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It’s very important for a student to understand what the lecturer expects to see on an assignment, research paper, or essay. Understanding the terms used when phrasing an assignment helps you choose and narrow down the material you need. It also helps you know how to best answer the question. Luckily for you as a student, the same terms are used to set essay questions over and over. Here are some terms you will come across when tackling essays and what is expected of you:
Analyze: Break down an issue into parts and examine, discuss, and interpret each issue. Explain how issues interrelate and contribute to the whole.
Apply: Use the information you already have on one topic to expound on another topic.
Argue: Make a case for or against your point of view on a topic using appropriate material.
Classify: Place an item into a certain category with other similar items. Explain how you arrived at the category and why that category differs from another.
Compare: Identify characteristics or qualities of two or more items and explain their similarities.
Contrast: Identify characteristics or qualities of two or more items and explain their differences.
Define: Provide the interpretation or meaning of a concept or term by providing sufficient details. These details should be enough to distinguish the term or concept from others similar to it.
Describe: Provide a detailed account or description of an idea or topic or provide a sequence on how a series of things happened.
Discuss: Present key points and possible interpretations of an idea or topic. Investigate and examine them while giving reasons in favor of the idea or against then draw a conclusion.
Enumerate: Create a list of parts, aspects, or ideas that describe a topic.
Evaluate: Provide a reasoned opinion of an idea, person, or topic in terms of merit. Give a personal opinion on the effectiveness of an idea you read about and determine whether it meets certain criteria while providing supporting evidence.
Examine: Discuss the essential elements of a topic critically.
Explain: Simplify something by explaining or describing how it works, how one can do it, or its causes and effects.
Identify: Point out or describe something, its components/features, or where and when it occurs.
Illustrate: Use examples, statistics, or visual representations to make a point.
Interpret: Clarify or explain the meaning and significance of a certain subject or object.
Justify: Provide valid reasons for why you accept a particular conclusion or interpretation.
Outline: Describe the main ideas of a topic or provide an overview of its structure and parts.
Prove: Demonstrate the true state of an idea by providing irrefutable evidence.
Relate: Explain or compare and contrast how events or things happened or their connection using a cause-effect sense.
State: Describe the main points of a topic or idea.
Summarize: Provide the main points or highlights of a long topic. Provide a condensed account of an event, story, or article.
Trace: Provide a chronological order of an event or a historical overview of change. Describe the connection between one idea and another.
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