Understand Essay Titles Better With 3 Quick Questions – TUB-Thump 013



“You haven’t answered the question.”

Has a tutor ever said this to you?

Hopefully they went into more detail than that. But what is really behind the advice to make sure you actually answer the question that’s been set?

In Episode 013 of TUB-Thump, I’ve got a brief method of working out what a question means. It’s a quick process, and you should get used to it over time.

Essay questions have keywords and details. It’s easy to pick up on the keywords.

Your exercise is to deal with the details too. Stuff like reference and structure. Points that are easy to gloss over when you spot a keyword and think you know loads about that particular area.

It feels good when that light-bulb goes off in your head and you can think of loads of great points to make before you’ve even started writing.

But then…the assignments aren’t:

  • “Wordsworth…Wax lyrical about all you know.”
  • “The history of food…How much can you regurgitate?”
  • “Human geography…What facts can you uncover?”

Today’s episode looks at the three quick considerations that will get you looking at essay questions in more detail.

Here are the show notes for the 7-min episode:

  • 01:15 – What is the essay question actually asking you to do? Assess, discuss, describe, list, analysis, was X right or wrong…find the top-level reason for the question that’s being asked.
  • 02:00 – What is the question referring to specifically? Find the context and the relevant reference points.
  • 03:00 – What clues can you find from the question’s structure? Has the question been written as a challenge to a popular opinion? Is it asking you to look at several different angles rather than give a single perspective? You can often find clues within the questions to help you in writing a great answer.
  • 04:15 – If the question feels misleading after you’ve asked these follow-up questions, ask for clarification. And see if you can describe the question’s meaning in your own words.
  • 05:10 – Summing up the main points from the episode. Your questions should only take you a few minutes to unpack. And they can help you get started quickly once you get used to the process.

Music for TUB-Thump is Life, by Tobu, which is released under a Creative Commons license. Check out more of Tobu’s great sounds on Soundcloud, YouTube, and his official site.

TUB-Thump is part of the Learning Always Network.

Keep being awesome!