This document contains all text in the 5 Communication and Research Skills (cars) modules

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With any new assignment, starting with the question is a good idea – before you begin researching and writing.

Understanding exactly what the assignment question is asking you to do is the key to success. Here’s how you can unpack the question:

Unpack the question

You can break down any assignment question into three key components: The task, the topic and the scope.

Say the assignment asks you to:

“Review the scientific evidence for evolution.”

From here you can break up the question into the task, topic and scope.

The word ‘review’ is the task ­­– it’s what you’re being asked to do; ‘evolution’ is the topic of the assignment; and most importantly, the ‘scientific evidence’ part limits the scope of the assignment.

Once you’ve identified the task, topic and scope, you can unpack these three elements further.

Let’s look at the task first:


The task sets out what you’re being asked to do.

In assignment questions, you’ll often see directions such as ‘argue,’ ‘contrast’ and ‘define’; these are ‘task words.’

At university, these task words have specific meanings which tell you what you have to do.

Now let’s look at the topic and scope of the question more closely.

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