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A Research Guide: Understand Your Assignment

Introduction to Research at the Rohrbach LIbrary

Understanding Assignment Words

When you receive an assignment, take a look at the words your professor uses. See below for a better understanding of what those words mean.

Account for: explain and give reasons for something or clarify a need for it  

Analyze: Investigate or break information up into parts and explain how the parts relate  

Apply: use assigned details to demonstrate how an idea works in a particular situation  

Argue: use appropriate evidence, reason, and proof to make a case for something; account for different viewpoints  

Assess: discuss the value or importance of something; note any opposing viewpoints or varying values given from previous assessors    

Classify: categorize; divide a larger group into distinguishable sub-groups  

Comment on: Identify and write about the main issues; use analysis to give your reaction or assessment of something   

Compare: Look for the similarities and difference between two things.   

Contrast: Identify the differences between two items or arguments; explain any significance  

Criticize: point out mistakes, faults, or weaknesses; weigh the value or truth of something as it relates to criteria used for judgement   

Critically evaluate: consider and describe how valid and reliable something is; weigh arguments for and against it; assess the strength of any evidence on both sides of an issue; voice your opinion in a logical way based on your evaluation of the evidence   

Define: state the exact meaning    

Describe: provide a detailed explanation or account for something; include relevant characters and events  

Discuss: describe in detail different ideas and opinions and any implications they have for your topic; Investigate or examine through descriptive argument  

Evaluate: assess and give your judgement about the merit, importance, and usefulness of something using evidence to support your argument   

Examine: look closely into something and describe in detail the condition and complexities of it  

Explain: describe in detail why something happens or is the way it is; reveal relevant facts and justifications  

Explore: examine thoroughly; discuss a topic from a variety of viewpoints  

Identify: highlight, name or list  

Illustrate: make something clear and explicit, give examples of something; diagram, map, graph, or provide illustrations to explain something  

Interpret: clarify or explain something in relation to your own ideas and/or the perspectives of others  

Justify: give evidence that supports and argument or idea; show why a decision or conclusions were made  

Methodology: a system of methods or principles for carrying out a task or research  

Objective: what is to be achieved by doing a certain activity  

Outline: list the main points or features; show the main point of something without going into details   

Prove: use evidence and logic to demonstrate the truth of something; provide the facts and process of thought that leads to a valid conclusion  

Reconcile: show how two apparently opposed or mutually exclusive ideas can be seen to be similar in important respects  

Reflect on: thoughtfully investigate something and then share your thoughts about it  

Relate: describe how two or more things are connected   

Review: examine and assess or critically appraise a topic or information  

State: give the main features briefly and clearly  

Summarize: briefly state the main points or features; omit details and examples  

Synthesize: connect facts and ideas to form new information; combine parts to create something new  

To what extent (usually followed by what you are to examine): discuss your topic in relation to how far or how much  

Trace: outline and explain step by step 


What IS your assignment?

Video created by Sonoma State University Library