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Assignment Comprehension

It is important for writers to understand the keywords, pinpoint a question and know the parameters of the assignment.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How long is the assignment?
  • When is it due?
  • What format is required?
  • Can I choose my topic or is one assigned?
  • Am I addressing all of the questions in the assignment?
  • What resources are needed to help me write?

When writing an assignment, try to ensure it has a focused and specific topic. The broader the focus, the harder it is to complete.

Key instructional words

Word

Definition

Account for

Explain the cause of the given topic.

Analyze

Examine in detail the content or structure of something, usually by breaking it down into its separate parts.

Annotate

Provide notes on the given topic or visual.

Assess

Comment on the value or effectiveness of the subject, including strengths and weaknesses.

Comment

You should give a written criticism or explanation, expressing a personal or professional opinion (The context of the question will tell you which is required).

Compare

Look for similarities between the two or more items that you are asked to compare. You may also mention the differences. It is important to be clear about what exactly you are being asked to compare.

Contrast

Look for the differences between the two or more things that you are asked to contrast, and present systematically.

Critical analysis

Do not just describe. You have to consider and evaluate the content of the work and often apply it to your own experience or that of others. You might consider the strengths and weaknesses of the argument.

Criticize

Make a considered judgement of something by examining the strengths and weaknesses, the advantages and disadvantages, the limitations and the strengths. Remember that you are expressing your own opinion, but any points that you make should be supported by evidence.

Define

Provide meaning by describing the essential qualities using concise and clear language. While accuracy is very important, details are not required. You should also keep in mind whatever makes it different from all other objects or concepts.

Describe

Give a detailed account.

Diagram

For a question which specifies a diagram, you should present a visual representation such as a drawing, chart, plan, or graph. You will usually have to label the diagram.

Discuss

You should analyze the main issue(s) and carefully examine each part, then offer a final evaluation of the arguments (pros and cons).

Enumerate

You should list one by one, in a concise form, the points required.

Evaluate

Make a detailed assessment of the problem, including both advantages and limitations. Evaluation involves making a judgement about how effective, successful or useful something is.

Explain

Give a detailed account of the subject, providing evidence to support your reasons.

Illustrate

You are usually required to provide an explanation, referring to examples. You should also provide your judgment or reaction to the subject.

Interpret

Comment on the subject, and give your judgment or reaction to the issue.

Justify

Provide a sound argument about the accuracy of a particular theory or conclusion. You should include reasons or evidence for your conclusion.

List

Listing is similar to enumeration. You should present your response in an itemized and concise format.

Outline

Systematically present the main points or principles of a subject, omitting non-necessary details and examples.

Prove

You need to show or demonstrate clearly your assessment of a subject or principle, providing either evidence or logical reasoning.

Relate

Your answer should establish the associations between subjects, and then describe the connections between them.

Review

A review asks for a critical examination. You need to present your analysis of the subject in an organized sequence, including all of the major points.

State

Express the main points briefly but clearly; details such as illustrations or examples do not need to be included.

Summarize

Outline the main points or facts, leaving out any details or examples.

Trace

Give an account of the development of the subject, from a particular point of origin.

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