How to analyse essay titles and questions

Posted in: essay-writing

One of the main criticisms from lecturers is that students don't answer the question set in the essay.

If you don't address all parts of your assignment question, your mark will be much lower.

It's vital, therefore, that you develop techniques to identify and understand what your tutor wants you to write about so that you can:

  • answer the question given and not some other random question!
  • answer all the parts
  • avoid reading too much
  • write in-depth about the focus topic.

So, here's how to begin:

Break your assignment title into four core elements:

  1. The subject - what's the general topic area? e.g. Human Resource Management or Political Science.
  2. The focus - this is the narrower, more specific topic area within the wider subject. e.g. Recruitment in Human Resource Management or Democratic Systems in Political Science.
  3. The scope (or limits) - this indicates how far you should go within the focus area. In other words, what are the limits of your research and writing.
  4. The instruction words - these are the verbs or action words that tell you what your tutor wants you to do in your assignment e.g. describe, discuss, outline, assess, evaluate and so on. See also Understanding Instruction Words in an Essay Title.

Here is an example of how it works:

Assignment Title: Critically assess the use of Skype interviews in the recruitment process.

The subject: Human Resource Management

The focus: Recruitment process

The scope: Skype interviews (note: depending on the question, you may have to set your own scope and indicate this in your introduction).

The instruction words: Critically assess

Adapted from: Hopkins, D. and Reid, T., 2018. The Academic Skills Handbook: Your Guide to Success in Writing, Thinking and Communicating at University. Sage.






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Posted in: essay-writing