Academic Writing: Important Notes – Interpret keyword in the question

Below is a useful table of words (University of Canberra, 2007) that tells you what kind of essays you are asked to write.

 

Instructive keyword  Meaning 
A question mark  An implicit discussion essay – see Discuss 
Analyse  Break down the topic into its parts, explain the nature or relative importance of components, definitions or concepts and explain how they are interrelated and why certain outcomes occurred. 
Comment  Express an opinion on the issue or topic. Such an opinion should draw upon both supporting and opposing evidence with your preference clearly stated. 
Compare  Look for similarities and differences between propositions or topics. 
Contrast  Identify aspects or characteristics of two or more concepts or entities; discuss how they are similar and how they are different then present your own evaluation. 
Critically analyse  Break down the topic into its component parts, explain the nature or relative importance of components, definitions or concepts and explain how they are interrelated. Also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the definitions and concepts. 
Criticize  Evaluate the merit and points out the strengths and weaknesses of opinions, propositions and theories; evaluate the degree of truth observed and support with evidence. 
Define  Set down the precise meaning and establish the boundaries of a topic. Show that the distinctions implied in the definition are necessary. 
Describe  To give a detailed account of the different aspects of the topic. 
Discuss  To consider a topic from various points of view; to reveal, consider and represent aspects of an issue in general terms. 
Enumerate  Provide a listing of the representative facts or elements of a topic. 
Evaluate  Pass judgement on the worth on something. Such judgement should be extensively supported by pertinent evidence. 
Examine critically  Present in depth and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the topic. 
Explain  To make plain or clear; to advise the meaning; to intepret. 
Illustrate  Make clear or explain using examples, comparisons, diagrams or graphs. 
Interpret  To bring out the meaning of a topic or proposition, usually also giving your own judgement. 
Justify  Provide adequate grounds or examples to support conclusions or decisions. 
Outline  Briefly identify and present systemically the most important aspects or elements of a topic. 
Relate  Show how the facts are connected or interrelated. 
Review  Make a summary examining the topic critically. 
State  Present a topic succinctly and clearly. 
Summarize  Give a concise account, omitting details and examples. 
Why  See Discuss 

(University of Canberra, 2007)

 

Reference List

University of Canberra (2007) Instructive/Direction keywords: What sort of essay do I have to write? [Online document]. Available from: http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/attachments/cms_instructive_keywords.doc (Accessed: April 24th 2007).

 

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