In order to decide how to answer an essay question, you need to identify what the question requires in terms of content and genre. This guide outlines some methods to help you analyse essay questions.
Analysing a question using key words
Assignment questions can be broken down into parts so that you can better understand what you are being asked to do. It is important to identify key words and phrases in the topic.
What are key words?
Key words are the words in an assignment question that tell you the approaches to take when you answer.
Make sure you understand the meaning of key words in an essay question, especially Task words. As Task words are verbs that direct you and tell you how to go about answering a question, understanding the meaning helps you to know exactly what you have to do.
Content words tell you what the topic area(s) of your assignment are and take you halfway towards narrowing down your material and selecting your answer. Content words help you to focus your research and reading on the correct area.
Limiting words make a broad topic workable. They focus the topic area further by indicating aspects you should narrowly concentrate on.
If you're not sure about any aspect of the question, ask your tutor/ lecturer for clarification. Never start any assignment until you know and understand exactly what you are being asked to do.