Key Words and How to Proceed



(Remembering previously learned material, e.g., definitions, concepts, principles, formulas,recalling information)

Who/ How Many/ Describe/ When/ Define/ Name/ Where/ Count/ Recite/ How Much/ List/ Identify
Show / Recognize/ Recall/ State/ Visualize


To give major features of something.To give the physical or non-physical qualities or characteristics of something.To indicate what a thing is, what it is composed of, or when and where it occurred.


To give the meaning of a term or concept.

  • A definition may be simple or complex. The available techniques for definition include examples, synonyms, antonyms (opposites), etymology (words history), or dictionary definitions.


To make a list of something's component ideas, aspects or parts.

  • give a listing

sequencing map
expanded string of events
Step chart


(Understanding the meaning of remembered material, usually demonstrated by explaining in one's own words or citing examples, translating, interpreting, and extrapolating)

State in you own words / What does this mean? / State in one word / Is this the same as? / Explain what is happening / Indicate / What restrictions would you add?/What part doesn't fit? /Read the graph, table /Translate/ Outline/What exceptions are there? /Which is more probable?/Summarize/ Calculate/Which statements support? /Match/ Paraphrase/ Rephrase /Differentiate/ Summarize


To explain something clearly and concisely.

  • present in brief, clear form


To give a concise account, omitting details or examples


To give a historical overview of something, or to describe its main ideas or parts.

  • give the important features of a subject


To show something.

  • How you show something depends upon the nature of the subject matter. To show something, you might provide evidence, clarify the logical basis of something, appeal to principles or laws as in an explanation, to simply supply a range of opinion and examples.


To show causes of or reasons for something.

  • In science, usually show what leads to what in producing something, thoroughly presenting details of each step.
  • In humanities and often in social sciences, make a list of factors that influence something, developing evidence for each factor's potential influence.


Selecting known information and using it to solve a problem,
to answer a question, or to perform another task. The information used may be rules, principles, formulas, theories, concepts, or procedures.

Predict what would happen if/ Which/ Classify/ Select/ Judge the effects/ Explain/ Tell what would happen/ How much/What change would there be?/ Show in a graph, table/ Identify results of/ Solve /Give an example (illustrate)/ Choose the best statements that apply


To put something into a category with things of a similar type.

  • You might need to defend or explain how you arrived at a category and how one category differs from another.

types of hierarchy maps
example Hierachy map
file system


To argue a position by supporting your claims with factual evidence.

  • give reasons or examples to demonstrate how or why something is the truth so as to support your position or conclusions.


To give examples


To make statements about something.

  • What you do depends upon what the comment calls for, a position, a discussion, an explanation, a judgement, an evaluation, etc. The meaning of comment is determined largely by the context in which it occurs.


Breaking a piece of material into its parts and explaining the relationship between the parts.

What assumptions/ What conclusion can be drawn/ What is the function of/ What ideas justify conclusions/ What inconsistencies, fallacies/ What ideas apply, not apply/ What is the premise/
What's fact, opinion/ State the point of view of/ What motive is there/ What relationship between/ What is the theme/ The least essential statements are/ Implicit in the statement is the idea that / What persuasive technique/ Why/ What's the main idea, subordinate idea/ What does the author believe, assume/ What statement is relevant, extraneous to, related to, not applicable





To break into parts.

  • Look behind the surface structure of your source material.
  • Identifying main idea: identify the central element; for example, the hierarchy of key ideas in a message or line of reasoning.
  • List the components of the whole.
  • Determine how individual parts create or relate to the whole, figure out how something works, what it might mean, or why it is important. Identify relationships and patterns: recognize ways in which elements are related and explain the relationship between them.
  • Be able to recognize relationships such as cause and effect, even if it's unstated in what you read. Look for underlying assumptions and question their validity.
  • Identify errors: recognizing logical fallacies and other mistakes and, where possible, correcting them.
  • Connect and write about parts according to purpose of question: describe, explain, criticize, etc.

    Spider web


Compare and Contrast

To give similarities and differences of two or more objects.

  • Make a list of bases for comparing and contrasting. For each basis, judge similarities and differences. You may supply details, examples, etc., that will support and clarify your judgement.
  • Assess overall similarity or difference.
  • Determine significance of similarities and difference in connection with the purpose of the comparison.
    types of diagrams
    Double cell diagram
    Venn Diagrams
    Comparison Matrix





To give reasons for one position and against another on something.

  • Make a list of bases for comparing and contrasting.
  • Make a list of reasons for position on something. Make a list of reasons against another position on something.
  • Fill out reasons, objections, and replies with details, examples, consequences, logical connections to support or clarify each pro and con
  • Refute objections to your reasons for and defend against objections to your reasons against.
  • Take a side and defend it with evidence against the other side.

    Tools to help you organize your ideas:

    Persuasion chart (pdf format)

Producing something original after having broken the material down into its component parts.

Create /Propose an alternative/ Make up/ Design/ Choreograph/ Solve the following/ Plan/ Choose/ State a rule/ Formulate a theory/ Develop/ Predict/How would you test/ Imagine/ Compose/ How would you design an experiment which investigates...?


To build a pattern from diverse elements and invent a new or different version.

  • Put two or more things together that have not been put together in class or in your readings before; do not just summarize one and then the other, and say that they are similar or different--you must provide a reason for putting them together that runs all the way through the essay.


Using a set of criteria, established by the student or specified by the instructor, to arrive at a reasoned judgment.

What judgments can you make about ...? / Compare and contrast ...criteria for ...? Judge/ Select/Choose/ Decide/ Justify/ Debate/ Verify/ Argue/ Recommend/ Assess/ Discuss/ Rate/ Prioritise/ Determine



To make a survey, examining the subject critically


To give a reasoned opinion about something, usually in terms of the merit of a particular work, idea, or person.

  • Determine use, goal, ideal or whatever, from which you can judge something's worth.
  • Develop examples, evidence, contrasts, details, and the like which support your judgement and clarify your reasoning.
  • State your opinion of the subject as good, bad, or some combination of the two, with examples and reasons.
  • Summarize your opinion of the subject and measure it against something.

Adapted from various sources:

Bloom's Taxonomy

Online Guide to Writing and Research -[]

OWL - Online Writing Lab, "Understanding Essay Topics: A Checklist" []

Daniel J. Kurland "How the Language Really Works: The Fundamentals of Critical Reading and Effective Writing" []