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Common assignment terminology

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Common assignment terminology
If the assignment asks you to… Your essay or project should …
Analyze (or outline, or explain)
  • break the topic down into key elements and details
  • identify and describe causes, key factors or features, possible results, and relationships among these elements
  • offer your informed, critical interpretation of the above.
Compare (and/or contrast)
Examine (or explore,  or investigate)
  • take a diagnostic approach
  • inquire or look into closely, perhaps to uncover a motive, cause, theme, etc.
  • seek out core issues, suggest possible interpretations / solutions.
Argue
  • take a position on a topic and support your position with evidence and interpretation
  • give reasons for or against something.
Debate
  • present opposing viewpoints on a topic
  • give reasons for and against something.
Evaluate (or judge, criticize, or assess)
  • determine the value or significance of something; offer evidence to support your evaluation.
Describe
  • depict or delineate in words
  • place more emphasis on what something is and how it occurs, than on why it occurs.
Define
  • give the meaning of something
  • describe its essential qualities.
Trace
  • follow the course, development, or history of something.
Review
  • summarize and perhaps evaluate the key aspects of the material.
Document
  • follow the development, course or history of something, but emphasize the use of scholarly sources, references and citations in supporting your approach
  • prove, using scholarly sources and evidence.
Discuss
  • comment on, talk over, write about the topic using whatever approach seems appropriate (i.e., any of the approaches listed in this chart).