Smart words for essays

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Youre asked to make clear something. This often involves a clear line of argument, and usually a number of illustrations to bring the argument alive. Enumerate in principle asks you to put a number to something. In practice youre normally asked to name and list different aspects, giving an explanation. You should always try to estimate the extent of something, having outlined how you reach this estimate. Estimate is a close relative to calculate, but youre also asked to judge and predict. State clearly how you reached your conclusion or estimate.

Its important to illustrate your argument, and refer to established work. Very often your own opinion is asked, usually in form of an evaluation of the different points of view. Look out for key debates that are involved. The statements that come with this process word are often deliberately provocative. Distinguish between is just another process word for differentiate between. Elaborate asks for a discussion in great detail. Always give reasons and include illustrations. Think carefully about which aspects bestessays of a theory or concept are worth exploring in great detail. In this sense, this question often asks you essay to—implicitly—determine the key components of something. Avoid repetitions of the same point. Elucidate is very similar to explain.

smart words for essays

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Be open about the shortcomings beauty or potential dangers of your approach. Differentiate between something and something else is a combination of describe and define. Youre asked to focus on the differences. Often itll be necessary to discuss the similarities, too. Its very common to be given a" or provocative statement, followed by just this word: discuss. Your answer should include an outline of the problems and then evaluate the different arguments or points of view. Weigh up the points for and against.

smart words for essays

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Youre asked to outline the main aspects of an issue or report point of view. Say what something is like. Sometimes the order of events is important. Your answer should always include illustrative examples to bring the argument alive. The structure of the answer is important: dont jump around, picking up bits and pieces on the way. Instead, plan a logical and coherent way in order to cover all the main aspects. This process word often occurs together with others, such as in describe and criticize. Determine asks you to find out something, maybe to calculate or estimate something. You should always describe how you arrive at the answer, including an appreciation of how not to proceed.

In this case your task is to tease out the different understandings and state the different meanings. Your answer necessarily includes an appreciation of the different components, but you should also pay attention to the differences to other concepts: how is it distinct from something else. Precision is important in your answer, and your answer should always go beyond common-sense interpretations. Sometimes youre asked to write for a specific audience, such as a student encyclopaedia, and you should bear this in mind. Demonstrate asks you to show something as clearly as you can. Youll need to use an example (illustration) to this extent. Make sure the illustration is relevant and state clearly how it is relevant. Describe is one of the most straight-forward tasks.

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smart words for essays

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Often you can—and should—link to underlying theories and approaches. These should be included in the evaluation, too. Your answer also needs to discuss the nature and quality of evidence you cited for and against the different views. Always back up your argument with evidence and reasoning. Deduce asks you to reach a conclusion based on something.

Make clear how you reach this conclusion. Define may look innocent, but the devil is often in the detail. Similar to analyze, youre after the components of an issue of concept. You dont want just any definition, but one that discusses the different meanings of a concept, the different ways it can be interpreted. Often, you can link the answer to how different schools of thought use a term.

This process word is sometimes followed by an example or case study, but also a theoretical perspective. Take great care to include these aspects, because youll be (partly) marked on how well you apply whatever the question is to this particular example or theory. Contrast is like a twin to compare. Two or more issues or options are involved, and your answer should focus on the differences. Technically, contrast does not ask you to include similarities, but a balanced answer will include these, too.


Criticize asks for a careful judgement of a statement or point of view. Youre often asked to make statements about the value or truth of a statement. Make sure you point out faults. Its important to state by which criteria of evaluation your answer is guided. Your illustrations should not be of general nature, but specific. If the illustrative examples are not general in nature, too, then say. Your answer will judge the merit of the views included in the statement.

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Be careful not merely to summarize the issue, but include some form of evaluation. This process word asks you to explain the importance of something. Your ability to describe an issue is usually only appreciated in conjunction with a critical argument. Compare always involves two or more issues. Focus on what characterizes the issues, and your answer will include both the similarities and differences. This content word often occurs in conjunction with contrast. Technically, compare is about add similarities, but for a balanced answer youll need to include the differences, too. Your conclusion may include a statement of which of the issues or options discussed you consider preferable. Consider asks you to think carefully about something.

smart words for essays

Characterize is mostly another word for describe. Youre looking for the key dimensions (characteristics) of a concept. Often its ill necessary to compare to other concepts to make clear the limit. Classify is very similar to analyze. The key difference is possibly that this process word explicitly asks you to come up with some sort of classification: a way to divide. You probably want to spend a bit more time on the boundaries, on how the identified dimensions are different. Comment is similar to the content words analyze and assess. Its indeed often considered a combination of the two.

areas that are disputed. In order to provide a credible answer, back up your answer with references and good examples. Even though you may have a good example from your own experience, its usually better to choose a more authoritative source. Calculate asks you to estimate the extent of something. You should take great care to define the key dimensions and determine how they are measured. Weigh up different reasons carefully. In the social sciences, the estimate itself is often secondary to how you evaluate the key dimensions.

Analyze calls for an outline of the components. Take the issue, and break it down (divide) into the parts essay that make up the issue. Your task is not only to describe the different parts of the issue, but also to show (examine) how they relate to each other. Argue is about making a case. Youre often asked to argue for or against something. In order to make a good case, your answer will need to include convincing evidence. Your argument will be more convincing if its logically structured. Even though the question often asks for a one-sided case, dont forget the arguments against: even if its to dismiss them. If you dont agree with the proposition, this is fine: what counts is the case you present.

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On this page you find a list of process words trunk that are often used. This list is in part based on Jordan (1999). The process words are given in alphabetical order. Probably the most common process words are: discuss, describe, explain, compare, evaluate, and criticize. Account for asks for an explanation. Even though it looks similar to give an account of, this process word is rather different. You should give a description with details. The description should clarify the concept, and dont forget to give reasons.


smart words for essays
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Go to Practical Exercises on the Use of linking words and phrases. To that end, this resource will help you prepare and write essays for exams. Most essay questions will have one or more key words that indicate which organizational pattern you.

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