To explain the reasons for, giving an indication of all relevant circumstances. Different from "Give an account of" which is more like "Describe in detail".
To examine the main issues.
To give reasons for and against.
To make a judgement on the merits and significance of an argument or theory.
To look at and identify similarities.
To consider differences.
To take a challenging attitude to what you read, hear and observe, and be able to develop robust and cogent arguments of your own, either in writing, speaking or in decision making contexts, and to be willing to act on this, not just academically, but in the ‘real’ world.
To make clear, mark distinctly, specify limits.
To give an account of.
To consider or examine by argument and explore solutions; to debate; to examine key points, and arguments for and against.
To determine the significance or worth.
To study carefully or critically; to test knowledge.
To centre on or describe specifics or aspects only.
To ascertain the origin, nature or definitive characteristics of.
To present a clarification, example, or explanation.
To provide the meaning of; to give an explanation.
To demonstrate or prove to be just, right or valid.
To give the main features or various aspects of.
To examine and look at, or look over again.
To express in concise terms.
Take a look at the document above giving examples of essay topics and see if you can pick out the directional or instructional words, and then check if you've got them right by looking at the answers document.
Which stage are you at? View these slides to help you decide what you have to do next:
Key concepts or keywords:
The key concepts are highlighted in this example essay topic:
|"Discuss the impact of advertising on young people's purchasing decisions".
To identify key concepts, think beyond the specific words mentioned in your essay title. You will also need to:
These are discussed in detail below.
To define your topic and identify a range of key concepts it is best to state it as a question.
Ask questions such as:
This helps you assess whether you have enough background information on your topic.
Here are examples of searching questions you can ask to find out more about your topic “Discuss the impact of advertising on young people's purchasing decisions”:
|How does advertising impact young people's purchasing decisions?
|What do advertisers understand regarding consumer behaviour? What are the known impacts or influences of advertising on this section of the population?
|You should also think of keyword variations or alternative concepts for the keywords you have selected.
|teenagers, tweens, adolescents, youth
|buying decisions, purchasing behaviour, buying behaviour
|advertise, advertisers, advertisments
What are relationship or identification words? They:
These words inform you as to what type of information your topic requires, for example whether it is:
|"Discuss the impact of advertising on young people's purchasing decisions"
In this example, the word 'impact' helps you relate your two key concepts (advertising and young people) together. In your essay you need to focus your discussion on how advertising impacts young people and influences their purchasing decisions.
As with directional words, you usually don't search for information on relationship words. Rather, they tell you what you need to focus on in your essay.
Here is another example of a question from a Social Policy module with the relational words highlighted:
"Describe and account for changes in policy for the care of infirm older people over the past two decades".
Step 1 - Divide your topic into key concepts:
Step 2 - For each of the key concepts above think of possible keyword variations:
1. or or
2. or or
3. or or
4. or or
Step 3 - Now put it all together:
Concept 1: or or
Concept 2: or or
Concept 3: or or
Concept 4: or or
Now that you have selected your key concepts you are ready to start looking for information on the topic. The next unit will explain how you can use these key concepts to find academic information using the library's resources. It will explain how you can enter your key words into electronic resources such as databases and the library catalogue to find journal articles and other relevant information on your topic.