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"What Does the Professor Want?" - Identifying Key Tasks, Terms, and Sources

When students receive a difficult assignment, some do not analyze it fully to understand its requirements. They may, for example, write a summary when an analysis was assigned or fail to use the required number of scholarly sources.

To identify the key tasks of an assignment, try re-reading it with a pen or highlighter in hand and marking the answer(s) to these questions:

  • What kinds of writing are expected?
  • Can this assignment be fulfilled best by writing a narrative, a summary, an analysis, a synthesis, and/or an argument?

College students, of course, may be assigned other kinds of writing, but these are five fundamental tasks. As shown by the sample assignment below, a professor, however, may only imply that a certain task is required:

In 1-2 typed pages, tell about a memorable high school learning experience then explain what do you think is significant about this experience.

What kind(s) of writing do you think this assignment requires?