1. Understanding
    1. Usually there is a choice of questions. Some are very clear while others require more thought about how to tackle them. In some cases, longer questions give more help in suggesting a structure for your essay. (Describe/define/analyse are always implied.)
      1. How did the confessional and client systems in Lebanon change during the period 1958 - 1970?
        • Place (where) is specified - Lebanon
        • Time period (when) is specified - 1958 - 1970
        • The 'systems' (what) are specified - confessional and client
        • 'How' and 'change' are the 'instruction' words - implying DESCRIBE, ANALYSE

        Implied is why did they change, and what was the result - who lost, who gained? EVALUATE
        'The confessional and client systems, 1958 - 1970' is the topic and 'change' is the focus.

      2. Henry Ford's contribution to the design of the manufacturing system.
        • Henry Ford's (who) design of the manufacturing system
          (what was it? - how did it change the design of the previous system, how has it influenced the systems which came afterwards?) [N.B. no 'time' or 'place' specified.] DESCRIBE
        • Contribution - EVALUATE

        First, ANALYSE

        • how?
          • human terms?
          • employment, technical/other skills
          • possibly positive/negative effects of design systems
        • in economic terms?
          • efficiency
          • standardisation
          • speed
          • availability
          • capitalism?

        Question (b) requires more thought about the implications it contains. The interpretation of the question will need to be explicitly stated. There is no 'overt' instruction word, but the emphasis is on the evaluation of the contribution. DESCRIBE + ANALYSE + EVALUATE

        The design of the manufacturing system is the topic, Henry Ford's contribution is the focus.

    2. All essay titles contain a topic and focus (think of who, what, where, when, why, how questions), but some also contain explicit instruction words. It is important that you understand what they require you to do. In other cases, 'instructions' are implied, as above.

    Essay Titles (also use for exam questions)

    Analyse = take apart an idea/concept/statement in order to consider the factors it consists of. Your answer needs to be methodical and logically organised 
    Assess = usually refers to the importance of something: positive/negative, to what extent successful/useful unsuccessful and often refers to contribution to knowledge, events or processes
    Compare = set items side by side to see similarities/differences - a balanced (objective) answer required
    Contrast emphasize the differences between two items
    Criticise = point out mistakes or weaknesses as well as favourable aspects - a balanced answer is required 
    Define = give the precise meaning of a concept - possibly its structure, the class to which the concept belongs and why it is different from other classes 
    Discuss = describe and explain - give supporting information, examples, points for and against (analyse) then evaluate (difficult) 
    Evaluate = similar to 'discuss' but the emphasis is on a judgement in the conclusion 
    Examine = in detail implied 
    Explain = give a precise and detailed explanation of an idea or principle or set of reasons for a situation or attitude (analyse implied) 
    Illustrate = requires concrete examples - including figures/diagrams (often added to another instruction) Interpret = explain + comment upon the subject and make a judgement (evaluation) 
    Justify = give reasons to support a statement. (N.B. the proposition could be negative) 
    List = provide an itemised series or a tabulation 
    Prove-Disprove = demonstrate logical arguments/evidence/reasoning connected with the proposition (often 'scientific'). prove = for; disprove = against 
    Relate = emphasize connections and associations (analyse implied) 
    Review = analyse and comment briefly, in organised sequences, on the main points 
    State = give the relevant points briefly - no lengthy discussion or minor details are required 
    Suggest = give possible reasons - analyse, interpret and evaluate 
    Summarize/outline = the main points are required, not details 
    Trace (usually historical questions) = give a brief description of the logical or chronological stages of development. e.g. theory, process, a person's life 

    [adapted from Hamp-Lyons, L. & Heasley, B., Study Writing (Cambridge: CUP, 1987), p. 141]

  2. Choosing
    1. Make sure you understand all the words/phrases in the title. Use an encyclopaedia or dictionary to check words or ideas unfamiliar to you. Don't be put off initially by them - these titles, especially if a little longer, may be easier to handle.

      Check the meaning of any instruction words. If there are no instruction words, see which ones are implied. If this is difficult, then leave this title to one side.

    2. Choose one or two titles and 'brainstorm' - choose topic, focus, ['wh' questions]. See what you already know and what you need to know (this will direct your reading) in order to answer the question. Key words will do, not whole sentences. Remember space. What can you do in X words? Distinguish key (main) ideas from those of secondary importance. Underline or use highlighter or a similar system.
    3. Make a preliminary plan of the body (see Order of Writing).
    4. Use 'key issues' - information you need and don't have or don't have in enough detail. Probably you have a list of sources already given to you. Use the indexes in books to find which pages can give you the information you need. (This is usually quicker than just using the 'contents' page.) You can also key in 'key' words on the Library index for more sources.
    5. Read in order to find answers to the questions you need to answer to write your essay.

      Remember you get credit for answering the question posed (not doing something else).

Remember the 4 principles of communication

Honesty State only that for which you can provide evidence. Acknowledge all the sources of evidence, whether direct quotation, ideas or summaries of other work.

Clarity Make everything clear to your reader through the structure and organisation of your work - including sections, paragraphs, punctuation as well as grammatical features. Reality Assume your reader is an intelligent non-specialist. Explain what needs to be explained in order to follow your argument but you don't need to explain basic concepts like 'hospital', 'government' (though you might have to define type of government). Relevance Only introduce facts/concepts/ideas relevant to your argument and its main issues. Do not be side-tracked by interesting but irrelevant details.

If you think something is relevant, you need to demonstrate that it is and how it links to the main issues in a logical fashion. Make sure the reader does not have to make assumptions or is left to make their ownlinks. They may not make the same links or assumptions as you have if you have not explained adequately. They will certainly challenge you. This also breaks the principle of clarity.

(Reference: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/languages/1-6-8-6-5.html)


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