Learning Skills
- Speaking vs writing
- Strategies for academic success
- Academic skills
- Language skills
- Notetaking
- Abbrev & Symbols
- Understanding Lectures and Notetaking
- Academic Writing
- Academic Essay
- Understanding Assignments



Be sure you know what kind of writing or research task your lecturer is assigning. Below are some common words that are used in assignments and essay titles, with a brief definition.

  • Analogy-provide an example of a similar condition, circumstance or event
  • Apply-use what you have already learned in one context and apply in another context
  • Argue- persuade or convince your reader of your position on a topic
  • Analyse-discuss and or describe how various component parts operate in combination or independently
  • Classify- locate items of information into distinct classes, types or categories
  • Compare/contrast-provide the major similarities and/or differences between things
  • Describe-provide a detailed description or account of something
  • Define-give an explanation of the meaning and or function of an object or concept
  • Discuss- bring together (in form of an opinion or summary) the points of view you have encountered in your reading and elaborate on them before reaching a conclusion.
  • Evaluate-decide on the effectiveness of a particular feature of the text you have read and determine with the help of supporting evidence whether it meets the established criteria
  • Examine: critically discuss the essential elements under examination
  • Illustrate: make a point with the help of visual representation or concrete examples
  • Justify: provide a logical rationale/reason for the choices made
  • Outline: provide the surface parts only
  • Summarise: put the main ideas into your own words.


Think about the aims of your essay, the type of essay question and the type of information you are using, and then chose the best way of organising your paper. Below are some different ways of structuring your paper.

ANALYSIS: Breaking a large subject into smaller parts to help clarify the nature of the parts or to clarify the links between the parts.

CHRONOLOGY or SEQUENCE: Ordering events or steps in a process as they occur in time.

PROBLEM/SOLUTION: Posing a problem and then 1) explaining how to solve it, or 2) examining different possible solutions.

COMPARISON and CONTRAST: Showing the similarities and differences between two similar concepts, or showing the advantages and disadvantages of each issue.

CAUSE and EFFECT: Focusing on the various contributing causes leading up to a particular effect or event, or on the various effects stemming from a particular cause or event.

HYPOTHESIS and SUPPORT: Presenting a particular viewpoint and justifying it with supporting evidence, arguments, refutations, or counter arguments.

CASE STUDY: Using a particular example to help establish, prove or disprove a generalisation.


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