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AP History DBQ Advice From Harvard Law 0L

Hi everyone!

I'm a 0L at Harvard Law School currently working as a part-time SAT/ACT Tutor at various companies (Crimson Education, Study Point, Veritas Education, ECTutoring, HeyTutor) to earn tuition money and living expenses.

I've taught SAT/ACT and graduate-level standardized tests such as LSAT, GRE, GMAT in Seoul for 5 years and I specialize in teaching Korean-style test-taking strategies (pattern recognition, short-cuts, cutting) to American students.

Seeing so many students struggle with the DBQ portion of AP History classes, I'd like to share some tips that I currently work on with my students (I'm also available for individual tutoring. Contact me at [email protected]).

For the Document-Based Question (DBQ), I recommend creating a “mini-outline” for each Document as you read along.

The mini-outline should take the form of the 5 Ws (Who? What? Where? Why? When?) and 1 H (How).

The 5Ws and 1H should not be literal but based on the key terms that appear in the question.

I’ll use an AP World History DBQ exam (which is the same DBQ format as APUSH) that I’m working with another student as example.

https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/pdf/ap18-frq-world-history.pdf?course=ap-world-history-modern

Page 6 (Free Response Questions) contains the question.

Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

Highlight the key terms in red and plan your essay around them.

If you examine the grading criteria (https://secure-media.collegeboard.org/ap/pdf/ap18-sg-world-history.pdf), points are awarded for discussing the interrelationship between the terms as they appear in each of the document.

Then, as you go over each document, fill up the 5Ws and 1H but not on a literal sense but with a focus on those red terms.

So, if I were to do a 5W and 1H on the question itself, it would look like:

1. Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

Who? Railroads
What? Building of empires, and how they were affected
Where? Afro-Eurasia
When? 1860-1918 (“Industrialization and Globalization”)
Why? (it’s either conducive or detrimental) How railroads helped empire-building

How? “Building an empire”

Note that the “Who” refers to the main subject at hand, not necessarily a human being.

After writing the 5Ws and 1H, write a summary sentence that summarizes the main point of the Document, then draw a comparison with other documents.

Points are awarded on the basis of how well you can identify similarities and differences among the documents.

Look at the AP World History exam and the outline I practiced making with my student below.

Session #1

Grading Criteria:

For AP History Writing, you’ll write two types of sentences: 1) Opinion and 2) Fact.

Always think inside the box. Very dry writing.

1. “Historically defensible thesis” -> After you make a claim, make a reference to a historical event/person.
2. “Broader historical context” -> provide a time period/era reference
3. “Support an argument” -> make explicit references to the documents
4. Cite one event not mentioned in the documents.
5. At least three times, make a connection between the document’s VIEWPOINT and your VIEWPOINT. = it’s either conducive or detrimental. In other words, the documents either support or challenge your argument.
6. Be skeptical and express your skepticism through discrepancies or other interesting aspects of the documents.

The model for AP History Writing is the 5Ws and 1H.

Template

Who?
What?
Where?
When?
Why?

How?

1. Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

Who? Railroads
What? Building of empires, and how they were affected
Where? Afro-Eurasia
When? 1860-1918 (“Industrialization and Globalization”)
Why? (it’s either conducive or detrimental) How railroads helped empire-building

How? “Building an empire”

Document #1

Who? Wealthy Indians
What? Protest poor treatment of Indian passengers
Where? Trains
When? 1866 (the beginning of Industrialization)
Why? To provide safer traveling environment for Indian passengers

How? Petition Indian businessmen to British Colonial Government

Document 1 shows that…(an observation 99.9% grounded in fact)

Document 1 shows that wealthy Indians are protesting the poor treatment of railroad passengers to the British Colonial Government to create a safer traveling environment.

Document 1 shows that as railroads were expanding in the Afro-Eurasia region -- India, in this case -- the development didn’t always take into account fair and equal treatment between native and colonial passengers.

Document #2

Who? Railroads
What? Advocate construction of railroads
Where? Qing Dynasty China
When? 1867 (the beginning of Industrialization)
Why? To reap economic rewards

How? By denying the West opportunities to develop China’s railroads.

Document 2 shows that China values the growth and development of railways because it will be economically beneficial for natives, however they want to do so in such a way that excludes the West.

Sam’s Comment: Make “railroad” the protagonist of your responses.

Document 2 shows that the value of railways for economic development was recognized even by Qing Dynasty China and the hostility expressed towards West’s offer at construction reveals concern that access to railroads were access to power.

Document #3

Who? Ottoman government
What? Proposal to build a railway
Where? Across the Arabia region
When? 1893 (midpoint of industrialization)
Why? Ottoman Empire’s influence were threatened by lack of railroads

How? By denying access to the West, and relying only on Muslim sources of money.

Document 3 shows that railways were valued by the Ottoman Empire as being beneficial and they also recognized the necessity to deny Western access to railroad construction.

Document 3 shows that railways were seen by the Ottoman Empire as being integral to the preservation of their ways of life -- religious, economic, and cultural -- and were closely guarding, much like the Qing Dynasty in Document 2, against Western encroachment. Railroad, for these two empires in the Arabia-Eurasia region, seemed to represent something much more than mere means of transportation.

Sam’s Comment: When two documents say similar (i.e. “same”) things, that’s the thesis you should write.

Document #4

Who? British business interest
What? Connect the existing railroad networks in different territories into one comprehensive network
Where? In the Arabia and the southern African regions.
When? 1899 (midpoint of industrialization)
Why? To connect British territories in the Arabia and south African regions

How? Connecting ports to inner-parts of territories

Document 4 shows that railways appeared as a connector of ports for the British territories in the Arabia and south African regions, and as a way to glean power and resources to expand their empire.

Sam’s comment: For AP History writing, the conclusions/opinions you write must always be generic.

Document 4 shows that railroads were clearly being recognized by British entrepreneurs as important means of transportation for managing resources in the empires they built in the Arabia and African regions. The proposed railway routes would connect Cairo to Capetown -- truly, an ambitious plan to protect and defend British colonial interests in the region. Similar to the Qing Dynasty China and Ottoman Empire, the British recognized that railroads were critical means for empire preservation and economic development.

Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

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Replies to: AP History DBQ Advice From Harvard Law 0L

  • KoreanStylePrepKoreanStylePrep 1 replies2 threads New Member
    Continued:

    Document #5

    Who? The Russian Empire
    What? The Trans-Siberian Railroad
    Where? Russia
    When? 1901
    Why? Consolidating Russian influence

    How? Provide faster movements of goods and army

    Document 5 shows that railroads were being recognized as a way for the Russian Empire to build and expand by using railroads to transport their army faster and consolidating Russian influence throughout the region.

    Document 5 shows that railroaders were seen as a great “undertaking” for empire-building, one that could “consolidate” Russian influence in the Eurasia region.

    To which of the documents -- 1, 2, 3, and 4 -- is Document 5 similar and why?

    Document 5, like Document 4, shows that “railroads” were seen as the fundamental infrastructure to expand and maintain control over large swaths of land that falls under the empire.

    Document 5, like Documents 3 and 2, project railroads as representing something much more than just means of transportation -- as a way to build and secure their empire.

    [Context -- the ‘back story’]

    Document 5 was drafted by a British politician and presumably addressed to the British audience. It can therefore be seen as raising alarm to the British Empire as a way to share the evidence that Russia was gaining power and using what the British thought was their “upper hand”, the railroads, as well.

    It should be noted that… (for extra points) by who…. For what…

    It should be noted that Document 5 was drafted by a British politician seeking to raise alarm at how Russia was utilizing railroads as a way to solidify their stronghold in the far East.

    Evidence beyond the Documents: Uses at least one additional piece of specific historical evidence (beyond that found in the documents) relevant to an argument about the prompt. (1 point) To earn this point the evidence must be described, and it must be more than a phrase or reference. This additional piece of evidence must be different from the evidence used to earn the point for contextualization.

    Statements credited as evidence from outside the documents will typically be more specific details relevant to an argument, analogous to the function of evidence drawn from the documents. Typically, statements credited as contextualization will be more general statements that place an argument or a significant portion of it on a broader context.

    Outside knowledge = a similar actor performing a similar action.

    It is interesting to note that … Russia was not alone in recognizing the potential of railroads for their empire-building. Japan likewise extensively build a railroad network in Korea to transport materials and their army in their war efforts against China.

    Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

    A. Thesis/Claim (0–1 point) Responses earn 1 point by responding to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis that establishes a line of reasoning about the topic. To earn this point the thesis must make a claim that responds to the prompt rather than simply restating or rephrasing the prompt. The thesis must suggest at least one main line of argument development or establish the analytic categories of the argument. The thesis must consist of one or more sentences located in one place, either in the introduction or the conclusion. The thesis must take a position on the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia in the period 1860–1918 and indicate some reason for taking that position.

    Sam’s Note: DO NOT come up with your OWN IDEA. Rather, extract the THESIS from the DOCUMENTS -- they’re purposefully selected to tell ONE STORY.

    Thesis should contain an ARGUMENT (but not really). What additional thing you can say on top of what the question tells you happened.

    Ex.

    From the question, we know that railroads must have been important for empire-building.

    But the documents talk about RESISTANCE to OUTSIDE INFLUENCE as it pertains to RAILROADS.

    The best thesis for AP History -- make an OBSERVATION but add a TWIST (“but” “however”)
    Thesis: Throughout Afro-Eurasia between 1860-1918, railroads were recognized as critical building blocks to empire-building, but they also fomented nationalist movements against foreign encroachment.

    Evaluate the extent to which railroads affected the process of empire-building in Afro-Eurasia between 1860 and 1918.

    Throughout Afro-Eurasia between 1860-1918, railroads were recognized as critical building blocks to empire-building, but they also fomented nationalist movements against foreign encroachment. From the British colonial government in India to the Russian Empire, the Documents collectively show that people had profound interests in how railroads would affect the lives of native and outside powers.

    [1st Paragraph = Context behind the question]

    From the beginning of Industrial Revolution, railroads emerged as ways of


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