Addressing the Prompt

The first step to effective academic writing is ensuring that you fully understand what you are being asked to write about and who your audience will be. 

Verbs 

First, look carefully at the verb used in the prompt. This is a signal to you on how you write your essay. If you think carefully about the meaning of the verb, it will help you decide on your organization, and you can use it to check that you included all of the necessary information.

Example Prompt Verbs

Content

Next, think about what supporting ideas you would need to include. The prompt may be very narrow because the topic is very specific.

In other cases, the prompt may be very general and allow you space to make personal decisions about what supporting ideas to include.

Always remember to review the prompt throughout the writing process. Rereading the prompt often will help you check that you have included all the necesssary information. It will also help your brain generate new ideas when you are stuck.

Example Content Breakdowns

Constraints

Finally, you should also look at any limitations included in the prompt. Constraints could include

Exercises

Exercise 1: Prompt Analysis

  1. Take a look at these TOEFL Writing practice items from ETS 
  2. Identify the prompt for each writing task.
  3. Discuss what the prompt verb would require the writer to do? How would a successful response be organized?

Exercise 2: Writing Prompts

Choose a topic (content) for your partner to write about. Choose a verb that identifies a specific task. You can use this resource (UARK Verb chart) to help select an appropriate verb for your prompt. Write a prompt and exchange it with a partner. Analyze your partner's prompt for the task and content that the writer should target.

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