essay question and the historical documents, you need to read the documents efficiently. Since time is short, you can’t take hours to read and brainstorm for ideas. You need to skim through the paragraphs in order to understand the main discussion point of each paragraph. You need to pinpoint the figures, statistics, and numbers mentioned in the documents. Set a time for reading the material because if you have understood the material well, your working speed will automatically be lifted because you will have a strong thesis statement and the right direction of work.

Organize Your Work

Organize your work into the standard essay format. Make sure your essay has a compelling introduction, an interesting thesis statement, detailed body paragraphs, and a firm closure statement. Don’t just summarize the data from the given material but instead add the main points of discussion. Organize your evidence and connect them to ensure a natural flow of events.

Divide the Time into Sections

Start with dividing the time for every part of the essay and then work according to it. First of all, you need to plan the whole essay in your head within the given time limit. Take 15 to 20 minutes to read the given material. Take the next minutes in coming up with a well thought thesis statement. Then, set time for writing the essay thoroughly and leave at least 10 to 15 minutes for proofreading your entire document.

Quick Tips on Writing a DBQ Essay

Potential Topics of DBQ Essay

Following are some of the potential topics or DBQ essay example templates that can help you prepare for your A.P. exam.

  • Women’s rights movement was a big part of the progressive era from the year 1890 to 1920 in the United States. Explore the impact of this movement.

  • Evaluate the extent to which World War II impacted world development after 1945.

  • Analyze the civil rights movement from the year 1960 to 1990 and evaluate the impact of Martin Luther King Jr.

  • How and why did the U.S. foreign policy change after World War I?

  • Evaluate the factors leading to the separation of South and North Korea after the Korean War in 1953.

  • What are the causes and effects of the Spanish Civil War from the years of 1936 to 1939?

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To Sum up

Now that you have made it to the end of this blog, you are equipped with all the essential guidelines to write a perfect DBQ essay. Time management is vital for DBQ, and that’s why you need to divide it properly into the different parts of the essay. The pro tips for writing a perfect DBQ are to read the essay question, efficiently read the documents, develop a strong thesis statement, and connect all the points of your essay.


Like the standard format of the essay, there are three main parts of DBQ (document-based question) essay. 

  • Introduction:

  • Body Paragraphs

  • Conclusion

You need to practice your reading, writing, and analytical skills. Stay up to date with the current global events to have an insight into what is happening in the world. Learn to manage time and your writing speed.

You will be given forty-five minutes to attempt the essay, and you will have to utilize that time properly while reading the given documents, developing a thesis statement, writing the essay, and proofreading it. With that given time limit, you are expected to write a five to six-paragraph essay.

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