To write a good essay, you firstly need to have a clear understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do. Looking at the essay question in close detail will help you to identify the topic and ‘directive words’ (Dhann, 2001), which instruct you how to answer the question. Understanding the meaning of these directive words is a vital first step in producing your essay. This glossary provides definitions of some of the more typical words that you may come across in an essay question. Please note that these definitions are meant to provide general, rather than exact guidance, and are not a substitute for reading the question carefully. Get this wrong, and you risk the chance of writing an essay that lacks focus, or is irrelevant. You are advised to use this glossary in conjunction with the following Study Guides: Writing essays and Thought mapping written by Student Learning Development.
To write a good essay, you firstly need to have a clear understanding of what the essay question is asking you to do. Looking at the essay question in close detail will help you to identify the topic and ‘directive words’ (Dhann, 2001), which instruct you how to answer the question. Understanding the meaning of these directive words is a vital first step in producing your essay.
This glossary provides definitions of some of the more typical words that you may come across in an essay question. Please note that these definitions are meant to provide general, rather than exact guidance, and are not a substitute for reading the question carefully. Get this wrong, and you risk the chance of writing an essay that lacks focus, or is irrelevant.
You are advised to use this glossary in conjunction with the following Study Guides: Writing essays and Thought mapping written by Student Learning Development.
|Analyse||Break an issue into its constituent parts. Look in depth at each part using supporting arguments and evidence for and against as well as how these interrelate to one another.|
|Assess||Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter-arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you are in agreement with the original proposition.|
|Clarify||Literally make something clearer and, where appropriate, simplify it. This could involve, for example, explaining in simpler terms a complex process or theory, or the relationship between two variables.|
|Comment upon||Pick out the main points on a subject and give your opinion, reinforcing your point of view using logic and reference to relevant evidence, including any wider reading you have done.|
|Compare||Identify the similarities and differences between two or more phenomena. Say if any of the shared similarities or differences are more important than others. ‘Compare’ and ‘contrast’ will often feature together in an essay question.|
|Consider||Say what you think and have observed about something. Back up your comments using appropriate evidence from external sources, or your own experience. Include any views which are contrary to your own and how they relate to what you originally thought.|
|Contrast||Similar to compare but concentrate on the dissimilarities between two or more phenomena, or what sets them apart. Point out any differences which are particularly significant.|
|Critically evaluate||Give your verdict as to what extent a statement or findings within a piece of research are true, or to what extent you agree with them. Provide evidence taken from a wide range of sources which both agree with and contradict an argument. Come to a final conclusion, basing your decision on what you judge to be the most important factors and justify how you have made your choice.|
|Define||To give in precise terms the meaning of something. Bring to attention any problems posed with the definition and different interpretations that may exist.|
|Demonstrate||Show how, with examples to illustrate.|
|Describe||Provide a detailed explanation as to how and why something happens.|
|Discuss||Essentially this is a written debate where you are using your skill at reasoning, backed up by carefully selected evidence to make a case for and against an argument, or point out the advantages and disadvantages of a given context. Remember to arrive at a conclusion.|
|Elaborate||To give in more detail, provide more information on.|
|Evaluate||See the explanation for ‘critically evaluate’.|
|Examine||Look in close detail and establish the key facts and important issues surrounding a topic. This should be a critical evaluation and you should try and offer reasons as to why the facts and issues you have identified are the most important, as well as explain the different ways they could be construed.|
|Explain||Clarify a topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurs, or what is meant by the use of this term in a particular context. Your writing should have clarity so that complex procedures or sequences of events can be understood, defining key terms where appropriate, and be substantiated with relevant research.|
|Explore||Adopt a questioning approach and consider a variety of different viewpoints. Where possible reconcile opposing views by presenting a final line of argument.|
|Give an account of||Means give a detailed description of something. Not to be confused with ‘account for’ which asks you not only what, but why something happened.|
|Identify||Determine what are the key points to be addressed and implications thereof.|
|Illustrate||A similar instruction to ‘explain’ whereby you are asked to show the workings of something, making use of definite examples and statistics if appropriate to add weight to your explanation.|
|Interpret||Demonstrate your understanding of an issue or topic. This can be the use of particular terminology by an author, or what the findings from a piece of research suggest to you. In the latter instance, comment on any significant patterns and causal relationships.|
|Justify||Make a case by providing a body of evidence to support your ideas and points of view. In order to present a balanced argument, consider opinions which may run contrary to your own before stating your conclusion.|
|Outline||Convey the main points placing emphasis on global structures and interrelationships rather than minute detail.|
|Review||Look thoroughly into a subject. This should be a critical assessment and not merely descriptive.|
|Show how||Present, in a logical order, and with reference to relevant evidence the stages and combination of factors that give rise to something.|
|State||To specify in clear terms the key aspects pertaining to a topic without being overly descriptive. Refer to evidence and examples where appropriate.|
|Summarise||Give a condensed version drawing out the main facts and omit superfluous information. Brief or general examples will normally suffice for this kind of answer.|
|To what extent||Evokes a similar response to questions containing 'How far...'. This type of question calls for a thorough assessment of the evidence in presenting your argument. Explore alternative explanations where they exist.|
Dhann, S., (2001) How to ... 'Answer assignment questions'. Accessed 12/09/11. http://www.education.ex.ac.uk/dll/studyskills/answering_questions.htm
The following resources have also been consulted in writing this guide:
Johnson, R., (1996) Essay instruction terms. Accessed 12/09/11. http://www.mantex.co.uk/samples/inst.htm
Student Study Support Unit Canterbury Christchurch College (no date) Common terms in essay questions. Accessed 22/02/08. http://www.wmin.ac.uk/page-2714
Taylor, A.M. and Turner, J., (2004) Key words used in examination questions and essay titles. Accessed 12/09/11 http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/studyadvice/StudyResources/Essays/sta-planningessay.aspx#answering
What is an essay? Interestingly, but the majority of students gets confused or even stressed the very moment they are asked to come up with this piece of academic work.
- Firstly, an essay evaluates an issue, with the purpose to present your personal academic opinion on a given subject.
- Secondly, each type of writing is designed to convey a certain message and perform a certain function.
- Thirdly, you have to take various viewpoints into account, organize them properly & reflect the informed opinion on the topic.
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10 Most Common Essay Types to Feel Quite at Home in Academic Setting
Descriptive Essay | Definition Essay | Compare and Contrast Essay | Cause and Effect | Narrative Essay | Process Essay | Argumentative Essay | Critical Essay | Expository Essay | Persuasive Essay
An essay is like an empty canvas. So, fill it with vivid and clear ideas! Vivid picture + clear understanding are your top priorities.
These Are the Top Types of Essay Writing
#1 Descriptive Essay, or "What’s This?"
A descriptive essay describes whatever one likes, sees, feels, makes or how it works, happens, sounds, tastes, smells – from the beautiful flower in a vase to the process of honey-making by bees. Descriptive essays provide every sensory detail of what is actually described.
DESCRIPTIVE ESSAY EXAMPLE
#2 Definition Essays, or "Love Is…"
A definition essay defines the true meaning + importance of abstract concepts, timeless values, specific terms.
Definition essays explain deeper & more directly than dictionaries.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for definition: speaking about (this), in other words, (or) rather, moreover, in fact, on the one/the other hand, above all.
GET IDEA TO WRITE YOUR DEFINITION ESSAY
#3 Compare & Contrast Essays, or "Spot the Difference/Similarity!"
A compare/contrast essay explores either differences or similarities (likenesses) between 2 places, religions, people, things, concepts, etc. Comparison/contrast essays focus on the similarities and/or differences, which is done to convince or entertain the reader. A compare essay reviews the similarities, a contrast essay reviews the differences.
TOP 30 TOPICS FOR COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY
#4 Cause & Effect Essays, or "How It Comes"
A cause/effect essay explains the way why things happen, how it comes & what follows next. Cause/effect essays resemble a study of how it all began & what will be the conclusion of all this. This type of essays may address either causes & effects tied together, or each of them alone. For example, 3 effects as a result of 1 cause or 3 causes resulting in 1 effect.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for cause-and-effect: for the (simple) reason that, due to (the fact that), whatever happens, in case, even/only if, as a result (of this), thus/consequently/therefore.
READ A SAMPLE OF A CAUSE AND EFFECT ESSAY
#5 Narrative Essays, or "One Night I Fell to Thinking of the Past…"
A narrative essay always tells a story about a single personal experience – either a boring party or an exciting sightseeing excursion, daily routine event or life-shaping voyage. Narrative essays are generally written in the 1st person, using ‘I’.
#6 Process Essays, or "Step-by-Step Guide"
A process essay typically guides on how to do this or that, how this or that is done. It’s a walkthrough, the so-called ‘stepwise refinement’. Process essays work out in detail, demonstrating specific actions/giving specific instructions to be performed in a series.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for process discussion: in the (first, second, etc.) place, initially, next, eventually, last but not least, finally, in conclusion.
#7 Argumentative Essays, or "5 Watertight Arguments Why You Should Learn to Write Essays"
An argumentative essay functions as a means for a writer to get a solid argument across to a reader. The purpose of this type of essay is to express an argument in order to sway the reader to see the topic through the author’s point of view. It is a useful type of essay for students of any educational level because it is good practice to not only argue a case but also to articulate one’s thoughts on a certain matter.
This type of essay uses stern language, solid facts, and undeniable examples as proof that the argument is immaculate. Without these features, the argumentative essay ceases to flow well and comes across as weak. A good argumentative writer has a solid sense of what he or she believes should be said in any situation. They also have an organized idea of how to articulate the argument against possible opposing ideas.
ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY TOPICS
#8 Critical Essays, or "The Court Delivers a Verdict"
A critical essay brings somebody or something into focus, analyzing the strengths or weaknesses of things, events, people, etc.
Critical essays discuss how well the work is done & whether its creator has managed the task by conveying the message in his/her book, film, painting.
Here are TOP-7 effective transitions for criticism: frankly speaking, with attention to, important to realize, another key point, first thing to remember, most compelling evidence, on the positive/negative side
#9 Expository Essay
An expository essay is an essay that requires extensive research on an idea or issue. The writer must present an evaluation of the issue and the conclusion based on his or her findings.
One of the functions of this essay format is to learn how to conduct a research. Research requires a certain set of skills. It takes a lot of practice to obtain them. Students may want to draw from their own experiences when discussing certain issues they write about. But through expository essay writing, students will find out, that doing research can be rewarding. Expository essay writing brings a new light to an aspect or idea they probably would not have come to on their own.
Expository essays are opinion based essays, so there are no wrong answers when presenting it. However, expect this essay type to be at least 5 paragraphs in length.
READ A SAMPLE OF AN EXPOSITORY ESSAY
#10 Persuasive Essay
Unlike the argumentative essay, the persuasive essay’s main purpose is to persuade readers towards the author's case. Argumentative essays express an argument or opinion. They are not meant to change the reader’s perspective.
Most persuasive essays focus on current issues and what people should do about them. Persuasive essays can be really challenging. Students must show confidence and authority in their writing. They must come across as credible writers. When a persuasive essay loses its credibility, it will ultimately lose the reader.
In everyday life situations, charm allows a person to easily persuade another one. Since a persuasive essay is a written piece, it lacks that personal connection. So, the writer should present strong views to sway their readers and do not come across as pushy.
Most writers and persuasive essay authors are able to find their own personal connection to their readers through their writing experience. Many students find this as a challenge early on, but with practice and guidance, they soon write persuasive essays naturally.
30 IDEAS FOR PERSUASIVE ESSAY TOPICS
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