A definition essay, not surprisingly, seeks to define various concepts. Much like an extended dictionary explanation of a word, a concept or term definition paper is probably the smallest of all types, usually taking at least half a page. Despite their size, definition papers still comply with the traditional three-component structure, consisting of an introduction, the main body and a conclusion.
How to Define Something?
The first thing to do before writing any essays of definition is to choose its subject, if it’s not already specified in your assignment. The most popular subjects that are in the focus of a definition essay are abstract intellectual concepts, like “philosophy”, “joy”, or “halo effect”. Many of these pertain to specific fields of knowledge, whether more liberal arts or more science oriented. Whichever is the case, it’s best to choose a concept or term that you’re able to grasp, because if you don’t understand it yourself, it’s going to be hard to explain it to your readers.
The words and expressions that are more general are mostly used only when the author of the essay is urged to view them from a fresh angle. More often that not, though, the words defined in this type of essay need to be special or complex enough to give a writer a lot of space for thinking and developing a new, broader and deeper definition of a concept. This does not mean that you should try to reinvent the actual meaning of the word when writing your essay. That would be an absurd and impossible thing to do, at least in academic, non-fictional writing. A broader definition simply enhances the reader’s understanding of a concept, perhaps showing its connection to other ideas in the reader’s mind that they didn’t see before and incorporating it into various notions in their worldview. That is why the best “candidates” for a definitional essay would be words that have: many different meanings; special meanings depending on the context they are presented in; concepts the meanings of which are arguable or frequently misunderstood; newly born or long forgotten words - simply put, concepts of value and interest.
You cannot add a lot of new information to an idea that is already clearly understood in all its fullness, and so, there is rarely anything valuable that you can find to tell about them in your essay. Therefore, taking everything that has been said into account, keep in mind these two main pieces of advice: 1) instead of wasting your time on common subjects, challenge yourself to have fun exploring more complex things and using abstract terms for definition; 2) instead of just copying or rewriting a dictionary definition, don’t be afraid to explain it with your own words through your vision, to make your own definition.
Never forget that a concept definition essay, like any other kind of expository/explanatory paper, should be based on material that has been properly researched and provided by reputable sources. Ensure that your interpretation of a definition does not defy common sense and barely, if ever, comes in conflict with opinions of others. By the way, a definition for an essay is not always a noun or a noun-based word combination. It can often be an adjective or any other part of speech that has its own meaning, for that matter.
Definition Essay Outline
The general structural pattern of an expository/explanatory academic paper, including a definition essay, remains the same all throughout.
Introduce the term or the concept you’re going to write about. Use an actual dictionary definition of it as a starting point, to give the reader some context and a general idea about the subject. When you write a thesis for a definition essay at the end of the introduction, make a step forward and coat the definition in a more elaborate interpretation. This is the one that the main body of your essay will focus on.
The Main Body
There are many ways to arrange your explanation of a concept here. Each paragraph of the main body may focus on a different meaning of that concept, if it has many; perhaps, you want to go from a narrow definition to broader ones; or you may order the information you give chronologically, following the history of the concept’s popularity or the changes of meaning it has been undergoing. Unless your assignment gives clear instructions, the choice is up to you, the author of the essay.
In conclusion, collect the main points of each main body paragraph and show how they reaffirm the thesis statement. Perhaps, there is a significant role that the subject of your essay plays, or there is a value in knowing its meaning, especially if it’s usually interpreted wrongly by most people. All of this contributes to a good conclusion.
MLA formatting would be good to use for source citing and the essay itself.
How to Write a Good Definition Paper
You have received a task to write a definition essay, and now you’re asking yourself, “How to write a good definitions paper? What exactly should I write about when I write a definition paragraph?”. The following information will answer these painful questions.
An essay or composition meaning defines this essay almost as a verbal analysis laboratory. When it comes to doing the actual analysis of a word, some advise to enumerate all meanings that it has, while others think that it’s wise to mention only the most prominent of them (or the most little-known, depending on the purpose of the essay), because too much information may clutter your paper, thus distracting and confusing the reader.
To create a fuller picture of a concept, you may combine, where applicable, the main aspects it can be viewed in: the official definition; the way people usually interpret it; the way it has been defined by scholars or experts that studied it more thoroughly; how it has been used in specific fields; and your own vision of the concept.
Exposing etymology of the word that denotes the concept under analysis is another useful thing to do so that the reader can clearly understand where this concept came from in the first place. No matter what approach you choose to fill that main body, expound on the subject of your essay in detail, dig deeper and go further than the dictionary does. Describe inherent characteristics of the concept, its components and functions. Show relevance of the subject to the reader’s life experience through examples of its presence in it.
Definition Essay Format
There are also certain guidelines about the manner in which a definition essay should be written. Whether your paper is mainly informative or primarily persuasive by purpose, stick to the chosen style and express facts and arguments accordingly. There should be no contradiction between different points of view and interpretations of the definition you write about, and if there is any, you have to explain the reason why it’s so. No questions should be left without answers.
What is Definition Writing About?
While an explanatory essay should be an expression of objective vision of something - and definitive essay is no exception to the rule - any information written by someone is passed through the filters of their subjective perception of common reality. And so, if you associate term definitions with impartial coolness of dictionaries, do not try to imitate that in your paper. An essay should not sound dry and boring, it should make a good point and inspire the reader to look at the subject matter in a specific way. That is why a definition presented in your own words is beneficial for the essay’s success. In case you have target audience, keep that them mind,write in a manner that would be interesting for them, and concentrate on aspects and meanings they would find most important.
A definition paper could be called a personal definition essay, since it urges the author to render the meaning of a concept in their own unique way. All in all, a definition essay is a space for discoveries. When your are working on it, you can imagine being an explorer swimming in the sea of their mind and sharing revelations in written form with audience. Yes, it’s not always that a definition you explain in your essay is unknown to the reader, but it’s ever so satisfying to find a different way of looking at that definition of a concept and seeing something new in it.