You might be puzzled by your new definition essay assignment. You know what definition is, but how do you make an entire paper out of it? Do you just write down the definitions from all the dictionaries you can find? Do you write your own? Actually, it has a bit of both and some other things added to the mix. A definition essay is somewhat like an expository essay, but it has its own jam going.
In this blog, we share a guide on how to write a definition paper. Let's break the process down step by step, so it's no longer confusing but doable.
What Is a Definition Essay?
Before we get into the particulars of definition writing, let's define the definition essay format (LOL, we aren't good at puns, sorry).
A definition essay (or extended definition essay) is a piece of writing where you explore the meaning of a concept or idea. To write an entire paper about it, the idea must have some room for interpretation, be ambiguous or difficult to define once and for all.
For example, you can say in one sentence what a brush is. No mystery there. However, with a brush, you can create a piece of art. Now, art is a different thing. What is art? What isn't art? What does the dictionary say? What do you think? What do other people think? What did people use to think back in the day? You see where this is going.
You have to provide your own definition to something that doesn't lend itself easily to clear-cut definitions. That is the main challenge of this assignment type.
Ideas for Suitable Definition Essay Words
Before you begin to write, you should find adequate material to explore. With other classes, you usually get a set of topics to choose from. Yet definition essays tend to be popular in courses like Philosophy, Culture Studies, or Anthropology, where they would like you to come up with the topic. That is because what you choose is almost as significant as what you write about it.
Therefore, to help you out, we have prepared a list of good words for a definition essay. They are here to give you a general idea of what type of concepts are suitable for this assignment. However, feel free to choose anything you like (or anything more related to your course than these suggestions.)
For specific subjects, there can be infinitely more options. For example, for Art History, you can pick an esthetic category to define, like "sublime," "grotesque," or "kalokagathia." For Technology, there is "uncanny valley," "singularity," "disruption," or other concepts that are on the intersections of tech and society.
Definition Essay Structure
Definition essay outline looks a lot like an outline for any other 5-paragraph essay, but there are nuances. In the template we suggest below, we will highlight those differences.
This is one of the biggest challenges, even for students who are good at essay writing. How to start a definition essay? You don't have an argument to prove, so what are you even supposed to have for a thesis statement? Yes, you don't have a point to argue. Still, in the introduction, you could explain the importance of the concept – how it relates to modern life, current social issues, moral dilemmas, human wellbeing, etc. State why you believe it is essential to provide an alternative definition to the one found in the dictionary. This mission statement could be your thesis.
- Dictionary definition(s)
As a starting point, provide a definition from a reputable and current dictionary edition. You may supplement it with other definitions and compare them among themselves.
- Historic perspective
Dig deeper. What the word used to mean a hundred years ago? In the Middle Ages? In the Antiquity? Use etymological dictionaries to trace the transformation of meaning. If possible, find usage examples in literature that demonstrate the change.
- Modernday perspective
This part depends on the word you are attempting to define, your paper's scope and length, and your own preference. You can give your personal take on the concept, interview your classmates and friends, poll people on social media, or do all of the above.
The important thing to remember is not to add any new information. It helps if you see the conclusion as an extended abstract of your paper. Recap the transformation of the meaning. Pick one of the definitions given in your essay as the most fitting in your opinion. Tie it up with the purpose from your thesis statement. For example, "I think this definition is the most relevant since it includes digital aspect, which is growingly important for people today." You can suggest what a shift in meaning says about current culture or about the timelessness of human nature – give your readers some food for thought.
Tips on Writing a Definition Essay
Here are some additional recommendations on how to write a good definition essay:
- Definition essays should adhere to standards pertaining to all academic papers. Make sure you keep the tone neutral and objective. Avoid colloquial expressions and slang unless these are contexts provided to illustrate word usage.
- Properly cite all your sources. This concerns not only books or online dictionaries but also movies, social media posts, interviews, and other contexts from which you may take worduse examples.
- Suppose available definitions are scarce, and you cannot access respondents to poll. In that case, you can build your essay on semantic analysis. Pull the dictionary definition apart and look at the smallest units of meaning it is composed of.
- If you need more practical help, consider subscribing to our premium essay database. The number of available samples, subjects, topics, and perspectives there is staggering. If you cannot find what you need there, it probably doesn't exist yet.
- If your topic is unique and you cannot find any information on it, you can buy custom essays online.
Read Good Definition Essay Examples
Emulating good models is the most natural way of learning. On our website, we have an open database available to anyone. Browse it to find inspiration, useful sources, or examples of definition essays.
If you didn't find anything helpful in our free database, consider ordering a customized definition essay sample. We will match you with a writer proficient in the subject on any required level: high school, college, university, or even Ph.D. We can also help you with topics for definition essays. Browse our blog for suggestions or order personalized help. Have a great day and stay eloquent!