When assigning a paper, your professor has a goal. Broadly speaking, this goal is critical thinking (and in turn, writing) about the subject you are studying. To help, your professors will create assignments with specific learning objectives.
Your assignments will go beyond knowledge about your topic to correspond with critical thinking skills, such as analyzing and synthesizing. These skills can be applied to any topic.
Identifying an assignment’s learning objective can help you successfully complete the assignment. Below, click on the accordion items and you will find the meaning behind each learning objective, along with assignment activities and text commonly associated with each objective.
What your professor expects: Recall information and present it in an organized manner.
Wording you may find in your assignment: Define, label, list, name, repeat, order, arrange.
What your professor expects: Present information in your own words
Wording you may find in your assignment: Describe, indicate, restate, explain, review, summarize
What your professor expects: Apply the knowledge you have learned to new situations.
Wording you may find in your assignment: Apply, illustrate, prepare, solve, use, sketch, operate, practice, calculate
What your professor expects: Break down knowledge into parts and show relationships between them
Wording you may find in your assignment: Analyze, categorize, compare and contrast, test, distinguish, examine
What your professor expects: Bring together knowledge that exists separately to form a new whole.
Wording you may find in your assignment: Synthesize, Arrange, compose, formulate, organize, plan, assemble, construct
What your professor expects: Use reason and logic; quote or paraphrase to support what you have written.
Wording you may find in your assignment: persuade, Illustrate; provide supporting examples; draw from your source material
|Assignment uses the following directive wording:||When your teacher expects you to do the following:||Cognitive objective
|Define, label, list, name, repeat, order, arrange, memorize||Memorize, recall, or present information||Knowledge recall
|Describe, indicate, restate, explain, review, summarize, classify||Interpret information in your own words||Comprehension
|Apply, illustrate, prepare, solve, use, sketch, operate, practice, calculate||Apply knowledge to new situations||Application|
|Analyze, categorize, compare, test, distinguish, examine, contrast||Break down knowledge into parts and show relationships among them||Analysis|
|Arrange, compose, formulate, organize, plan, assemble, construct||Bring together parts of knowledge to form a whole; build relationships for new situations||Synthesis|
|Appraise, evaluate, conclude, judge, predict, compare, score||Make judgments based on criteria; support or confirm preferences; be persuasive||Evaluation|
|Use supporting examples, cite passages from the text, paraphrase, summarize||Quote or paraphrase to support what you have written; be persuasive||Support by allusion/example|
|Provide corroborating evidence, reference other works, research, cite examples from case studies||Use outside research to support your thesis or hypothesis; be persuasive||Support by research|
Please Note: Keep in mind that assignments often will have more than one objective. For example, an assignment may require you to apply knowledge, but in the course of applying knowledge, you will also have to demonstrate that you can recall that knowledge. In this way, the learning objectives above build on each other. For this reason, the list of objectives above moves from the simplest to the most complex.
When writing for a college class, you will certainly need to remember, comprehend, and apply. These skills are important for acquiring and retaining knowledge. However, college professors want you to go further. As academics, professors argue for a living. In their arguments, they use formal strategies to convince readers and listeners. As part of their teaching, professors want to teach you these strategies of argumentation, and so professors tend to be most interested in the final four objectives listed below.