Writing Topic: Common Assignment Terminology

Return to Strategies, Tools and Handouts

 

TERMS FREQUENTLY USED IN WRITING ASSIGNMENTS

 

Download a PDF version

 

If the assignment requires you to…

… your essay or project should …

ANALYZE

(OUTLINE/EXPLAIN)

separate the matter at hand into key parts, essential elements;
break things down, consider the details;identify causes/key factors or features/possible results.

COMPARE

note similarities and differences between two or more things (not at list, but an argument based on similarities and differences).

CONTRAST

note differences, dissimilarities, tensions between two or more things (not at list, but an argument).

EXAMINE

 

(EXPLORE/INVESTIGATE)

take a diagnostic approach;

enquire or look into closely, perhaps to uncover a hidden motive, cause, theme, etc.;

seek out core issues, suggest possible interpretations/solutions.

ARGUE

take a position on a given subject and support that approach;

give reasons for or  against something.

DEBATE

present opposing viewpoints on a given subject, deliberate;

give reasons for and against something.

EVALUATE

(JUDGE/CRITICIZE/ASSESS)

determine the value or significance of something.

DESCRIBE

depict, present or delineate in words;

place more emphasis on how something occurs than on why it does.

DEFINE

give the meaning of something;

present its nature or essential qualities.

TRACE

follow the course, development, history of something.

REVIEW

summarize the key aspects of the material at hand.

DOCUMENT

like “TRACE,” follow the development, course or history of something, but emphasize the use of written sources, references and citations in supporting your approach;

prove using written support material, sources and evidence.

DISCUSS

comment on, talk over, write about the topic at hand using whatever approach seems appropriate (i.e., any of the approaches listed in this chart).

 

Return to Strategies, Tools and Handouts