The academic environment calls for the student to be acquainted with a variety of essay styles to stretch their capability of addressing different topics. So as a student, do not expect your tutor to give you a similar essay assignment as you progress through your studies. One of the essays that you will likely come across is the less obvious definition essay that in most part challenges what you may be used to writing every day. It stretches the usual essay writing technique by requiring the writer to organize their thoughts carefully by balancing academic as well as personal perspectives.
Therefore it often demands a critical thinking of how personal views would be incorporated into the essay and how academic reasoning will be used to relay the thoughts without sounding so bland and unprofessional. Just to note, even though a definition essay may not be strictly academic compared to maybe argumentative essay, it does not mean that the academic “tone” of the composition comes second. The guidelines of academic writing still hold. The question that may be bothering you in this minute is that, what is a definition essay?
Before undertaking a definition essay it is better to know what exactly you are writing before putting anything down on paper. It is important that you fully understand what this type of essay entails to orient yourself psychologically to achieve the best outcome. A definition essay is a type of essay that tries to define a word that is typically not easy to define. Such concrete words such as a bed, table, or marble are easy to define. The chances of having two different people defining such words differently, or making unique illustrations of the same word are most likely zero.
However, there are other more abstract words that are notoriously difficult to explain and have everyone agree with you that the definition you provided is satisfactory. For example, the word “love” may be common. You know what love actually means from a personal level because you have shared it, interacted with it, been shown, or you aspire to show others or even something. But if asked, “what is love” then there is a high chance your explanation will not be suitable for someone else. What would follow is a sort of discussion. Therefore to sum up what a definition essay is, it is an essay that tries to define an abstract word with no agreed definition. It is making an attempt at defining a chosen elusive word by quoting different sources and trying to justify what you think is the correct definition of the word. There are a number of approaches that you could use to develop your essay.
You may be thinking that this type of essay is rather too complex since the word you are defining is also complex. It feels more like taking a complex approach to defining another complex word. However, there are a few ways in which you can write your essay without feeling too restricted to conform to a particular way of writing academic essays. After all, different people have different notion of defining something.
Some may opt for a historical perspective, some opt for its intricate details, and so forth. You have to remember, that writing such an essay expands your academic scope as it concerns such skills as analysis, reasoning, and deduction among others. So in writing your definition essay, chances are that you will be traversing a number of disciplines other than the one you are presently studying. There are currently at least seven approaches that you may choose from when writing your essay as outlined below.
This is the most preferred way of writing this kind of essay because it stretches your writing and demonstrates to your tutor that you are a well-accomplished thinker and a writer. If you take this approach, then you will be trying to break down the word in question from its breadth, length, width, and depth. You try to make you reader grasp every aspect of the word then give them a fitting conclusion.
At times, defining a complex word may only require you to classify the word and your readers will get a clear picture. Answering such questions as “to what category does the word fall?” may most likely enlighten its meaning to the reader even though not as a full analysis would do.
A comparison approach may also be minimalism if compared to a full-fledged analysis. However, you have to know that at times the readers just need to see how the word compares with closely related words, for instance defining “equal” by comparing it with the word “similar.”
In this case, you simply lay out the specific details or attributes unique to the word you are defining. For instance, the word mentioned above, “equal” has such details as similarity, fairness, virtue, generosity, selflessness, peace, and so forth.
If a word is complex, then it could be much better distinguishing it from assumptions that it is not. It is kind of like comparing it to what seems to explain the word but is actually not. Your work is to a clear the air for your readers by guiding them through the confusion that the word is already creating.
In taking this method, you are asking such questions as, “how did the word come to be?” “From what historical theme did it gain significance?” and so forth. The reader would more likely understand how the origins and causes associated with the word shaped its meaning.
Definitions can sometimes be clarified to the reader by writing about the effects that arise due to the word or its category, the results of its everyday use, or how it is used by different people. For example how love affects others, its results when it is shared, or how it accomplishes interpersonal relations could make clear its definition.
Here are examples of words that always invoke heated debates when asked about their true definitions.
If you are keen enough, then you should realize that the above list of abstract words invokes such questions as what is it? Where does it come from? Can it be measured? If so how, and if not, why not? How is it different from other similar words? Why the word is so common yet does not have a standard definition? Trying to find such answers would help you organize your personal thoughts and research into a coherent essay that aims at convincing the reader about your perspective. By now you already have some clarity of what entails a definition essay. The next step is where to begin and how to write it.
Choosing your word: The very first step in writing your definition essay is settling on a word that raises heated debates, for instance, the words in the list given above. The word has to be complex enough to give a length essay and also stretch your thinking as you develop the essay. Just to give an example, “equality” may be a complex word that could help you write a good definition essay. But it may not be as complex as the word “time” that may need you to discuss culture, science, astronomy, humanism, and so forth.
A disputable word: Aside from the fact that your word may be complex, it has to be disputable. The word “contextualization” may sound complex and equally controversial at the same time. However, it cannot invoke a lengthy discussion about defining its meaning if compared to trying to define the word “virtue.” It would be appropriate to choose the latter over the former.
Ensure you are familiar with the word: Definition essays require inputs from both academic research as well as personal views. You would be missing the mark if you get a new word that you have never come across before. Ensure that the word you chose for your essay is a word you have known for a while, have used it, or been in circles where it has been used. The goal is to write a thorough essay that you know will convince the reader even though they may not particularly agree with you.
Find the most basic meaning of the word: Before beginning your research or writing about the word, do some diligence by finding out what the dictionary says about the word. The dictionary does not offer any comprehensive definition of the word, but rather it will provide you with the typical definition used by a majority of people and publications. Consider it a good starting point.
Do some research: This is a critical step in writing a definition essay that carries more academic weight than you might think. Writing a convincing essay using one or even all of the approaches mentioned above calls for research. Research acquaints you with numerous perspectives of the word that will definitely be important in writing an academically sound essay. For instance, you may want to research how different authors define the word or the historical origins of the word to gain a richer insight before you begin organizing your thoughts on paper.
The actual writing process: This is where you begin jotting down your research and experiences with the word as you try to give a definition of your word. Before writing your essay, it is important to get a perspective about its structure and how such a structure serves the function of organizing your thoughts and giving credibility to the whole composition.
A definition essay falls within the circle of academic writing and therefore it conforms to the standards of the same. It is not structurally different from other forms of academic essays that consider entry remarks, an in-depth discussion, and a final word as the standard format.
The Introduction: This is where you introduce your goal to the reader, which is to define a specified debatable term, and why it is necessary to make such undertaking. It is more or less a welcoming paragraph that acquaints the reader with what to expect as they continue reading. You also need to put a thesis statement in the introduction. Your introduction should, therefore, include the widely accepted definition of the word, such as you would find in the dictionary and your proposed definition that you will be writing an essay about.
The Body Paragraphs: After the introduction comes the discussion part where you justify your thesis statement. After delivering your thesis in the introduction, the succeeding paragraphs of your essay will be aiming at specific key points that add more weight in trying to justify your proposed definition. For example, assuming the word you seek to define is “virtue,” your paragraph may be organized as below.
First Paragraph: You may choose to write about how virtue came to be a central discussion in human sociopolitical and economic spheres and how evolution in human society has given it a new meaning.
Second Paragraph: In discussing the modern society, you may analyze how the academically accepted definition of virtue prevails and why such a definition may be deficient.
Third Paragraph: You may write about your experiences with virtue, how, and why you think a new definition may be necessary given the deficiencies associated with a dictionary or historical perspectives about virtue.
The Conclusion: After taking the time to introduce a thesis and write several paragraphs that justify it, you now write a conclusion. The conclusion is simple and to the point. It summarizes the essay and dives the thesis home. Do not complicate the conclusion but rather make it simple and easy to understand. Just make sure to summarize the controversy surrounding the essay, your discussion in the essay, and a final emphasis on the thesis.
A Final Word
Writing a definition essay is interesting, to say the least. It deviates from the typical essay that you are used to but also stretches your mind in the right academic direction. Two important points to note as you write your definition essay are the balance between academic and personal views and the inclusion of impact of the essay to your life.
Point #1: Even though a definition essay may allow personal experiences and the use of the first person in writing it, it by no means ditches standard essay writing guidelines. The use of the first person in writing the essay is to give your essay a more defensible argument or rather a provable point. It blends in with the arguments you researched to give your essay more credibility. Therefore find a balance between personal and researched content without giving more preference to personal experiences.
Point #2: Including the impact of the word you defined in your life is also one way of convincing the reader that you were not simply superficial I composing the essay but you actually have proof of its definition. Therefore as a concluding remark, tell the reader how the uses, effects, and causes of the word made a change in your life, for example, how it changed your perception of your place in society. If for instance, you defined virtue, you could conclude with how your new definition of virtue influenced how you relate with others or what values you currently attach to humanity.