Definition Essay

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What is a definition essay? How do you write such a thing? Learn all this and more by viewing this PowerPoint presentation.

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Definition Essay

  1. 1. The Definition Essay . . . . . . Because it’s Good for You, DUH!
  2. 2. What is an emo?
  3. 3. What is patriotism?
  4. 4. What is emphysema?
  5. 5. What’s the Deal with the Definition Essay? From College Writing Skills with Readings by John Langan When you write a definition essay . . . • your main purpose is to explain to your readers your understanding of a key term or concept • your secondary purpose is to persuade them that your definition is a legitimate one
  6. 6. Keep in mind that a definition essay does not simply repeat a word’s dictionary meaning. Instead, it conveys what a particular term means to you.
  7. 7. For example . . . . . . if you were to write about the term patriotism, you might begin by presenting your definition of the word. You might say patriotism means turning out for Fourth of July parades, displaying the flag, or supporting the government. Or perhaps you think patriotism is about becoming politically active and questioning government policy. Whatever definition you choose, be sure to provide specific instances so that readers can fully understand your meaning of the term.
  8. 8. Think of this essay as an extended definition of one of the following:  A word/phrase (mama’s boy)  A thing (laser beam)  A condition (schizophrenia)  A concept (TV addiction)  A general phenomenon (popularity of YouTube)
  9. 9. Prewriting Questions to ask about your subject before writing :  Is it unique, or are there others of its kind? If it resembles others, in what ways?  How is it different? As you can see, these last two questions invite you to COMPARE AND CONTRAST.  In what different forms does it occur?  When and where do we find it? Under what circumstances and in what situations?  What is it at the present moment?  What does it do? What are its functions and activities? What are its functions and activities?  How is it put together? What parts make it up? What holds these parts together?  Note: Not all of these questions will fit your particular subject, duh.
  10. 10. WRITING: Methods of Development In this essay, you may draw on various techniques you’ve learned throughout the semester to broaden your definition of your topic. For instance, you might: • DESCRIBE your term • COMPARE OR CONTRAST your term to another term • explain the CAUSE or EFFECTS of your term • explain how your term came to be (think PROCESS) Pull some tools from your super smart, gigantic, ultra-inflated brains to help write this essay with flair.
  11. 11. Your Thesis Your thesis needs to at least state what your topic is and AT LEAST hint at what your definition looks like
  12. 12. Examples of excellent thesis statements  The people in my grandmother’s living room took a word [nigger] that whites used to signify worthlessness or degradation and rendered it impotent . . . Meeting the word head-on, they (African-Americans) proved it had absolutely nothing to do with the way they were determined to live their lives. –Gloria Naylor, “The Meanings of a Word.”  The word chink may have been created to harm, ridicule, and humiliate, but for us [Chinese Americans] it may have done the exact opposite. –Christing Leong, “Being a Chink.”
  13. 13. REVISING Checklist for Revising a Definition  MEANINGS Have you explored your subject fully, turning up both its obvious and its not-so-obvious meanings?  METHODS OF DEVELOPMENT Have you used an appropriate range of other methods to develop your subject?  THESIS Have you focused your definition and kept within that focus, drawing clear boundaries around your subject?  EVIDENCE Is your definition specific? Do examples, anecdotes, and concrete details both pin the subject down and make it vivid for readers?  UNITY Do all paragraphs focus on your thesis, and do individual paragraphs or groups of paragraphs focus on parts of your definition?
  14. 14. Pick a topic that isn’t . . . lame. Some examples are:  loser  chronic illness  jock  depression  loner  phobia  geek  insomnia  whiner  autism  emo  diabetes  slob  obesity  freak  academia

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