Skip Navigation
Skip to Menu Toggle Button
Online Guide to Writing and Research

Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

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. 

Learning Objectives and How to Spot Them

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.

Learning Objective Verbs and Their Meaning

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.

Learning Objectives & Skills of Argumentation

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.

Thinking Strategies

  • Analyze

  • Synthesize 

  • Evaluate

  • Persuade 


Key Takeaways

  • Familiarizing yourself with learning objective verbs, their meaning, and keywords to look for in your assignment instructions will provide a better understanding of what is expected of you
  • In the pages ahead, we will consider each thinking strategy outlined above and explore how these strategies can help you address your assignments.

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. © 2022 UMGC.
All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing