The key concept is usually the main idea in the essay question. A good technique for finding the key concept is to reword the question. Most essay questions will begin with an assertion or contention that you have to examine and either agree or disagree with based on your readings for the topic.
Here is an example. In this sample essay question there is one major key concept:
Critically examine the contention that the globalisation of the world economy is a significant factor causing third world debt and poverty.
The key concept expressed by this essay topic is that globalisation has some responsibility for the debts and poverty of third world countries.
The other common type of essay question is to have a quote, or description of a topic with the essay question following.
Here is an example.
"Although we are sometimes justified in withdrawing or withholding life sustaining treatment from someone who is terminally ill and suffering, we could never be justified in killing such a person (Smyth, 1996: 40)". Critically discuss Smyth's claim.
The key concept of this essay question can been reworded as "it is never appropriate to kill a patient despite the fact that it sometimes may appropriate to remove or deny treatment that would prolong the life of terminally ill patients who are in pain".
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