Hipp Essays

The thesis requirement according to the AP US History Rubric:

Responds to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis/claim that establishes a line of reasoning.

Historically, the thesis is the biggest struggle for students.

Yet the thesis is the most important part of the DBQ. Why is the thesis the most important part?

The thesis sets the tone for the whole essay and clearly outlines the arguments the essay will defend.

Simply put, without a strong thesis, you cannot have a strong essay.

How do you create a strong thesis?

Follow these three steps.

1) Establish a historically defensible claim

A historical defensible claim simply means is the argument you present in the thesis historical accurate.

For the thesis, you must make a claim or an argument. This claim/argument is what you will be supporting and defending throughout the essay.

So if your claim/argument is not historical accurate, or historical defensible, then you will not be able to support it with historical evidence.

2) Establish a line of reasoning

A line of reasoning is simply the reasons you present to support your argument/claim.

Any good thesis will make a historical defensible claim/argument.

A line of reasoning is- what are your reasons for making this historical defensible claim/argument.

Typically, each of the reasons you provide in your thesis will each be addressed in a body paragraph.

So the line of reasoning lets the exam reader know what your body paragraphs will be about.

3) Evaluates the prompt

The prompt will ask you to evaluate the extent of a historical development.

Your thesis must clearly state your evaluation of the extent of the historical development.

One way to think about it: To what degree did the development influence the time period provided in the prompt.

For some examples, look at the “Grader’s Perspective” below.

BONUS) Practice writing a thesis

Yes, it is ok to practice writing a thesis.

In fact, Chris and Paul HIGHLY recommend you practice writing a thesis.

Practice writing a thesis.


Go find to the College Board website and get the released essay questions and practice writing a good thesis for the essays.

One last thing.

And make sure to read this part.

The thesis should be 2-3 sentences long.


Prompt: Evaluate the relative importance of different factors that caused the movement for American Independence between 1754 and 1776.  In your response, consider both the underlying forces and specific events that contributed to the growing support for independence.

Practice: Write a practice thesis for the prompt above.

When you are done, click the toggles below.

Which of these theses is most likely to get the thesis point?

Another way to ask this question is which thesis clearly outlines the student’s position on the topic, and states exactly what the student will defend in the essay? Let’s look at the three thesis examples again.

Thesis #1: The student does not establish a line of reasoning for their essay. Stating the colonists were angry does not indicate the factors that caused this anger. The introduction sentences also do not introduce the relative importance of any factors.

Thesis #2: The thesis is found in the introduction paragraph. It states that British violated economic and natural rights and states the relative importance by elevating natural rights by stating that there is no liberty without protections of natural rights.  Though the thesis is simplistic, it gets over the bar by making a claim it will try to substantiate.

Thesis #3: The student correctly identifies the underlying forces for the revolution as economic discrimination against the colonists and violations of enlightenment principles by the Crown. The student also maintains that the economic reasons for revolting were more significant thus pointing directly to the relative importance of the two factors.

READER TIP: If the prompt asks the student to “evaluate” or state “how much”, the thesis must state to what extent. If you do not specifically evaluate to this extent, you will not get the point.

Where should you put the thesis?

Ideally, the thesis should be placed in the introduction.

However, the thesis can be in the conclusion.

Why is the introduction better?

Because if the thesis is the first thing you write, it will then be in the introduction and it will give you direction and clarity on what to write for the remainder of the essay.

Interpreting primary sources, formulating an argument, and utilizing primary sources to support an argument are crucial skills in AP World History and AP European History.  Students need to become comfortable and confident in their interpretation of primary sources and their utilization of those documents in essay writing.  Below are tips and pointers to assist WHAP and APEURO students in writing a DBQ essay.


Plan Long! Write Fast!


Every DBQ prompt will have you write to one of the following historical thinking skills: Comparison and Contrast (C/C), Causation (C/E), or Change and Continuity Over Time (CCOT), or Periodization (PD)


Try dissecting the following prompts for key terms and the historical thinking skill:

1. Using the given documents, analyze the reasons why students struggle and succeed in Advanced Placement World History. (C/E)

2. Using the given documents, analyze similarities and differences in industrialization between Russia and Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (C/C)

3. Using the given documents, analyze continuities and changes in labor systems in the Americas between 1500 and 1900. (CCOT) 


Once you've dissected the prompt you now know what to look for in each of the given sources. Each given source is like a treasure box with a lot of gems, diamonds, rubies, gold nuggets, and silver bars. Extract the precious stone or metal that you're looking for! If your gold nugget is "similarities in industrialization between Russia and Japan" then extract it. If your diamond is "reasons why the Great Depression went global" then extract it.


Set up your plan sheet according to the historical thinking skill in the prompt, but remember to include the documents in your plan sheet.  For a C/E DBQ essay try using a multi-flow or partial multi-flow thinking map. For a C/C DBQ essay try using a Venn Diagram or a double-bubble thinking map. And for a CCOT DBQ essay try using a partial multi-flow thinking map. Keep in mind that a successful plan sheet enables you to write a successful essay.


The Magnificent Seven - Each of your DBQ essays will be assessed for the following seven historical thinking and writing skills: I have written my commentary on each essay point in indigo!


#1 Thesis: Responds to the prompt with a historically defensible thesis/claim that establishes a line of reasoning. An example of an historically defensible claim would be any of the reasons that students struggle or succeed in AP World History, any of the similarities or differences in industrialization between Japan and Russia, and any of the continuities and changes in labor systems in the given time period. This is why I am teaching you to plan your DBQ based on the historical thinking skill established in the DBQ Essay prompt. Additionally, "establishing a line of reasoning" means that you give more than just a list of historical claims.  You suggest an explanation, or an answer to "why," within your thesis.  For example, "One similarity between industrialization in Russia and Japan was the high level of government influence in industry due to both nations altering and reforming their respective governments."


#2 Contextualization: Describes a broader historical context relevant to the prompt. You'll hear me refer to this as "Big C."  You can attempt this in any paragraph of the essay, but it best fits in the introductory paragraph prior to the thesis.  So, if you're writing an essay about the American and French Revolutions, and you contextualize these revolutions with information regarding the Age of Enlightenment, new political theories, limited governments, natural rights, etc. then you will be providing broader historical developments/processes surrounding the American and French Revolutions. Think "zoom out," and "why are we answering this question?"  Consider the beginning of a Star Wars movie. The scroll is an example of "Big C" contextualization.


#3 Use of the Documents: Uses the content of at least three documents to address the topic of the prompt. In essence, you are expected to extrapolate or lift evidence from the given documents in the body paragraphs of your DBQ essay.  However, I instruct you to use all seven given documents.  Using three documents is not good enough for a DBQ essay, as you will lose points in other parts of the rubric.


#4 Use of the Documents: Supports an argument in response to the prompt using at least six documents. This is a high bar point that demands that you utilize the documents to support an argument.  This goes beyond just lifting evidence or summarizing the documents.  You must demonstrate exactly how the evidence from the document supports your argument/thesis.


#5 Outside EvidenceUses at least one additional piece of the specific historical evidence (beyond that found in the documents) relevant to an argument about the prompt. This is your opportunity to show what you know outside of the given documents. You are expected to provide an additional piece of specific evidence beyond the given documents that will qualify your argument. So for example, if you're writing about reasons why the Allied Powers were successful in World War II and you have the following sources: A. a statistical chart of the number of deployed Allied troops in the European and Pacific Theaters, B. a photo of RAF counter strikes against German pilots in the Battle of Britain, and C. a source from Joseph Stalin describing the success of the Red Army at the Battle of Stalingrad, then you could corroborate your claim by writing about something specific that is outside of the documents, such as the use of the atomic bomb at the end of World War II.


#6 Sourcing the Documents: For at least three documents, explains how or why the document’s point of view, purpose, historical situation, and/or audience is relevant to an argument.. For author's point of view consider the author's relationship to the subject (e.g. a feminist speaking about women's suffrage, a Cavs fan watching the NBA Finals against the Warriors, a slave's memoir of plantation slavery, etc.). For author's purpose consider the intent behind the speech, document, photograph, painting, etc. (e.g. A letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella requesting additional financing for his voyages to the Caribbean, a television commercial for a "must-have" product motivating consumers to make a purchase, a piece of propaganda encouraging men to join the army during World War I, etc.). Historical context as it relates to sourcing the documents - you will hear me refer this as "Little C." Consider the historical time period, historical setting, historical events, historical trends surrounding the author and the document (e.g. Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto published in 1848 during the Industrial Revolution in Europe that was characterized by worker strikes and discontent for the poor conditions and wages established by business owners through the practice of industrial capitalism). Lastly, consider the author's intended audience by whom was expected to read/see/hear the document (e.g. a personal diary only to be read by the author, a newspaper article for an entire community to read, a speech by a feminist to Parliament, a text message to your best friend, etc.). Think about it, you're attempting to answer WHY the author wrote/spoke what they wrote/spoke in as many ways as you possibly can. Think H.I.P.P. (Historical context, Intended audience, Point of view, Purpose of the author).


Check out the Four Sourcemen Cheat Sheet Here! 


#7 Argument Development: Demonstrates a complex understanding of the historical development that is the focus of the prompt, using evidence to corroborate, qualify, or modify an argument that addresses the question. By complex argument it is expected that your essay will develop an argument that is thoroughly supported by given sources and your own knowledge of World or European history throughout the entirety of the DBQ essay. A claim or thesis is empty, but an argument is full. Full of what? An argument is full of evidence - be it evidence from given documents or evidence based on your own knowledge of world or European history and its relationship to the given essay prompt. This is also an opportunity for you to utilize your document grouping/bucketing from your plan sheet. Group documents that relate to each other by contradiction (e.g. a Japanese survivor's testimony and an American G.I.'s testimony on the use of the atomic bomb). Group documents that relate to each other by corroboration (e.g. a Nazi Party member's testimony and a Nazi soldier's testimony of the Holocaust). Group documents by qualification/modification (any like/similar documents that "qualifies" your thesis). However, this point isn't awarded for grouping/bucketing, but for your ability to develop and support a complex argument throughout the essay. Topical statements, specific vocabulary, tying your paragraphs back to the thesis are things to keep in mind while developing your historical argument. This point can also be earned by explaining relevant and insightful connections across and within time periods. What you may recall as the "synthesis point" from years past can also be used to earn this point.




Organize your essay in the following manner: 


Introduction (Thesis) Paragraph

-Set the "Big C" or context for your essay in the beginning of the introductory paragraph; aka zoom out.

-Zoom in to establish the thesis (your historically defensible claims).

-Open your writing up, so as not to cram too many claims or points into a single sentence.

-Include a statement(s) of explanation within the sentences that make up your thesis.


Body Paragraphs (2 or more body paragraphs)

-Topical Statement must be present to explicitly state the claim or point (the label on the lid of the jar)

-Documents need to be referenced (minimum of two per body paragraph, ideally three)

-Use attribution (e.g. Siddhartha Guatama stated in his sermon on the Four Noble Truths... BAD e.g. Document 5 preached the Four Noble Truths)

-Cite documents in parentheses e.g. (doc. #2) or (2)

-Extrapolate (or lift) historical evidence from the primary source

-Direct quotation, but keep quotes short



-Discuss the historical evidence and relate it to the topical statement

-Source the documents via H.I.P.P.O. (see above)

-Suggest outside evidence (see above)

-Utilize transitions to show how documents are related to each other.


Conclusion w/Restatement of Thesis and Synthesis

-Restate the thesis

-Extend your argument by connecting/synthesizing it with a different event, situation, trend, time period, theme, discipline, etc. (see above)



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