Analysing essay topics
Note any words of direction
- These might include: discuss, discuss critically, discuss the importance of, assess, justify, evaluate, analyse.
Understand the essay question
- Make sure you know the precise meaning of every word in the essay question. Use:
a) your general dictionary for unfamiliar words such as
intrinsic, core values
b) a subject-specific dictionary, for example the APA Dictionary of Psychology, for
academic words such as
proof, random sample, significance level.
Think about the different parts of the question
- Decide how many parts the question has.
- List the areas you will probably have to research. It may help to write yourself a brief task description: "First find out what a market niche is, then see what significance this has for marketing. Next…"
- On some topics you already have some general knowledge. To develop your own viewpoint, try breaking down the topic into questions. For example:
- If you are having difficulty getting started, brainstorm the topic by thinking about it as broadly as you can and jot down what comes to mind.
- Make a mind map (or some rough notes) of your ideas. Add to this map as you research the essay. Try not to be overwhelmed by other writers' views: recording your responses to what you read is a good way to develop your own opinion (see QuickRef 11 for more information on brainstorming and mind-mapping).