Writing Center

Understanding Your Assignment


Before beginning an assignment or essay, make sure you take the time to read the topic or question carefully. The topic or question often contains useful hints about the expectations for a particular project.

Key Word Expectation
analyze Separate the key issue into its essential parts and discuss the relevant details. For example, if you are examining a passage in a poem, you might look at repetition, rhyme, images, etc.
argue Take a clear position on a key component of the text in question, or take a clear position on a particular topic. An argument should be debatable and provide a type of answer to an important question relevant to your assignment; however, it is often up to the writer to determine what important question your essay will address.
compare and contrast Show the similarities and differences between two or more things being examined, and then show why the similarities and differences matter.
review Summarize the salient points of a specific text, body of literature, event, or topic.
debate Examine a controversial issue or topic and give the various view points. You should give reasons both for and against the matter at hand.
trace Explore the course, development, or history of a specific topic or event.
define Give the meaning of something and delineate its nature or essential qualities.