for In-Class Essays and Take-Home Essays
Determine exactly what the question asks you to do.
Seek out keywords that are commonly used by professors
in essay exams. For example, if you are asked to define
(describe or identify) a concept or theory, you must
tell what the theory or concept is and is not.
For example, a general definition of democracy might
be government decision making by the people. Within
that general definition, however, might be several
sub-categories including direct democracy, representative
democracy, and parliamentary democracy. You should
use care in selecting appropriate terms to explain
You professor may ask you to compare and contrast two
theories, concepts, or authors main points.
compare involves highlighting the similarities and
differences of each subject, and then providing
details of the variations between each subject.
is similar to comparison but the emphasis is on
the differences or disagreement between subjects.
explain something involves the how and why of it. You
should try to state clearly the reasons for, or basic
principles of something. If asked to evaluate or assess
something, students must provide their judgment on its
accuracy or usefulness.
might involve your judgment on a concept or theorys
accuracy in relation to actual events.
must use care in providing judgment and state impressions
about the subject based on an informed use of course
concepts and theories.