My Information Skills

Self-paced tutorials on research and study skills for TAFE SA students

Analyse the topic: instruction words

An instruction word (or task word) tells you how to approach your assignment.

What are the instruction words in this assignment?

The Assignment

Discuss how global warming affects the environment. Describe how we can make our environment sustainable.

The main instruction words in this assignment are DISCUSS & DESCRIBE. The meanings of these words are very important to identify before you even begin working on your assignment.

What does discuss mean?

One definition is:

Be analytical. Give reasons for and against. Give the issue some thought and provide an opinion.

Common instruction words
Analyse Break down the issue into parts, discuss them and show how they interrelate.
Assess Consider the value or importance of the issue, paying attention to positive, negative and disputable aspects.
Argue Make a case based on appropriate evidence for and against the point of view.
Comment on Analyse or assess the issue.
Compare Look for similarities and differences between the issues.
Contrast Point out the differences between the issues.
Criticise Make your judgements about the issues and indicate the criteria on which you base those judgements.
Define Make a statement as to the meaning or interpretation of the issue, giving enough detail to allow it to be distinguished from similar issues.
Describe Mention the main aspects of the issue, retell the essential features of a story, or spell out the sequence of events in which the issue occurred.
Discuss Analyse the key issue and possible interpretations. Give reasons for and against and draw a conclusion.
Evaluate Similar to 'assess', consider your opinion on the issue and show the arguments for and against your position.
Examine Present your issue in depth and investigate the implications.
Explain Describe and analyse the issue and give reasons for the issue.
To what extent Explore the case for the stated proposition or explanation, assess and analyse the issue without necessarily coming to a conclusion about whether you accept the statement.
Identify Pick out what you consider the key features of the issue.
Illustrate Use examples and where possible use diagrams, statistics, images or visual representations.
Interpret Clarify or explain, usually giving your judgment or indicating how the issues relate to one another.
Justify Provide reasons for your conclusions or for the statement made in the question.
Outline Indicate the main features of the issue and organise your answer into a clear structure that shows how they interrelate.
Prove Provide factual evidence and proof that leads to your conclusion.
Relate Explain the connection between the issues mentioned.
Review Provide a summary and assess the important aspects of the issue.
Summarise Provide a summary that states the main features of the issue, without comment, criticism or detail on side issues.
Trace Describe and explain how the issue progressed over time.

Definitions adapted from the following sources:
Northedge, A 1997, The good study guide, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK.
Schlegel, N 1995, Research and study skills guide for senior students, 3rd edn, Beri Publishing, Melbourne.
TAFE WA Central 2008, Instruction words in essay questions, TAFE WA, Perth.
University of New South Wales 2014, Glossary of task words, viewed 3 April 2018, <>

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