Description, Theory, Application and Analysis – How to Develop Strong Answers



Description sets the scene for an answer and it is a necessary component, but it is unlikely that description alone will get you a pass.  Take the following, for example:

Many organisations today use a formal risk management process to identify, analyse and mitigate risks.  Company ABC is one such example.

As you can see, this is largely scene-setting description, onto which analytical components can then be built.



Theory, in the context of CSMP® is similar to description.  Theory also sets the scene for the analysis to follow.  Theory needs to be referenced so that the assessor can ensure that the student has used the correct area(s) of the Unit Textbook or supporting document(s), as in the following example.

If the likelihood or anticipated consequence of a risk is considered very low organisations can choose to accept it (Unit 1, p26).

Many tasks in CSMP® will require either description and/or theory to set the scene for the answer, but an answer based on these components alone will be considered incomplete.



Key to producing an acceptable answer is application.  The application may be to a case-study provided, or to an organisation of your choosing. The task will determine which.  For example:

In the case of Company ABC risk is managed to as low as reasonably practicable by the application of risk-commensurate and cost-effective security measures, which include…….



What sets apart a CSMP® Level 6 proficient student is the ability to analyse.  Some students come from educational backgrounds or have undertaken courses in which it is sufficient to locate, copy and synthesise theory.   Since CSMP® is open book, this tells us little about the student’s proficiency, other than that (s)he has sufficient short term memory capacity to copy text, and with computers the memory function can be taken over by a 3rd party!

Analysis can be defined as an examination and evaluation of information by breaking it into its component parts.  Analysis takes theory and supporting application and seeks to:

    • Break down ideas into their component parts to find something that isn’t obvious.
    • Add detail to the discussion through observation and dissection.
    • Add insight, interpretation and context (especially with intelligence analysis).
    • Get to the underlying meaning.
    • Answer the questions, why, how, to what end, how successful, what are the pros and cons etc.
    • Establish cause and effect relationships.
    • Solve problems.
    • Find unexpected contradictions.
    • Challenge accepted norms.

Always page reference analysis back to the underpinning theory. for example:

"company XYZ's current standard online application form requires candidates to upload a copy of a certificate from all educational/course activities they add to their CV. This step seems to be somewhat aligned with the recommendations given by ISMI (U3, p44) and  CPNI (GPG, p28), but the further recruitment process does not take into consideration the need to verify e.g. documents or requesting originals in as CPNI recommends (GPG, p28)." 


Further Reading


Critical Analysis

Regular analysis is different to critical analysis.  At later stages of the programme you will be expected to provide critical analysis.  Links to help you understand and improve critical analysis can be found at  /resources/learning-zone/critical-analysis.aspx