It is important to read your academic tasks carefully so that key words are identified. These words will direct the approach you must take to complete your assigned task. Become familiar with these terms and your understanding of set tasks increases.
A number of the most commonly used Directive Words and their meanings are listed below.
To give reasons for; to explain why something happens
To examine in very close detail; to identify important points and chief features
To present the case for and/or against a particular proposition
To weigh something up and to consider how valuable it may be
To identify and to write about the main issues, giving your reactions based upon what you have read or heard in lectures. Avoid purely personal opinion
To show how two or more things are similar; to indicate the relevance or consequences of these similarities
To give the main characteristics or features of something, or to outline the main events.
To bring out the differences between two items.
To list or specify and describe.
Assess the worth, importance or usefulness of something, using evidence. There will probably be cases to be made both for and against.
To clearly express why something happens, or why something is the way it is.
To show similarities and connections between two or more things
To give a concise account of the main points only, omitting details or examples
To follow the order of different stages in an event or process
To check out and report on the accuracy of something
To give the exact meaning of; where relevant, to show that you understand why the definition may be problematic
To examine thoroughly from different viewpoints
To give the meaning and relevance of information presented
To give evidence which supports an argument or idea; show why decisions or conclusions were made, considering objections that others might make
To concentrate on saying what happened, telling it as a story
To give only the main points, showing the main structure
To demonstrate truth or falsity by presenting evidence
To write about the most important aspects of (probably including criticism); to give arguments for and against; to consider the implications of
To set two or more items or arguments in opposition so as to draw out differences; to indicate whether the differences are significant. If appropriate, give reasons why one item or argument may be preferable
To give your judgement about the merit of theories or opinions about the truth of facts, and back up your judgement by a discussion of the evidence; to show the good and bad points of something, looking at any implications.
To look at a subject in depth, taking note of the detail and, if appropriate, consider the implications.
To make a survey of; examining the subject critically
To give the main features in very clear English (almost like a simple list but written in full sentences)
To make something very clear and explicit by providing examples or evidence
To what extent
To consider how far something is true or contributes to a final outcome. Consider also ways in which the proposition is not true. (The answer is usually somewhere between ‘completely’ and ‘not at all’)
To weigh arguments for and against something, assessing the strength of the evidence on both sides. Use criteria to guide your assessment of which opinions, theories, models or items are preferable