How to Write Better Assignment Answers

When you are given an assignment, the first step is to make sure that you understand what is being asked of you. Compare the meanings of the following assignments:
  • List the advantages of using compost in the garden.
  • Describe the uses of compost in the garden.
  • Explain how to use compost in the garden.
  • Discuss uses of compost in the garden.
  • Evaluate results of using compost in the garden.
  • Research use of compost in the garden.
  • Describe the composition of compost used in a particular garden.


Each of these tasks requires different kinds of information, and different ways of presenting that information.

 List the advantages – write as many advantages as you can, without discussing them.  Eg. recycles waste materials; is inexpensive to produce; provides essential nutrients etc.

Describe the uses – describe different ways that compost is used (eg. mulch, digging into soil to improve soil quality etc). Note that ‘uses’ is plural, so describe more than one way.   Eg. Compost can be used as a mulch spread over the surface to prevent moisture loss etc.

Explain how to use – give instructions for compost in the garden. Include instructions for the different main ways that compost is used. Include why the compost is handled in this way.     Eg. Compost should be used only when it is fully decomposed, otherwise, the decomposition  process can burn and damage tender roots. Spread a medium layer (between 4-6 inches) of compost..

Discuss uses of – discuss means to give a general overview of the main opinions on the topic, such as pros and cons, different approaches, perhaps some historical uses, and different ways of using compost.     Eg. While some gardeners will only use home-made composts, others are quite happy using one of the many commercially-available composts. So far, there is little research to indicate that one is better than the other, so the main advantage of home composting might just be its recycling.

Evaluate uses of – give evidence and information that allows you to compare and form opinions on the effectiveness of composts, the effects of different kinds of use (as a mulch or a soil conditioner).   Eg. Research conducted by the CSIRO shows a marked increase in soil quality….On the other hand, their research also shows that over 50% of home composts are poorly made and unsanitary.

Research use of – the key terms here are ‘research’ and ‘use’. Research means gathering information, evidence, examples, statistics, case studies, and expert opinions on the topic. “Use” is different to ‘uses’. ‘Use’ is a general noun like ‘medicine’ or ‘oceans’. Therefore, you are being asked to find out in general information, such as what percent of people use composts, which countries use it most, what it is mostly used for, industry use and so on. “Uses” is a more specific term meaning how it is used.   Eg. Compost has been used by many cultures since ancient times. In general, however, it was in its most basic form, either as food waste dug directly in the soil, or as human waste applied on top of the soil. In modern times, compost has been manufactured to create a more balance and sanitary product. Use of manufactured composts is not widely spread, though it is rapidly gaining popularity among farmers and gardeners all over the world.  

Describe the composition of compost used in – here, you are being asked to do a case study using one example. Give detailed information that allows the reader to see exactly how compost was used, and its affects.