It is important to understand what an essay question or assignment brief is asking of you. Before you start to research or write, it is worth spending time considering the wording of the question and any learning outcomes that may accompany it. Failure to do this could result in an unfocused response which does not answer the question.
Breaking down an assignment question
Before you attempt to answer an assignment question, you need to make sure you understand what it is asking. This includes not only the subject matter, but also the way in which you are required to write. Different questions may ask you to discuss, outline, evaluate… and many more. The task words are a key part of the question.
|Account||Account for asks you to give reasons for. An account of asks for a detailed description|
Make a detailed examination or investigation into something.
|Assess||Consider in a balanced way the points for and against something|
|Comment||State clearly your opinions on the topic in question. Support your views with evidence|
Look for the similarities and differences. Show the relevance or consequences of these similarities.
Emphasise the differences between two or more things.
Weigh arguments for and against something, assessing the strength of the evidence on both sides. Use criteria to guide your assessment of which opinions, theories, models or items are preferable.
|Define||Give the precise meaning of something. Show how the distinctions you make are necessary|
|Give a detailed account|
Investigate or examine by argument; give reasons for and against.
|Evaluate||Make a judgement about the value/importance/worth of something.|
Present in depth and investigate fully the implications.
Make plain, interpret, give reasons.
|Extent||'To what extent’ – asks you to weigh the evidence for and against something: to state ‘how far’ something is valid.|
Use examples, diagrams and so on to explain or make clear.
|Interpret||Make clear the meaning of something, usually giving your own views also|
|Justify||Show adequate grounds for decisions or conclusions|
Give the main features, structure or general principles of a topic omitting minor details.
|Review||Make a survey of; critically examine the subject.|
Specify fully and clearly.
Give a concise account of the main points of the topic.
|Trace||Follow the development or history of an event or process|