The Language of Analytic Assignments

Learning Objective

  • Identify the domain of analysis

Although analysis is ubiquitous in college, students sometimes fail to recognize when they are being asked to apply analysis. Often that confusion stems from differences in vocabulary across different disciplines.

For example, each of the verbs in the following list may denote some type of analysis:

Analyze Deduce Examine Outline
Break down Derive Experiment Point out
Calculate Diagram Identify Probe
Categorize Differentiate Induce Question
Classify Discriminate Inspect Separate
Compare Dissect Infer Simplify
Contrast Distil Investigate Test

Although this list is a good start, these aren’t the only verbs that denote analysis. Another way to tell whether an assignment is asking for analysis is this: If the assignment asks you to determine how the parts of something relate to the whole, how something works, what something means, or why it’s important, the assignment is asking you to analyze.  Below is a list of sample analytic assignments that meet these criteria.

How the parts relate to the whole:

  • Classify problems to identify the appropriate algorithms.
  • Determine how well a feminist interpretation is supported by evidence contained in a work.

How something works:

  • Recognize flaws, inconsistencies, and logical fallacies in an opinion editorial.
  • Distinguish between facts and assumptions in a scientific report.

What something means:

  • Interpret quantitative relationships in a graph.
  • Analyze data/situations to identify root problems.

Why something is important:

  • Assess alternative solutions to the health care crisis.
  • Separate relevant from irrelevant information in testimony.