Skills Hub

De-code the essay title

It is easy to lose marks in an assignment because you have not fully understood the question. Analyse the question before you start planning your work so that you understand what you are being asked to do and make sure that you answer the question. 

Underline key words and question what each one means. If you need to, clarify the title with your tutor.

The title contains basic instructions. Sometimes it is in two parts. Be clear what you are being asked to do.

The Royal literary Fund website contains advice on understanding the question

A mind-map helps generate ideas before you make a formal plan and can reveal links between them. Do a number of different mind maps on key words or themes. Use them as raw material for your earliest thinking.

Example mind map

Mind-mapping software is available here: Freemind, Inspiration, MindMeister

Ask yourself:

  • how the title relates to the module you are studying
  • which lecturers have dealt with this subject
  • what notes you have on it
  • what do you already know
  • who are the key commentators, academics, experts in the field
  • what important texts have been mentioned in seminars, lectures

You won't use all the ideas you come up with in your essay, but you will use some. As your research progresses, you will find it useful to use a mind map again.

The text resources on this page have been adapted from original work by Moira Wilson, copyright 2009.

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