You need to use question analysis for assignments, exam essays and short answer questions. If you learn the steps for question analysis and take 10-15 minutes to think through the question in this systematic way, then you will have a good start to writing a successful essay—one that pleases the lecturer! The following information can be applied to all question analysis:
Read the whole question twice
It is important that you interpret the question accurately and clearly. First impressions can lead to an error which may fail to meet your marker’s expectations.
Analyse the question
Analysing the question involves looking for and identifying instructions, the topic and any restrictions that may have been place on the topic to narrow the focus.
In most of your university essay questions, you will find one or more instruction words. Instruction words tell you what your essay should do. To interpret the question accurately, you must understand exactly what these words mean.
Topic words are usually easy to locate. They tell you what you have to write about: the subject matter.
Restricting words are words or phrases that narrow the topic and make it more specific.
These example questions have been analysed by identifying instruction, topic and restricting words.
|1. Instruction words||2. Topic words||3. Restricting words|
|What is meant by….||‘economic dualism’||in the Japanese context?|
|Discuss….||the impact of colonial rule on British Burma||before 1870|
Rewrite the question
Once you have analysed the question, check your understanding. Try to rewrite the question in 25 words or less. You should use your own words i.e. the question is asking me to……
Instruction words – what do they mean?
Words such as what, how and why are, of course, commonly used in questions and require little explanation. Other instruction words include those identified below.
|Account for||Give reasons for something.|
|Analyse||Focus on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of an issue or topic. Do not simply describe or summarise.|
|Compare||Find similarities and differences between two or more objects, ideas, events or theories.|
|Contrast||Similar to compare, but differences should be emphasised|
|Criticise||Assess the merit of something. Consider both good points and bad points and give the results of your analysis.|
|Define||Give precise meanings with key details. Examples may be useful.|
|Describe||Recall specific details about size, cost, texture, appearance etc.|
|Discuss||Present a point of view after considering both sides of an issue or question. Your opinion should be supported by arguments and evidence.|
|Evaluate||Consider both strengths and weaknesses and make a judgement.|
|Explain||Relate how something happens in the order in which it occurs, or, clarify reasons, causes and effects.|
|Illustrate||Use examples to demonstrate a point.|
|Interpret||Express in your own words. Examples may be useful.|
|List||Write your answer as an itemised series which may be in point form.|
|Outline||Provide main points and leave out minor details|
|Prove||Give factual evidence, examples or clear logical reasons which demonstrate the validity of a statement/idea.|
|Relate||Tell the story in clear sequence, or, show how things are connected or similar to each other.|
|Review||Examine a subject critically, analysing and commenting on the main points.|
|State||Present the main points in brief, clear sequence.|
|Summarise||Give the main points or facts in condensed form.|
|To what extent||Consider both sides, make a judgment and defend it. Similar to evaluate or discuss.|
|Trace||Relate the progress, development or history of a subject.|