A definition essay should do more than just define a word...

A definition essay explains what a specific term means.

Some terms are definite, and have concrete meanings such as book or chair.

Other terms are more abstract and their meaning may depend more upon the person’s point of view.

For example, terms such as love or bravery, may mean different things to different people at different times.

It goes without saying, then, that you need to understand the term before you can define it for others.

Reading the dictionary helps - but don't just copy the definition word for word. You should explain the term in your own words. Also, you might want to limit your term before defining it.

Essential Steps to an Effective Essay of Definition:

  • Specify what term is being defined.

  • Give clear and basic information.

  • Use facts or examples that are clearly understood.

  • Use facts or examples that are not controversial.

Example:

You could write for days about “bravery”. To limit your definition, you should be more specific and write about either “extraordinary bravery,” “everyday bravery,” or “bravery on the battle field”.

Your Thesis Statement

The thesis statement must identify the term being defined and provide a brief, general definition.

Example:

Bravery on the battlefield has been declared to be ordinary men - in extraordinary circumstances - doing extraordinary things.

Sometimes, as in the battlefield bravery example above, the definition can be one that you make up yourself. The simplest way to do this is to define a term by:

  • Function - Explain what something does or how something works.
  • Structure - Tell how something is organized.
  • Analysis - Compare the term to other members of its class.

As always, facts and easily understood examples will give your essay an air of authority. When writing a definition essay, remember to tell readers what term is being defined and to use facts and examples that readers will clearly understand.



To learn more about planning your definition essay click on the preceding link.

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