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SPARK: Types of Written Assignments

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.

Types of Written Assignments

While the purposes of different assignments can vary considerably, three of the most common types of written assignments ask you to Describe, Argue or Connect.

Look for specific words in the assignment instructions that signal which particular approach to take. Describe assignments are designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of a particular topic or issue. Argue assignments ask you to advance a particular claim or viewpoint and construct an argument based on evidence. Connect assignments are devised to enhance your understanding of an issue by examining the relationships among its constituent parts, or its connection to other issues.

Describe a topic
Make an Argument
Connect Issues to Eachother

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Signal words include:

  • Define/outline/
    summarize
  • Demonstrate/illustrate/
    show
  • Explain
  • Identify
  • Trace

Signal words include:

  • Analyze
  • Argue/debate/justify/
    prove
  • Assess/criticize/critique/
    evaluate
  • Consider/discuss/
    examine/explore
  • Reflect/respond

Signal words include:

  • Apply
  • Compare/contrast
  • Relate

More Writing Tasks

Analyze/

Outline/

Explain

Separate the matter at hand into key parts/essential elements; break things down, consider the details; identify causes, key factors or features, possible results.

Compare

Note similarities and differences between two or more things

Contrast

Note differences, dissimilarities, tensions between two or more things.

Examine/

Explore/

Investigate

Take a diagnostic approach; inquire or look into closely, perhaps to uncover a hidden motive, theme, etc.; seek out core issues, suggest possible interpretations for solutions

Argue

Take a position on a given subject and support that approach; give reasons for or against something.

Debate

Present opposing viewpoints on a given subject; deliberate; give reasons for and against something.

Evaluate/

Judge/

Criticize/

Investigate

Determine the value or significance of something.

Describe

Depict, present or delineate words; place more emphasis on how something occurs than on why.

Define

Give the meaning of something; present its nature or essential qualities.

Trace

Follow the course, development, or history of something.

Review

Summarize the key aspects of the material at hand.

Document

Like trace, follow the development, course, or history of something, but emphasize the use of written sources, references, and citations in your approach; prove using written support material, concrete sources, and evidence.

Discuss

Comment on, talk over, write about the topic at hand using whatever approach seems appropriate (ie: any of the approaches listed in this chart).

 

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