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This list provides you with some commonly used instruction words and their meanings.

Account for: give reasons for or explain something.

Analyse: break down the main elements of a topic and examine them in depth, looking at the way each element relates to the others and using evidence to support your arguments.

Assess: make a judgement about the value of a particular theory or argument, or the extent to which information is true. Provide evidence to support your judgement.

Argue: express an opinion on a subject, offering supporting evidence in an attempt to convince the reader to accept your point of view.

Clarify: make the meaning of a subject/argument/theory clear by breaking it down into smaller parts and explaining it in simple terms.

Compare: identify the similarities and differences between two or more subjects; examine their importance and evaluate whether some are more important than others.

Comment (on/upon): give your opinion about an issue/topic/problem, supporting it with evidence.

Consider: think carefully about the various aspects of an issue/topic/problem, supporting your findings with evidence.

Contrast: identify the differences between two or more subjects, examining carefully what sets them apart.

Criticise: evaluate the weaknesses as well as the strengths of a given subject, theory or argument, using evidence to support your conclusions.

Critically evaluate: offer your opinion concerning the extent to which a given theory or argument is true or accurate, using evidence to support your claims and examining all aspects of the argument.

Deduce: reach an answer about something by carefully considering the available facts.

Define: give the precise meaning of a word, phrase or theory.

Demonstrate: show how something is true/accurate/untrue etc., using examples and/or evidence to illustrate your point.

Describe: explain in detail what something is like.

Discuss: examine a topic in detail using evidence to make a case for or against a particular argument, arriving at a conclusion.

Elaborate: give more information in greater detail.

Elucidate: explain something and make it clear.

Enumerate: list things one by one.

Estimate: give an approximate value.

Evaluate: judge the value, importance, accuracy or truth of an argument, using evidence to support your judgement (see ‘critically evaluate’).

Examine: look closely and in detail at a given topic, identifying key facts and information about it and explaining why these are important and/or significant.

Explain: make something clear and easy to understand by giving information about it.

Explore: consider a wide range of different viewpoints on a certain topic, questioning them thoroughly.

Give evidence: provide examples from your own work or that of others which can be checked by someone else.

Identify: point out and describe the key points to be addressed in a given topic.

Illustrate: explain something and make it clear by using concrete examples such as quotations, diagrams, statistics etc.

Infer: form an opinion about something or assess the truth of it based on the information available to you.

Interpret: explain the intended meaning of something according to your own judgement.

Justify: use evidence to present a valid argument for a particular view, answering the main objections likely to be made to it.

Outline: provide the main points of a topic, theory or argument, leaving out minor details.

Prove: present evidence to show that something is true or certain.

Review: make a survey of the major points and different aspects of a subject, examining them critically and carefully.

State: specify something in a brief, clear form.

Summarise: give a condensed account of the main points of a topic, leaving out any unnecessary detail.

Synthesise: bring separate elements (facts, theories etc.) together to make a whole.

To what extent: how far do you agree with a particular argument or theory. Use in-depth analysis and evidence to support your response.

Trace: follow the stages of development of a topic from its origin.

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