How to Analyse an Essay Question

In order to write an essay that answers the essay question effectively, you first must be able to analyse the essay question. Firstly, you should know the kind of essay you are expected to write. There are two main types of essays: explanatory essays and argumentative essays. An explanatory essay, as its name implies, is an essay that explains or presents a certain topic in a descriptive way conveying the information in detail. This type of essay does not require the writer’s opinion, argument, ideas or criticism. In an argumentative essay, the writer’s opinions are needed. In this type of essay, you must include information about the topic and your own argument, personal ideas or viewpoints on the topic. When writing an argumentative essay, you need to demonstrate both the knowledge you have regarding the topic, and your analytical skills. In order to know what kind of essay you are going to write, you must be able to understand what the essay question is asking you to write about. There are usually task words in an essay question, for example, ‘explain’, ‘discuss’, ‘argue’, ‘analyse’ or ‘compare’. The essay questions will also contain key words that will help you understand more about your essay question. For example, the essay question ‘Explain the state of world politics between World War I and World War II’ is asking you to write an explanatory essay with descriptive details on world politics during that time. If the essay question asks you ‘Are there feminist aspects in Renaissance art?’, answering this question will require you to express your opinion and argue a viewpoint on the topic. In cases when you are not given an essay question and must write your own question, you should consider which type of essay you are going to write or are being asked to write. If you will write an argumentative essay, your essay question should be one that allows you to express a point of view, i.e. it should invite or allow you to make an argument on the topic. For an explanatory essay, your question should ask you to describe or explain something, for example, ‘What are the main characteristics of Renaissance art?’ If you do not understand what the essay question is asking you to do, it is advisable to check your course information booklet or website. Textbooks, lecture notes and recommended books may help you to get some ideas of the answer for your essay question. Your tutor or lecturer can help you if you really do not understand what the question is asking you to do. Do not hesitate to consult with them right away to address the problem before you can begin researching and writing your essay.

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