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Understanding the question

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Our Academic writing Practical Guide has in-depth support on all aspects of academic writing, including understanding the question and planning your work:

Before you start: understanding task requirements

Meeting task requirements

To get a good mark, you have to complete the assignment that was set! This means answering all parts of the task, staying relevant throughout and using an appropriate structure and style.

For example, if the task is to write an essay critiquing the cultural influence of Star Wars, but instead you write a reflective piece on your own opinion of Star Trek, you won't get a very good grade as you've not completed the assignment that was set.

To make sure your work meets the task requirements:

  • Read the assessment brief carefully! If you have any questions, ask your tutor to clarify.
  • Break down the title/question - see the advice below.
  • Plan your points before you start writing. Have you covered everything? Are all points relevant?
  • Use the style and structure expected for that type of writing.
  • Identify where you need to be descriptive and where you need to be critical:

Breaking down your title

You've been given an assignment title, but what is it actually asking? This activity takes you through the stages of analysing a question, breaking down an assignment title to clearly identify the task.

Choose an assignment title:

Arts & Humanities
Sciences
Social Sciences

Analysing the question - Arts & Humanities

Below is an example question from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities to show you how to analyse a question to ensure that all elements of the task are addressed:

Describe how the presentation of gender in children's literature from the 1950s to the present has changed and critically evaluate how the development of feminist criticism has contributed to this change. Illustrate your answer with examples from the module material and wider reading.


In the above text, select the words or phrases that identify the two broad topics

Submit

Describe how the presentation of gender in children's literature from the 1950s to the present has changed and critically evaluate how the development of feminist criticism has contributed to this change. Illustrate your answer with examples from the module material and wider reading.


In the essay question, click on the specific context you will need to look at.

Submit

Describe how the presentation of gender in children's literature from the 1950s to the present has changed and critically evaluate how the development of feminist criticism has contributed to this change. Illustrate your answer with examples from the module material and wider reading.


Now click on the instructional words or phrases that indicate the tasks which need to be completed - there are three to identify.

Submit

Describe how the presentation of gender in children's literature from the 1950s to the present has changed and critically evaluate how the development of feminist criticism has contributed to this change. Illustrate your answer with examples from the module material and wider reading.


Click on the part of the question which will get you the most marks and therefore should get the most attention.

Submit

Analysing the question - Sciences

Below is an example question from the Faculty of Sciences to show you how to analyse a question to ensure that all elements of the task are addressed:

To what extent have approaches to environmental management contributed to our current position on energy production and use? Evaluate the ways in which these approaches may help to shape our energy strategy for the future.


In the essay question, click on the words or phrases that identify the broad topic you will need to discuss in your answer

Submit

To what extent have approaches to environmental management contributed to our current position on energy production and use? Evaluate the ways in which these approaches may help to shape our energy strategy for the future.


In the essay question, click on the two words which specify the contexts you will need to look at.

Submit

To what extent have approaches to environmental management contributed to our current position on energy production and use? Evaluate the ways in which these approaches may help to shape our energy strategy for the future.


Now click on the phrases or instructional words that indicate the tasks which need to be completed - there are two to identify.

Submit

To what extent have approaches to environmental management contributed to our current position on energy production and use? Evaluate the ways in which these approaches may help to shape our energy strategy for the future.


Click on the part of the question which will get you the most marks and therefore should get the most attention

Submit

Analysing the question - Social Sciences

Below is an example question from the Faculty of Social Sciences to show you how to analyse a question to ensure that all elements of the task are addressed:

Outline the ways in which young people criminally offend in society and how restorative justice seeks to modify such behaviour. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of restorative justice in terms of rehabilitating young offenders and also protecting the public.


In the essay question, click on the words or phrases that identify the broad topics you will need to discuss in your answer

Submit

Outline the ways in which young people criminally offend in society and how restorative justice seeks to modify such behaviour. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of restorative justice in terms of rehabilitating young offenders and also protecting the public.


In the essay question, click on the phrase which specifies the context you will need to look at.

Submit

Outline the ways in which young people criminally offend in society and how restorative justice seeks to modify such behaviour. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of restorative justice in terms of rehabilitating young offenders and also protecting the public.


Now select the phrases or instructional words that indicate the tasks which need to be completed - there are two to identify

Submit

Outline the ways in which young people criminally offend in society and how restorative justice seeks to modify such behaviour. Critically evaluate the effectiveness of restorative justice in terms of rehabilitating young offenders and also protecting the public.


Click on the part of the question which will get you the most marks and therefore should get the most attention.

Submit

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Framing your research question

In this session we look at how to come up with a workable research question with regard to available literature: is there enough information to provide a suitable background? What limits will you need to set? It's a session which is ideal for anyone about to start on a dissertation or thesis. We explore a range of different sources including academic, government and organisational literature.