Good old Nietzsche; blunt as ever.
This observation is especially apposite to the task of essay writing. It is almost too obvious to state that our primary purpose when we write an assignment is to address the title. Unsurprisingly, 'addressing the question' tops the list of London Met’s core assessment criteria for essays, more specifically, 'the relevance of the content of the essay to the question or title set'. I quote,
"Good essays select relevant material (knowledge, concepts, interpretation, theoretical models, others’ perspectives). Better essays make it clear throughout how the material is relevant to the question".
Yet in the time I’ve been working as a writing mentor, a large proportion of students have brought me essays which either tangentially address the question or which answer a completely different (usually unstated) one. I’ve done it myself, too. Often.
Since I know that meandering from the true path is a strong tendency of mine, I take decisive steps to nip it in the bud at an early stage. What you see on this page of the Wiki is the first strike in a two-pronged attack. I find that writing down this kind of very simplistic, naïve analysis of the question helps me hover my attention over the appropriate areas while I do my research (I picture my attention as a small helicopter, one with a transparent bubble cockpit). This is very helpful when the chaotic process of generating ideas is at its zenith. Even in the most extreme mess, I never lose sight of what it is I’m supposed to be doing.
What I wonder is whether this sort of wandering off the point is common when students are routinely required to generate their own assignment title. Here in the UK, the same title is usually set for all students on a particular course. There is something a bit contrived about this, I feel, and it does seem to be an idea which guarantees a greater than necessary level of pain and boredom for students and markers. So, a question: in North America, where I understand it is the norm for students to develop their own assignment titles, is failing to address the question a significant problem?