Definition Essays
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  • 1. Definition
    • From Patterns for College Writing Chapter 13
  • 2. Definition
    • Clear, crisp definitions are important to making your ideas clear and understandable. A definition is an explanation of what something is. It has three essential parts:
      • The term being defined or the topic being described
      • The group, or category, to which the term or topic belongs
      • Its distinguishing characteristics
  • 3. Examples
  • 4. Writing Thesis Statements
    • The thesis statement of a definition paragraph should do more than identify the term/topic you are explaining. The thesis statement should make clear the purpose in making your definition
    • For example
      • Ineffective: Euthanasia is a way of ending a life in pain.
      • Effective: In certain situations, euthanasia should not be defined as a punishable homicide.
  • 5. Defining Unfamiliar Topics
    • If your readers are unfamiliar with the topic you are defining, use the following suggestions:
      • Compare an unfamiliar topic to one that is familiar to your readers. If you are writing about rugby, compare it to football.
  • 6. Defining Unfamiliar Topics
      • Explain how a topic is different from things similar to it. If writing about the golden retriever, you might explain how it differs from Labrador retrievers in coloration, length of fur, and thickness of coat.
      • Be sure to explain unfamiliar terms you may use. When defining a wipeout in surfing, you might use other related terms, such as take out (catch a wave or beginning to ride) or barrel (the inside of the hollow wave). Define all unfamiliar new terms.
  • 7. Writing a Definition Essay
    • Here are some guidelines for writing definition essays:
      • Your thesis statement should explain the importance of understanding the term or topic you are defining.
      • Devote a paragraph to each distinguishing characteristics of your topic.
      • Keep your audience in mind.
  • 8. Writing a Definition Essay
      • Provide sufficient details so that your topic is understandable: explain the term ’s etymology (origin), trace its use or history, provide realistic examples, draw upon other methods of development.