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Key Essay Verbs

The key verbs used regularly in essay questions

TermDefinition
Give reasons for; explain (note: give an account of; describe).
Analyse Break the information into constituent parts; examine the relationship between the parts; question the information.
Argue Put the case for or against a view or idea giving evidence for your claims/reasons for or against; attempt to influence the reader to accept your view.
Balance Look at two or more viewpoints or pieces of information; give each equal attention; look at good and bad points; take into account many aspects and give an appropriate weighting to those aspects.
Be critical Identify what is good and bad about the information and why; probe, question, identify inaccuracies or shortcomings in the information; estimate the value of the material.
Identify the components of an issue/topic/problem/; make the meaning plain; remove misunderstandings.
Look for similarities and differences between; perhaps conclude which is preferable; implies evaluation.
Conclude/draw conclusions The end point of your critical thinking; what the results of an investigation indicate; arrive at a judgement by reasoning.
Contrast Bring out the differences.
Criticise Give your judgement on theories or opinions or facts and back this by discussing evidence or reasoning involved.
Deduce Conclude; infer.
Define Give the precise meaning. Examine the different possible or often used definitions.
Demonstrate Show clearly by giving proof or evidence.
Describe Give a detailed, full account of the topic.
Determine Find out something; calculate.
Develop an opinion/ a view Decide what you think (based on an argument or evidence).
Discuss Investigate or examine by argument; debate; give reason for and against; examine the implications of the topic.
Elucidate Explain and make clear.
Estimate Calculate; judge; predict.
Evaluate/weigh up Appraise the worth of something in the light of its truth or usefulness; assess and explain.
Examine Look at carefully; consider.
Explain Make plain and clear; give reasons for.
Give evidence Provide evidence from your own work or that of others which could be checked by a third party to prove/ justify what you say.
Identify Point out and describe.
Identify trends Identify patterns/changes/ movements in certain directions (e.g. over time or across topics/ subjects).
Illustrate Explain, clarify, make clear by the use of concrete examples.
Infer Conclude something from facts or reasoning.
Interpret Expound the meaning; make clear and explicit, giving your own judgement.
Justify Show adequate grounds for decisions, a particular view or conclusions and answer main objections likely to be made to them.
Outline Give a short description of the main points; give the main features or general principles; emphasise the structure, leaving out minor details.
Prove Show that something is true or certain; provide strong evidence (and examples) for.
Review Make a survey examining the subject carefully; similar to summarise and evaluate.
State Present in a brief, clear form.
Summarise Give a concise account of the chief points of a matter, removing unnecessary detail.
Synthesise Bring elements together to make a complex whole, draw together or integrate issues (e.g. theories or models can be created by synthesising a number of elements).
Trace Follow the development of topic from its origin.
Created by: cillian.murphy