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Glossary of Typical Terms
In this class and in future college courses, many assignments will describe the types of writing that are expected. If you're not paying attention, you may end up providing the wrong type of information because you didn't pay attention to the specific verbs that spelled out the instructor's expectations. This glossary provides some quick definitions for common writing tasks that you can expect in your college courses.
If you're asked to SUMMARIZE something, that generally means that you should provide a brief, unbiased version of the text's main argument an d main points. A summary presents someone's writing on its own terms, which means that your opinion generally does NOT belong in a summary.
If you're asked to ANALYZE a text, you should be looking for ways to BREAK THE TEXT DOWN into smaller parts and then explain how those parts WORK. Sometimes you may be asked to analyze a text IN RELATIONSHIP to a framework or theory that you've learned in that class (like SWOT, literary devices, building codes, etc.). In ENGL 1010, for example, Paper 1 is primarily an analysis paper, since you're asked to break down an author's "moves that matter." In other words, "the moves that matter" are a type of framework that help you be more attentive to audience, purpose, structure, evidence, and tone.
Like analysis, EVALUATION also requires you to break something down into smaller pieces. However, evaluation also expects you to put a VALUE on the thing(s) you're studying. If you're asked to evaluate a new pair of running shoes based on the factors of comfort, fit, affordability, and durability, for example, you'd be expected not only to analyze them but also to rate them (in comparison to other shoes, perhaps, or in relationship to some idealized "perfect" shoe). Paper 1 also requires evaluation, since you're required to explain how well the author's persuasive moves work.
When you're asked to SYNTHESIZE something, that means the instructor wants you to BRING IDEAS TOGETHER. Often this may take the form of comparing two works, like in this example: "What similarities are there between Brown's and Jacob's versions of the Battle of the Little Big Horn?" Good synthesis requires you to think about all of the ways that a text might be like other texts: similar concepts, similar formats, similar styles, similar assumptions/values, similar processes, etc. In ENGL 1010, Papers 2, 3, 4, and 5 will all require you to synthesize ideas from a range of outside sources.
This is a tricky verb, since it can require you to either summarize OR analyze a text. If you're asked to explain the main argument of a text, for example, you might only need to summarize the text. But if you're asked to explain HOW something works, then you may need to analyze (or even evaluate) that concept or thing.
Often you will be asked to respond to a text when the instructor wants to learn how you FEEL about the text. A response assignment may expect you to describe your reactions to the text, your doubts or skepticism about the text, your personal experiences that lead you to like/dislike the text.
Many writing assignments will ask you to combine more than one of these common writing tasks, so it's important that you pay attention to what the teacher wants you to accomplish. For example, imagine that you're taking a literature class and that you've learned about different types of characters in the class. Read through the following in-class essay assignment. How manydifferent writing tasks does the teacher expect? How might you structure an essay that clearly responds to each of these tasks?
Briefly summarize both the Disney version and the Grimm Brothers version of Cinderella. Then analyze the portrayal of the stepmother in each text: What character role(s) does she play (protagonist, antagonist, foil, anti-hero, etc.)? Finally, explain WHY you think the Disney version portrays the stepmother in a different way than the Grimm version.