This is a guest blog post written by Jennifer M. Morrison, a Marketing Professional at Ed4Online. Ed4Online is a continuing education provider offering hundreds of online courses in four distinct areas of online education including career training, information technology, professional development and behavioral health training.

If you’ve ever talked with a preschooler for more than a minute, you’ve inevitably been asked the question, “why?” You may tell them a tiger has stripes and a lion does not but they will want to know why that is the case. It’s a question that will be posed to you often during your professional career and one you must be able to answer if you want to succeed. You may suggest to your supervisor that the department implement a new procedure but if you can’t explain the why, your suggestion will most likely be ignored, even if it is an effective and necessary proposal.typewriter-584696_1280

So often teachers and professors at all academic levels are asked why they require their students to write expository essays on subjects, even ones with practical, hands-on application. Expository writing is that which explains and informs the reader. Shouldn’t the teacher already know the finer points of the topic they are teaching? They do, but instructors use writing as a tool to evaluate whether the student not only knows the facts but if they understand the idea being taught.

Writing in an academic setting forces the student to demonstrate that he or she not only knows the key elements of the subject at hand, but that he or she understands the information as well. Knowing an idea can simply be based in rote memory but understanding the idea means the student knows the cause and the mostly likely outcomes of the idea. For example, a person knows there is a glass of water on the table because it can be visualized but to understand it’s there means the observer realizes someone had to fill up the glass with water, and then place it on the table, and it’s most likely someone will drink the water from the glass.

Understanding cannot be taught but it can be measured. When assigned a topic to expound upon in an essay, the instructor wants the student to demonstrate his or her understanding of the facets of the knowledge imparted during the lessons. The student can do so by writing an essay explaining the topic and its applications as if the preschooler was reading it and asking, “why?” or the student could compare and contrast the practical applications of the knowledge against not using it at all or perhaps against another method.

The ability to understand may not come immediately for some students. It can take time and much thought and practice to fully understand a concept. Students must constantly ask and answer the question, “why?” and its follow ups, “how?” and “when?” Academic writing is as much about demonstrating the understanding of a topic as it is practicing the process of understanding.

When you find yourself presenting your supervisor with an idea that will streamline your production process or save the company money you will be asked “why?” Why should the company adjust their procedure? How will this help streamline the process? When would be the best time to implement such a change? If you can answer these questions before you ever make the suggestion, you’ll be sure to make a compelling argument.