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Academic Skills - Key words in essay titles

Updated Tuesday, 4 May 2021

When you’re assigned an essay, it’s important to look at the title closely. Understanding key terms is the key to writing effectively.

Here’s a rundown of some common essay title keywords.


Requires an answer that takes apart an idea, concept or statement in order to consider all the factors it consists of. Answers of this type should be very methodical and logically organised.


Requires an answer that sets items side by side and shows their similarities and differences. A balanced (fair, objective) answer is expected.


Requires an answer in which the students describe and give their thoughts on the subject.


Requires an answer that points out only the difference between two items.


Requires an answer that explains the precise meaning of a concept.


Requires an answer that says what something is like, how it works and so on.


Requires an answer that explains an item or concept, and then gives details about it with supportive information, examples, points for and against, and explanations for the facts put forward. It is important to give both sides of the argument and come to a conclusion.


Requires an answer that decides and explains how great, valuable or important something is. The judgement should be backed by a discussion of the evidence or reasoning involved.


Requires an answer that offers a rather detailed and exact explanation of an idea or principle, or a set of reasons for a situation or attitude.


Requires an answer that examines the subject thoroughly and considers it from a variety of viewpoints.


Requires an answer that examines the subject thoroughly and considers it from a variety of viewpoints.


Requires an answer that expresses the relevant points briefly and clearly without lengthy discussion or minor details.


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