A guide to writing short responses
This guideline will help you develop good techniques in writing short responses.
A guide to writing reports
This guideline will help you develop good techniques in writing reports.
A guide to writing an extended response
Many students find writing extended responses very difficult, but it is easier than you think. Most of us have ideas; our trouble is being able to express them. Even to get them down in a logical order can be a problem.
This guideline will help you develop good techniques in writing extended responses.
In order to do this, you will need:
Remember you will never be asked to write down all you know about a particular topic. Rather, you will be asked to answer a specific question.
Instruction Words (directive verbs)
A common type of question may ask you to:
It is important to know exactly what you are being asked to do with each of these instructions. A full list of directive terms can be found at the end of this guide. We will begin with the simple ones first.
|Describe||Of “all” the instructions, ‘describe’ is probably the easiest. It requires you to give the reader a visual impression of something. It mainly tests your memory of facts and does not require you to interpret these facts. It is important here to list, in order, the main points (characteristics and features).|
|Analyse||Identify components and the relationship between them draw out and relate implications|
|Explain||Means to give reasons for, the cause of and perhaps the effect of something. This does not mean that you should say ‘what is’ but ‘why it is so’ or ‘how it came to be so’. You may need to give a brief description of the facts first, but the main emphasis must be on interpretation.|
|Discuss||This is a very common instruction. It requires you to present a point of view and to support that point of view by using knowledge of the topic as evidence. You are therefore required to think carefully, not just rely on your memory. A ‘discuss’ question is asking ‘What do you think?’ ‘What can be said for and against’, and ‘What is your opinion?’ The facts must be used to support a point of view.|
|Compare||The ‘compare’ extended response involves pointing out similarities and differences between two things. A good approach to this type of question is to take point by point and show where each is similar and where each differs. It is essential that a real comparison is made and that both parts are given equal treatment.|
Analysing the question
Since you are not going to be asked to write down all you know about a topic, you should ask yourself:
‘What out of all I know is relevant material to be used in answering this question?’
You can’t decide what is relevant and what can be left out without carefully analyzing the question first. Therefore, when confronted with a question resist the temptation to pick up your pen and start writing. Instead ask yourself:
‘What am I being asked to write about?’
In the following example the instruction words have been underlined and the key words have been bolded.
Select a developing country that you have studied. Describe how the people are affected by theenvironment.
Deciding what is relevant
The most common fault of all extended responses is not answering the question or not answering all parts of the question.
Having clearly understood what the question is asking you to write about, your next step is to decide what is relevant to the question. You could consider it this way.
Selecting the right material takes practice. Gradually you will gain confidence and know what is relevant, and of equal importance and how far to expand each of the ideas you have. You need no knowledge of the topic to be able to analyse the question, but you do need a wide body of knowledge before you can begin selecting appropriate material. That’s why you are encouraged to read widely.
Remember some questions ask you to interpret material, to offer an explanation of not just what happened but why. Ask yourself ‘What evidence will I need to support my point?’ It is important that you realise the difference between the essential points of your argument and the factual evidence you use to support it. The essential points are your interpretations; the evidence is the facts, which can be checked.
Planning the extended response
Taking just a few minutes to plan your extended response, even under examination conditions, is never wasted. A plan, which may only be a list of key words, helps you to recall information and avoid repetition. It also assists you by giving your written response structure, and by ensuring that your arguments are logically sequenced and well written.
As you write your extended response, constantly refer back to the plan and cross off each of the points as you proceed. This process can often stimulate the recall of ideas that you may have forgotten. These can now be included as inappropriate.
As you complete each paragraph, quickly read over it before proceeding onto the next point in your plan. This will ensure that you only include relevant information and that you answer the set question. While writing you should be constantly asking yourself ‘Am I answering the question?’ Reading over the paragraph will also enable you to quickly correct any obvious errors that might otherwise detract from the quality of your response.
Writing the extended response
An extended response has three parts: an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
The introduction should ‘set the scene’ for the reader by introducing the main ideas and significant points on which your arguments are to be developed. It is often useful to include in the introduction the key words used in the question. It is also important to clearly and concisely define the key geographical terms and concepts being addressed by the question.
In examinations it is very important to write a good introduction. The examiner will very quickly determine whether or not you are on the right track. Your introduction should not be too long; it should merely repeat the question.
The body provides the detail of your argument or information. Each paragraph should include one main point or idea that contributes to the development of your argument. This main point or idea is usually summarized in the opening sentence. The rest of the paragraph should expand on the main point by way of explanation or example. Each paragraph should be placed in an order that best develops your answer.
In Geography it is quite acceptable to use subheadings and numbered points wherever appropriate. Each set of points must, however, be introduced by a formal sentence and each individual point should stand as a formal sentence where required.
Maps, diagrams and models can also be a very effective means of developing your arguments and demonstrating your knowledge and understanding of the topic. If a map is included it should have some indication of scale and include a north arrow. It should be included within the extended response, not at the end, and reference to it made in the text of the response.
References to fieldwork and case studies should be included wherever appropriate. These enable you to apply your experiences and knowledge to the explanation of geographical phenomena.
You should provide an answer or extended response that balances different viewpoints and perspectives. Substantiate your arguments with appropriate evidence, such as case study examples and avoid sweeping false generalization.
The conclusion draws together your arguments and ideas. It should focus on the point of view express in the introduction the response. Be careful to avoid contradicting what was written earlier.
Dos and Don'ts
Reference: Grant Kleeman: A Geography of Global Interactions