Academic Writing Skills Even if you have perfect English skills you will not get top grades for your assignments if you do not answer the question asked. Many students prepare pages of perfect script and are then shocked when they receive poor grades – the usual problem is that they have not answered the question set for them to do. So how do you get this task right? A good answer will always: Follow the specific directions/tasks Identify and address the subject/topic in the question Use the required number of words Identify the main points of the question and include these in the answer • Cite and reference correctly A very good trick is to make sure that you include the words used in the question in your answer. For instance, if you are asked in the question to evaluate something, make sure that answer includes something like “the following evaluation”. You can use the question as the plan for your answer – answer in the same logical order that the question was written. Do not try to re-interpret the question. Academic assignments often use specific words to direct or guide students. These are called ‘direction words’ and they define the boundaries of your answer – these are common instructions and they need to be followed to maximize your possible grade. Below is a useful table of words (University of Canberra, 2007) that tells you what kind of essays you are asked to write. Instructive keyword A question mark An implicit discussion essay – see Discuss Meaning • • • •
Break down the topic into its parts, explain the nature or relative importance of components, definitions or concepts and explain how they are interrelated and why certain outcomes occurred. Express an opinion on the issue or topic. Such an opinion should draw upon both supporting and opposing evidence with your preference clearly stated. Look for similarities and differences between propositions or topics. Identify aspects or characteristics of two or more concepts or entities;...
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