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Answering Assignment Questions
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Wed, 27-Jul-2005
Rating 6.18
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Answering Assignment Questions. Article by Sue Starfield

In order to decide how to answer an essay question, you need to identify what the question requires in terms of content and genre. This guide outlines some methods to help you analyse essay questions.

Analysing a Question

Assignment questions can be broken down into parts so that you can better understand what you are being asked to do. It is useful to identify the key words in a question.

Key Words

Key words are words in a question that tell you the approach you should take when answering an essay question.
o Task Words tell you what you have to do; the action you need to perform.
o Limiting Words limit and define the essay, making it workable.
o Content Words tell you what the focus is and what you should write about.
Understanding the meaning of words, especially task words, helps you to know exactly what is being asked of you. It takes you halfway towards narrowing down your material and selecting your answer. Task words direct you and tell you how to go about answering a question.

Using Key Words

Look for the keywords in your essay question and underline them. Spend some time working out what they mean. Use the Glossary of Task Words to help you.

An Example Question:

Describe the changes computers have made to education

Task Word: Describe
Task words indicate what you are being asked to do. Task words are usually verbs.

In this question, the task word is describe. If you look up the definition in the glossary of task words, you will see that to describe (in an essay) means 'spell out the main aspects of an idea or topic or the sequence in which a series of things happened'.

Limiting Words: education, computers
Focus words set and define the essay. They are usually about the topic area/s. Limiting words help you to focus your research and reading on the correct area, in this case on computers in education.

Content word(s): changes
Content words define the topic area further, indicating aspects of the topic you should narrowly concentrate on. For example, in this question, you should not just write about computers in education, but focus on describing the changes computers have made to education.

What if I don't have a Question?

If you are given a general topic to research for an assignment, you need to form your own focus. First consider the current trends, issues or debates on the topic (this may require some preliminary research). Then form a focus question that indicates how you will approach the topic. You should also discuss your question with your tutor.

Copyright for this article belongs to University of New South Wales

This document was re-printed with the kind permission of Sue Starfield. Original Source of the article is located here: http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/taskanal.html

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