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Interpreting an essay topic

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Read the following essay topic from a sociology subject:

In the last 20 years, rates of divorce have risen significantly in Western countries. Critically analyse some of the different explanations given for this phenomenon. In your discussion you should consider what implications these explanations might have for social policy.

Which words or phrases do you think are particularly important in working out what the topic is about?

Tick the checkbox next to the important words below.

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This proposition is central to the essay topic. Clearly the essay will need to be concerned in a general sense with the subject of 'rising divorce'. It is also important to note those terms which limit the subject in some way, in this case to a particular place (Western countries) and to a particular time (the last 20 years).
To critically analyse is a common instruction in essay topics. In broad terms, critically analyse means to assess the value of some entity with respect to its strengths and weaknesses. This entity may be a theory, a policy, an argument, a piece of research etc. In the case of this essay topic, what needs to be evaluated are the different explanations given for rising divorce.
Note that the word phenomenon refers here to 'rising divorce'. This means that the essay will need to be concerned with explaining why divorce rates have risen. Different explanations suggests that different analysts have come up with a variety of reasons for this happening.
Implication is another common term. Implications can be thought of as a set of ideas that follow on in some logical sense from a preceding set of ideas. In the case of this essay, the preceding set of ideas are the explanations for rising divorce. What is required then is that students consider what social policies might 'follow on' from each of the different explanations considered.
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