Critical Thinking Verbs for Writing Assignments

Writing assignments provide opportunities for students to engage in rich problem-solving to support learning outcomes. Students find such problem-focused assignments particularly engaging. Consider how the following critical thinking verbs in a writing assignment encourage students to engage in complex rhetorical tasks. Deep learning requires actively engaging with content, and each of these action verbs will get them doing just that.

Just as importantly, instructors should explain what each verb means to them. For example, “analyze” in one class or discipline could mean something completely different in another context. Analyze could mean: determine how individual parts create or relate to the whole; figure out how something works; explain what something means; or justify why it is important.

Critical Thinking Verbs (Partial list)

  • Analyze
  • Appraise
  • Apply
  • Argue
  • Assess
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Construct
  • Contrast
  • Create
  • Defend
  • Describe
  • Design
  • Develop
  • Distinguish
  • Estimate
  • Evaluate
  • Generate
  • Identify
  • Illustrate
  • Infer
  • Integrate
  • Interpret
  • Introduce
  • Justify
  • Model
  • Outline
  • Plan
  • Propose
  • Prototype
  • Recommend
  • Reflect
  • Relate
  • Research
  • Respond
  • Solve
  • Support
  • Synthesize
  • Teach
  • Trace

Below are examples of these action verbs in use. These are only small segments of larger writing assignments.

Website Article: For this assignment, you will be writing for the website of the community farmer’s market in Oxford, OH. Your task is to synthesize current research on the benefits of a varied diet for the website visitors. By synthesizing, you are expected to integrate multiple sources (at least four) into conversation with one another. In other words, you should not summarize each source paragraph-by-paragraph.

Design Proposal: In this writing assignment, you will recommend a plan for the redesign of the interior of the Howe Center for Writing Excellence. Based upon your observations, in-class readings on interior design, and the provided information about the HCWE, propose the best solution for remodeling, defend why it is the best solution, and justify any costs and efforts that would go into the redesign.

Policy Analysis and Recommendation: For this major assignment, you will research one problem facing non-western societies that we discussed in class. You will learn more about this problem through library research, finding peer-reviewed academic articles, and sources that pass the CRAP test. Your paper will have three sections. First, you will analyze the problem using the five perspectives learned in class, using specific, cited examples from your sources. Next, you will identify and explain several policy options, and finally recommend a final policy to address the problem.