1. Start with a clearly stated thesis.
Good essays begin with a thesis statement, back it up with supporting evidence from
documents and outside knowledge and, if time permits, restate the thesis at the end.
2. Make sure you have additional outside information beyond the documents presented on the
exam. You need to demonstrate an ability to integrate outside knowledge in
your document-based essay question as well as your ability to use the documents
3. Organize your response carefully. Make an outline before you begin your essay.
4. Make sure that your thesis matches your own assessment and knowledge. You should
support a clear, simple thesis that can be supported using the documents and other outside
information you may know. You may agree or disagree with the statement.
5. Build an argument. The best essays are those that marshal the positive arguments in
favor of their position but that also refute or answer rival theses. Even if you think a
statement is completely true, it is better to confront and negate the evidence that seems
to refute it than to ignore the counter-evidence completely.
6. Integrate the documents and your analysis. You do not have to use all of the documents
but you must use the majority of them and integrate them well. Don't merely explain what
is stated in the documents. Use the documents as part of an integrated
essay in support of your thesis.
7. Don't quote large portions of the documents. The reader of the essays are already
familiar with the documents. You can quote a short passage or two if necessary to make
your point, but don't waste time or space reciting them.