Often students do poorly on academic tasks we assign (on papers, reports, tests) because they do not actually understand the terms that we are using when we give them directions. A clear definition of terms can help students do better on assignments and speed up the learning process.

The definitions below are also available in handout form in the CTL folder that can be found in the Shared Faculty Folder on Socrates. Please feel free to download it and to adapt it to fit your class and your assignments.

Analyze :

divide an event, idea, or theory into its component elements and examine each one in turn.

Compare and/or contrast :

demonstrate similarities or dissimilarities between two or more events or topics. Both sides are important because dissimilarities help clarify the individuality of each item, while similarities may point to over-arching identities.

Define :

identify and state the essential traits or characteristics of something, differentiating them clearly from other things.

Describe :

tell about an event, a person, or a process in detail, creating a clear and vivid image of it.

Evaluate :

assess the value or significance of the topic.

Explain :

make a topic as clear and understandable as possible by offering reasons, examples, etc.

Summarize :

state the major points concisely and comprehensively.

Adapted from Robert Connors & Cheryl Glenn, The New St. Martin’s Guide to Teaching Writing, 1999, p. 66.