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Writing

Instruction words on assignments

There are some keywords commonly used in essays, tests and examinations. Failure to take note of these words may result in misreading the topic. Below are some words that recur in assignment or question tasks. Many written assignments require you to outline, describe, and define your topic, as well as interpret, analyse, and discuss it.

Analyse
Break a subject into its component parts and examine the different elements carefully and critically.
Argue/Argument
Present a reasoned case in support of an assertion or claim.
Clarify
Make something clearer, and where appropriate, simplify it. For example, explain a complex process or theory in simpler terms.
Comment on
Give your own opinion about something, supported by reasons and evidence.
Compare
Identify the similarities and differences between two or more things. Say if some of the shared similarities or differences are more important than others. Compare and contrast will often feature together in the same question.
Contrast
Similar to compare, but concentrate on the dissimilarities between the two things. Point out any differences that are particularly significant.
Criticise/discuss critically
Weigh up the different sides on an issue and arrive at a conclusion.
Define
Give the exact meaning. Break a subject into its component parts and examine the different elements carefully and critically.
Describe
Outline the main features or qualities of the subject.
Discuss
Examine, evaluate, weigh-up and consider all aspects of the topic under discussion. The discussion must go beyond description.
Enumerate
Specify key points by numbering them.
Evaluate
Assess or consider the merits or shortcomings of something. It is usually helpful to break your subject into parts and offer ongoing assessment as well as an evaluation in your conclusion.
Examine
Inquire into something. Break a subject into its component parts and examine the different elements carefully and critically.
Explain
Make plain, clarify, and illustrate the meaning of something.
Illustrate
Make a subject clear through the use of diagrams, practical examples, and figures (or other information).
Interpret
Draw out the meaning and significance from the information.
Justify
Provide the evidence which supports your ideas and points of view. You need to consider opinions that oppose your own before stating your conclusion. 
Outline
Provide the main general features, facts or general principles.
Relate
Tell, recount to establish the relationship/connection between things.
Summarise
Give a brief, concise account of the main points of something.
With acknowledgements to Dorothy Spiller