How to write a DBQ Essay

Before you jump into learning how a DBQ essay is written, our smart2write writers advise you to understand what a DBQ is.

What Is a DBQ?

A DBQ Essay is an abbreviation for Document Based Question Essay, and it is an academic paper from the AP U.S. History exam (APUSH) set by the United States College Board.

Lecturers assign a DBQ essay to assess students’ analyzing and understanding skills. A DBQ task also tests a student’s ability to think outside the box. The objective of a DBQ is to sharpen skills that are essential in various academic disciplines where critical thinking and creativity are required.

Writing a DBQ requires a student to be knowledgeable in a certain topic and provide evidence from at least 3 credible sources.

Of course, writing a DBQ essay is difficult for a beginner; hence our writers’ panel prepared this manual. In this blog post, Smart2write will brief you on how to write a DBQ and the appropriate structure/format to follow when handling a DBQ task.

DBQ Outline

A DBQ is an essay like any other; therefore, it has:

  • an introduction- thesis
  • body
  • conclusion

The Introduction

When writing your instruction, bear in mind that here is where the reader’s attention is captured.

Acquaint your lecturer (reader) with the topic by stating its background. The background can be backed up by a credible source that relates to a historical figure or historical occurrence.


Writing the introductory paragraph in a manner that describes how the DBQ essay will be answered can help in formulating a thesis.


1st Body Paragraph

‘Let the cat out of the bag’

Time to ‘let the cat out’- include your strongest argument, which should be linked to the thesis statement.

Use at least one reference and provide an analysis for it. The analysis should be concluded with a statement that gives a different point of view.

2nd Body Paragraph

Start with a rational argument that links to the thesis and the argument in the preceding body paragraph.

Include at least one reference that relates to the strongest argument and provide an analysis for it.  

The analysis should be concluded with a statement that gives a different point of view.

Body Paragraph 3

Include a reasonable argument that relates to the thesis and the second argument in the second body paragraph.

Provide an analysis of the references used in this paragraph, and it should relate to the strongest argument.

Write a statement that concludes the analysis from a different point of view. Include a link to the thesis.

Write a transition sentence to the conclusion.

Another reference is required in this paragraph as well, and it should have a linkage to the strongest argument. Analyze the reference in relation to the argument.

The analysis should be concluded with a statement that gives a different point of view.


Write a summing-up argument for the whole paper.

The summary should entail the main points from the sources.

The concluding sentence can be a question that challenges the point of view that argues against these sources.

Writing Help
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