Center for Writers - Resources

KEY WORDS IN ESSAY QUESTIONS


COMPARE - Bring out points of similarity and points of difference. Compare the
            legislativebranches of the state government and the national government.
 

CONTRAST - Bring out the points of difference. Contrast the novels of Austen and William
            Makepeace Thackeray.
 

CRITICIZE - State your opinion of the correctness or merits of an item or issue; criticism may
            approve or disapprove. Criticize the increasing use of executive agreement in
            international negotiations.

DEFINE - Give the meaning of a word or concept; place it in the class to which it belongs and
            set it off from other items in the same class. Define the term "archetype."
 

DESCRIBE - Give an account of; tell about; give a word picture of. Describe the Pyramids of
            Giza.
 

DISCUSS - Talk over; consider from various points of view; present the different sides of.
            Discuss the use of pesticides in controlling mosquitos.
 

ENUMERATE- Name, one after another; list in concise form. Enumerate the great Dutch
            painters of the seventeenth century.
 

EVALUATE - Give the good points and the bad ones; appraise; give an opinion regarding the
            value of ; talk over the advantages and limitations. Evaluate thecontributions of
            teaching machines.
 

EXPLAIN - Make clear; interpret; make plain; tell "how" to do; tell the meaning of.
            Explain how man can, at times, trigger a full-scale rainstorm.
 

INTERPRET - Make plain; give the meaning of; give your thinking about; translate. Interpret
            the poetic line, "The sound of a cobweb snapping is the noise of my life."
 

ILLUSTRATE - Use a word picture, a diagram, a chart, or a concrete example to clarify a
            point. Illustrate the use of catapults in the amphibius warfare of Alexander.
 

JUSTIFY - Show good reasons for; give your evidence; present facts to support your position.
            Justify the American entry into World War II.