Analyzing the Sample DBQ Using the Five-Step
Read the question and highlight (underline) action words. Determine the
required tasks. Identify key: words, areas, eras, names, categories, etc.
1. Direct students to the Historical Context and the Task. This is
where tasks and key words are specified.
Throughout history, different systems of
governmental decision making and
different roles of citizens in the decision-making process have
developed. Two of these systems are absolute
control and democratic rule.
characteristics of a government under
absolute control and two characteristics of a government under
role of citizens
in the decision-making process of a government under
absolute control and the role of
citizens in the decision-making process of a government under
2. In this question, the action words are
analyze. The area to be described
is the characteristics of governments under both absolute control and
democratic rule. The area to be analyzed is the role of citizens in the
decision-making processes of both absolute and democratic
3. A useful strategy is to have students "block" or "box" the tasks:
Brainstorm the topic or era. Write down key
facts about the topic and time.
1. Students might jot down examples of democratic principles,
characteristics of absolute rule, societies that exemplified both
systems of political decision making, etc.
- Democratic Principles: limited
power to the ruler, power in the hands of the people (popular
sovereignty), voting, freedom of expression, etc.
- Examples: British Parliamentary
System, Modern Japan, Ancient Greece
- Absolute Rule-Police State: lack of
rights, people have no voice, persecution and discrimination, etc.
- Examples: European Monarchs,
Russian Czars, Chinese Emperors, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin
Read and analyze the documents.
1. Students read the question
carefully and answer the scaffolding questions. This is an important step,
as the response to the scaffolding will comprise about 15% of the DBQ grade.
Students respond in a complete sentence, address the question, and refer to
2. Examine example:
- The response states the main idea, is
written in a complete sentence, and offers supporting evidence from the
3. Students go beyond merely answering
- As they read the documents, they make
margin notes that reflect point of view,
purpose, frame of reference, similarities, differences, and changes over
- Margin notes include references to outside
information and are incorporated into the essay.
Consider all parts of the question.
1. Make sure students analyze the task and answer all parts of the
question. In this example they:
- describe the characteristics of
governments under absolute control and democratic rule
- analyze the roles of citizens in the
decision-making process of governments under each system
- Step Five
- Make connections to outside historical
1. The strongest student responses weave outside historical
information with the documents. (Students refer to their margin notes for
2. To ensure the response is structured and outside information is
incorporated, encourage students to "block" or "box" the documents.
- Documents that support democratic rule:
List and state main idea of the document.
- Documents that support absolute rule: List
and state main idea of the document.
- Related outside information: Refer to
margin notes and list.
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