A common form of university assessment is the essay
. The purpose of essays is for you to demonstrate
your understanding of certain key concepts associated with your course and communicate this
understanding in a formal, structured way
. Essays involve more than simply repeating information from your
readings and lectures. They require analysis rather than description, as well as an evaluation of the material and the formation of an argument or interpretation of the set topic.
Your first task is to analyse the question you have been set. This analysis of the question then shapes your research, your note taking and the structure of the essay paper.
Analysing the question involves identifying three kinds of words that you would find in most essay questions:
Directive or Instructive words: tell you what to do with the content words
. discuss, compare, contrast, evaluate or analyse
Content words: tell you what the question is about
Limiting words: limit the focus of the question
. a particular time period, theory, place or number.