Academic Skills

Define your terms

In answering an essay question you cannot assume that the reader has the same interpretation of terms that you have. Show that you understand terms and give references to where you have been reading about them. Simply defining terms is not enough to illustrate your understanding so you should give an example or use them in context. For instance in an English Language essay you might say:

Deictic words are those for which specific meanings are fixed ‘by the surrounding text’ (Jeffries, 1998, p76); these are words such as pronouns. For example, in order to interpret the words ‘I am going to hit her’ the listener/reader needs to know the identity of ‘I’ and ‘her’.


In the phrase ‘I am going to hit her’ the words ‘I’ and ‘her’ are deictic because their meanings are ‘established by the surrounding text’ (Jeffries, 1998, p76).

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