Teaching How to Analyze an Essay Topic

In my first article entitled ‘How to teach essay writing, I addressed the opening sections of such a teaching session. In that article, I introduced a topic, stated the general objective or aims and discussed the following specific objectives. Students should be able to: ‘Tell how they benefit from essay writing’ and ‘identify the steps or stages involved in the process of writing an essay. In this second article in the series, I explain what is involved in teaching the various steps of writing an essay, introduced in the first article. Specifically, I outline how to teach step 1 which is the analysis of an essay question or topic.

Step 1: Analyzing your essay question or topic

To encourage students’ participation commence with a large or whole group discussion question: Do you think it is important to analyse your essay question, if ‘NO’, say why? If “YES” say why? (Give students 3 seconds to think!).

  • Make a note of students’ suggestions and summarize and tell the students or visually display the summary of their suggestions.

Here are some reasons for a question or topic analysis to share with the students (if necessary).

  • Gives you a clear idea of what the question is asking.
  • Gives you an idea of what your teacher is looking for
  • Gives you a chance to begin to include your own thoughts

How to analyse the question:

  • Identify the keywords or concepts of the essay title. These are what you will need to research, that is, what you are expected to write about.
  • Identify any built-in assumptions in the essay title.
  • Note limitations such as length of essay(1500, words or 500 words or a period of time included in a question such as, ‘Examine keyboard improvisational techniques during the baroque period’)

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