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Step 1: Analyse the Question

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There are generally two types of essays: argumentative essays and explanatory essays.

In an argumentative essay, you are expected to put forward an academic argument in answer to the essay question and support your argument with academic sources (references).

In an explanatory essay, you are expected to explain or describe a process or topic in answer to an essay question and support your argument with academic sources (references).

Regardless of the type of essay you are writing, it is very important that you understand what is being asked of you before you begin researching and writing your essay.

If you are given a question:

You must be sure that you understand all parts of the question and what the question is asking you to do. You must be able to recognise the 'task words' in the question, which tell you what you have to do (for example, 'discuss', 'compare', 'analyse' or 'argue') and the 'key words' in the question, which tell you what you are being asked to write about (for example, Critical Thinking or the roles of registered nurses).

If you have to write your own question:

If you are writing an argumentative essay and you need to write your own question, you must write a question that invites (or allows) you to make an argument. For example, a question that would invite an argument would be 'Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?' Questions on the same subject that would not invite an argument, but rather an explanatory essay, would be 'What are two definitions of Critical Thinking?' or 'Describe two definitions of Critical Thinking'.

If you do not understand the question, what should you do?

First, check your course information booklet or course website for more information on the assessment. Check your lecture notes, textbook, other course information and recommended readings to see if this information helps you to understand what is being asked of you. If you still do not understand the question, ask your tutor or lecturer for help straight away. If you cannot understand the question, then you will have significant problems trying to answer it. This needs to be addressed immediately, before you begin your research and writing.

This information relates to only the first step of academic essay writing. Please ensure that you read the remainder of the articles in the series How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time. Don't forget that the final stage is to have your essay professionally edited by one of our academic editors to ensure it is presented in the best possible way. Essay editing can help to improve your grades significantly! You can read more information about our essay editing service here.

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