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Writing a Definition Essay

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Michelle Lopez

on 12 September 2018

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Transcript of Writing a Definition Essay

Writing a Definition Essay
Example Strategy
Example Strategy:
Use specific examples to help the reader understand your definition. These examples can come from text, and non-print text.

Example: "Romeo and Juliet loved each other very much. Their love was so strong it showed their two families how wrong their feud was, and how silly it was to fight."

Questions to ask yourself:

What proof of Love have I seen in person?

What proof of love have I read about?

What proof of love have I seen on TV/NEWS/Movies?
Function Strategy
Function Strategy: demonstrates how the concept functions in the real world.

i.e: "Love pieces together hope and brings families together."

Questions to ask yourself:

What kinds of things does (Love) do?

How does it help people?

Who does it help?
Strategies for writing a definition essay
1. Function Strategy
2. Example Strategy
3. Negation Strategy
What is a Definition Essay?
Writing that explains, or defines what a topic means...
An example of a definition essay prompt
would be: "Define Heroism" or "What is love?"

Abstract ideas
Terms or concepts that are
more difficult to define
have different meanings

People may have different ideas or definitions of these kinds of terms:
Upward mobility Responsibility Courage
Peer Pressure Procrastination Happiness
Success Security Home
Loyalty Ambition Family
List of types of examples you can use
1. Use of a dictionary definition
2. Synonyms- using words with similar meaning
3. Enumeration - listing its characteristics
4. Anecdote - narrating a personal story
5. Examples – from outside sources
6. Negation – what the term is not.
7. Orgin and development - the word's derivation, original meaning, and usages.

When writing a Definition essay you may use a multitude of tools:
The following slides will provide an example of how one might write a definition essay on the abstract term love, using exemplification.
Dictionary Definition
listing its characteristics
Examples From Literature
Anecdotal Examples
From Outside Source
The love story between King Edward VIII and Mrs. Wallace Simpson

According to an article in the
Huffington Post
, King Edward abdicated the throne to marry the twice divorced American socialite Wallace Simpson. Their story is known as the "greatest love story of the 20th century."

Romeo & Juliet
Elizabeth & Mr. Darcy
Lancelot & Guinevere
A story from personal experience, either your own or about someone you know.
what the term has meant in the past; one may compare it to what the term means today
Negation Strategy: Explain what something is by showing what it is not. Using negation helps to contrast your definition with other's definitions.

Example: "Love is not jealousy or envy. Love knows no bounds of trust"

Questions to ask yourself:

What is the opposite of love?

What are some important things that love is NOT.

If I use this word to describe what love is NOT, will it help show what love is LIKE?
Negation Strategy
Each strategy is to be used for an entire body paragraph. You MUST include one body paragraph per each strategy. And of course, an introduction paragraph and a conclusion paragraph are required.
1. Introduction Paragraph (with a thesis)

2. Function Paragraph

3. Example Paragraph

4. Negation Paragraph

5. Conclusion Paragraph (restate thesis)
Sample Outline

Explain the meaning of
the term


What did Darwin
mean by the term

What is
deficit hyperactivity disorder

Moving from Assignment to Thesis
The wording of your assignment may suggest that you write a definition essay. For example, you may be asked to
or to answer the question
What is x
? or
What does x mean
? Once you decide that your assignment calls for definition, you need to develop a thesis statement that reflects this purpose.
Assignment Thesis Statement
Unlike more conventional forms of art, performance art extends beyond the canvas.

Natural selection, popularly known as "survival of the fittest," is a good deal more complicated than most people think.

Attention-deficit disorder (ADHD), once narrowly defined as a childhood problem is now known to affect adults as well as children.
Organizing a Definition Essay
As the thesis statements in the chart above suggest, definition essays can be developed in various ways.
For example:
you can define something by telling how it occurred
by describing its appearance
by giving a series of examples
by explaining how it operates
Comparison and Contrast:
by telling how it is similar to or different from something else
by discussing its parts
Organizing a Definition Essay
Some definition essays use a single pattern of development; others combine several patterns of development, perhaps using a different one in each paragraph.
Examples – from Pop Culture
During a conversation, you might say that a friend is
, that a stream is
, or that a neighborhood is
. In order to make yourself clear, you have to define what you mean by
, or
. Like conversations, academic assignments may involve definition. In a history paper, for example, you might have to define imperialism; on a biology exam, you might be asked to define mitosis.
tells what a word means. When you want your readers to know exactly how you are using a specific term, you define it.
When most people think of definitions, they think of the
formal definitions
they see in a dictionary. Formal definitions have a three-part structure.
The term to be defined
The general class to which the term belongs
The things that make the term different from all other items in the general class to which the term belongs
Term Class Differentiation
Ice hockey

is a game

is a pasta
played on ice by two teams on skates who use curved
sticks to try to hit a puck into the opponent's goal.

made in the shape of long, thin strands
explains the meaning of a term or concept. A
definition essay
presents an
extended definition
, using various patterns of development to move beyond a simple dictionary definition.
When writing a definition essay, make sure it includes all of these elements:
Thesis Statement
--The introduction of a a definition essay should include a
thesis statement
that communicates the essay's main idea and identifies the term you are going to define.
--the body paragraphs should include
--examples and details--that supports the thesis statement and defines your term. Body paragraphs may use different patterns of development.
Summary Statement
--The conclusion of a definition essay should include a
summary statement
that reinforces the essays thesis.
--A definition essay should include
transitional words and phrases
to move readers from one section of definition to the next.
Essay Map: Single
Pattern of Development
Essay Map: Combination of
Several Different
Patterns of Development
-Introduction (thesis statement identifies term to be defined)

-Definition by example

-Additional examples

-Additional examples

-Conclusion (includes summary statement)
-Introduction (thesis statement identifies term to be defined)

-Definition by description

-Definition by example

-Definition by comparison and contrast

-Conclusion (includes summary statement)
Street Smart
I grew up in a big city, so I was practically born street smart. I learned the hard way how to act and what to do, and so did my friends. To us, being street smart meant having common sense. We wanted to be cool, but we needed to be safe, too. Now I go to college in a big city, and I realize that not everyone here grew up the way I did. Many students are from suburbs or rural areas, and they are either terrified of the city or totally ignorant of city life. The few suburban or rural students who are willing to venture downtown are not street smart—but they should be.
Being street smart is a survival skill that means you can take care of yourself in a big city.

First, being street smart means knowing how to protect my possessions.
Friends of mine who are not used to city life insist on wearing all their jewelry when they go downtown. I think this is asking for trouble, and I know better. I always tuck my chain under my shirt and leave my gold earrings home.
Another thing
that surprises me is how some of my friends wave their money around. They always seem to be standing on the street, trying to count their change or stuff dollars into their wallets. Street-smart people make sure to put their money safely away in their pockets or purses before they leave a store. A street- smart person will also carry a backpack, a purse strapped across the chest, or no purse at all. A person who is not street smart carries a purse loosely over one shoulder or dangles it by its handle. Again, these people are asking for trouble.

Secondly, being street smart also means protecting myself.
It means being aware of my surroundings at all times and looking alert. A lot of times, I have been downtown with people who kept stopping on the street to talk about where they should go next or walking up and down the same street over and over again. A street-smart person would never do this. It is important that I look as if I know where I am going at all times, even if I don’t. Whenever possible, I decide on a destination in advance, and I make sure I know how to get there. Even if I am not completely sure where I am headed, I make sure my body language conveys my confidence in my ability to reach my destination.

, being street smart means protecting my life.
A street-smart person does not walk alone, especially after dark, in an unfamiliar neighborhood. A street-smart person does not ask random strangers for directions; when lost, he or she asks a shopkeeper for help. A street-smart person takes main streets instead of side streets. When faced with danger or the threat of danger, a street-smart person knows when to run, when to scream, and when to give up money or possessions to avoid violence.

Being street smart is vitally important—sometimes even a matter of life and death.
Some people think it is a gift, but I think it is something almost any- one can learn. Probably the best way to learn how to be street smart is to hang out with people who know where they are going.
From the attached list, choose a slang term, an abbreviation or short- hand used in text messages, or a technical term used in one of your classes. Write an essay in which you define this term, developing your definition with any patterns that seem appropriate.
Sample Student Essay
Grammar in Context
When you write a definition essay, you may begin with a one-sentence definition that you expand in the rest of your essay. When you write your definition sentence, do not use the phrase is when or is where.

For me, being street smart
is when I know
how to protect my possessions.
means knowing
Being street smart
where I protect

means protecting
_ ___________

Origin and Development
According to the online
Oxford Dictionary
, love is defined as "an intense feeling of deep affection".

Kirszner, Laurie G. Writing First with Readings: Paragraphs
and Essays, 6th Edition. Bedford/St. Martin's,
10/2014. [Bookshelf Online].

What the term is not
Explain what Love is not...
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