the Question (Definitions)
are just a few keywords that appear in questions that suggest
how you should organize or set-up your response. In addition
having a good sense of exactly what the question asks you
to do will help you to know what to include in your answer.
Below are some keywords commonly found in an essay question.
Use them to classify what the question is asking you to
Compare (evaluate, contrast, balance): First, find
a few central components or aspects that are similar and
different. Second, detail the variations in each aspect.
(difference, dissimilarity, distinction, disparity):
Similar to comparison. The added constraint with contrast
is that ONLY differences should be detailed. That is, compare
in such a way as to show differences.
(appraise, evaluate, analyze, assess): Criticizing demands
judgment, requires a commitment to not agreeing with some
position presented, and calls for presenting reasons for
disagreement with the position.
(name, label, identify): Give special characteristics
by which a concept, thing, or event can be recognized. Tell
what it is, and what it is not. Place it in its general
class, and then differentiate it from other members of that
class. Defining requires boundaries, not details.
(explain, illustrate, express, tell): No need for generalizations;
just list the features as concisely as possible with details.
(talk about, argue) or Examine (look at, observe): This
is the most vague of all keywords and allows for virtually
any type of response. Begin by deciding on a more specific
course of language action, probably several, since discussion
always demands a large answer. You can quote, then refute,
then offer a counter-statement, then prove or illustrate
it, and so on.
(appraise, estimate) - Assess (measure, consider, calculate):
This similar to criticize, but allows you to present more
than one view on the position. Use care to signal your changes
when you move to presenting an argument for a different
point of view.
(make clear, give details): Asks for relationships:
causal, temporal, systematic. Explain asks for the how
and the why. Make clear and intelligible the
reasons for, or the basic principles of something. May require
you to account for differences of opinion or bad connections
between theory and data.
(demonstrate, show): Use details and/or examples to
show relationships and interactions. The goals are to find
and present supporting details, and to show how it supports.
May use concrete examples to explain or clarify the essential
attributes of concept.
(decode, decipher, figure out): Translate what something
means. Explain what the author means.
(verify or attest) or validate (confirm, endorse): Define
the proposition to be proven, then give reasons for believing
it. Provide enough good reasons to convince a reader.
(blend, combine, integrate): Summarize, or condense.
Describe the main points, omit minor details. May ask you
to summarize the work of more than one person to show common
of the Writing Center