CoverObjectivesThe Writing ProcessAddressing the PromptPrewritingWritingRevisingOriginalityEssay Shape and OrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsA Shifting StructureExample EssayUsing SourcesFinding SourcesCitationsQuotingSummarizingParaphrasingReference PagePersonal StatementsExample Personal StatementTypes of Personal StatementsOrganization for Comprehensive Personal StatementOrganization for Personal Statement with PromptRevisionExample Personal StatementCause-Effect EssaysExample Cause-Effect EssayPrewritingWritingRevisingRevise a Cause-Effect EssayArgumentative EssaysExample Argumentative EssayPrewritingWritingRevisingOther Genres of WritingTimed WritingTOEFL Independent WritingTOEFL Integrated WritingStudent Choice (Pick Two)Creative WritingFormal EmailsReflectionsReviewsRefining WritingDevelopmentUnityCohesion

Addressing the Prompt

One of the most essential steps of writing is ensuring that you fully understand what you are being asked to write about. 

Verbs 

First of all, the verb used in the prompt is an important signal to you on how you need to 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 Prompts

  • Describe your home city.
    • This topic is more general. You could approach it by describing the people who live in your city, history, architecture, popular tourist sites, or even the urban planning. If you had the opportunity, it would be wise to clarify with the teacher if there is a more specific explanation of what aspect of your city should be described. 
  • Compare and contrast your home city and Provo, UT.
    • You need to explain similarities and differences. You must include both in order to completely respond to the prompt. This requires you to do a little more than describe the characteristics of the two places, you need to also make some judgements about them.
  • Summarize the speaker's thoughts about Provo, UT.
    • In this response, your supporting ideas should be limited to the content in the original source. You should not have any of your own ideas mixed into this answer. It should also be limited to the opinion about the city, not about any other area in Utah.
  • Many cities in the United States do not have reliable, widespread public transportation. Do you think college towns, such as Provo, UT, should be required to provide public transportation for the students? Support your position on this issue with reasons and examples.
    • The question is about more than your opinion. The idea of supporting your ideas implies that you need to bring in additional sources to add strength to your argument. If the prompt is timed, you would need to focus your support on general knowledge or personal experience to give reasons and examples.

Content

Next, you need to understand what content you are expected 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 to make sure that the focus of your essay matches the same scope as the prompt.

Example Content

  1. Describe your home city.
    1. This topic is more general. You could approach it by describing the people who live in your city, history, archetecture, popular tourist sites, or even the urban planning. If you had the opportunity, it would be wise to clarify with the teacher if there is a more specific explanation of what aspect of your city should be described. 
  2. Compare and contrast your home city and Provo, UT.
    1. Again, this topic is fairly broad. You know you need to talk about what is the same or different, but it could again be about many different attributes of the two cities.
  3. Summarize the speaker's opinion about Provo, UT.
    1. In this response, your supporting ideas should be limited to the content in the original source. You should not have any of your own ideas mixed into this answer. It should also be limited to the opinion about the city, not about any other area in Utah.
  4. Many cities in the United States do not have reliable, widespread public transportation. Do you think college towns, such as Provo, UT, should be required to provide public transportation for the students? Support your position on this issue with reasons and examples.
    1. The content of this essay is restricted to public transportation accessibility for college students specifically. Your focus should only be on this population and the unique environment of college towns. Additionally, you need both reasons and examples as support, excluding one of those types of support would result in an incomplete response.

Constraints

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