Key Words for Critical Thinking, Editing + Essay Questions

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Learning how to learn and how to think are two keys tools writers need.

I received these key words in eighth grade from Mrs. Maffei at Saint Francis Catholic School in Sonoma. (Yes, a Jewish girl got some Catholic school.)

Mrs. Maffei had us writing essays and using these key words to answer the questions in depth.

Even though I received this list over 30 years ago, I still use the concepts in my nonfiction writing today.

I hope they will help you in your writing too.

Image by www_slon_pics from Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons.

Key Words

1. COMPARE

Look for qualities or characteristics that resemble each other. Emphasize similarities among them, but in some case also mention differences.

2. CONTRAST

Address the dissimilarities, difference or unlikeness of things, qualities, events, or problems.

3. CRITICIZE

Express your judgement about the merit or truth of the factors or views mentioned. Give the results of your analysis of these factors discussing their limitations and good points.

4. DEFINE

Give concise, clear, and authoritative meanings. Don’t give details but make sure to give the limits of the definition. Show how the thing you are defining differs from things in other classes.

5. DESCRIBE

Recount, characterize, sketch, or relate in sequence or story form.

6. DIAGRAM

Give a drawing, chart, plan or graphic answer. Usually you should label a diagram. In some cases, add a brief explanation or description.

7. DISCUSS

Determine, analyze carefully and give reasons pro and con. Be complete and give details.

8. ENUMERATE

Write in list or outline form, giving points concisely one by one.

9. EVALUATE

Carefully appraise the problem, citing both advantages and limitations. Emphasize the appraisal of authorities and, to a lesser degree, your person evaluation.

10. EXPLAIN

Clarify, interpret, and spell out the material you present. Give reasons for difference of opinion or of results, and try to analyze causes.

11. ILLUSTRATE

Use a figure, picture, diagram or concrete example to explain or clarify a problem.

12. INTERPRET

Translate, give examples of, solve or comment on a subject, usually gibing your judgment about it.

13. JUSTIFY

Give reasons for decisions or conclusion, taking pains to be convincing.

14. LIST

As in “ENUMERATE,” write an itemized series of concise statements.

15. OUTLINE

Organize a description under main points, omitting minor details and stressing the arrangements or classification of things.

16. PROVE

Establish that something is true by citing actual evidence or giving clear, logical reasons.

17. RELATE

Show how things are related to or connected with each other, correlate with others, or are like another.

18. REVIEW

Examine a subject, critically analyzing and commenting on the important statements to be made about it.

19. STATE

Present the main points in a brief, clear sequence usually omitting details, illustrations or examples.

20. SUMMARIZE

Have the main points or facts in condensed form, like the summary of a chapter, omitting details and illustrations.

21. TRACE

In narrative form, describe progress, development, or historical events from the point of origin.