Definition Essay: How-To, Structure, Examples, Topics

Posted: May 26, 2017 - to Guide
Content how to write a definition essay

Many students look at definition essays as being an 'easy' way of getting a grade. It may look simple, but writing a good definition is more than just writing description. Use this guide to get the most out of your essay and get the highest grades possible.

What is a definition essay?

A definition essay is an essay that gives the reader a detailed definition of a term or idea. A good essay will be well researched, and draw on relevant evidence and examples in order to define something properly. They can often be used to define something abstract, such as the idea of 'freedom'.

Structure

Each essay will differ depending on the topic, but they'll usually follow the same basic outline:

  • Introduction: This is where you introduce the topic you're defining. You'll usually start with the dictionary definition, in order to give yourself a starting point.
  • Thesis definition: Here's where you'll give a more nuanced definition, based on your understanding and research.
  • Main body: Each paragraph will deal with a different aspect of defining the term. You can start with a paragraph detailing the history and origin of the topic, move onto a full dictionary definition and usage, and then finally create your own personal definition, based on what you have learned.
  • Conclusion: This will draw all your main points together, without introducing anything new.

Steps for writing

  • Choose the term you want to define. This may be given to you, or you'll need to choose it for yourself. Make sure you pick a term that you can easily research around.
  • Do your research. The best way to start is to look up several different definitions of the term, and see how it's usually used. Then, you can start reading more widely to expand on your knowledge.
  • Write an outline, like the one above. This will give you the roadmap to your essay, and make it a lot easier to write.
  • Sit down and write. Choose somewhere quiet and free of distractions, in order to get the most out of your writing time.
  • Proofread and edit your essay once it's done. Make sure there're no errors lurking in your text that could affect your final grade.

Topics

As noted earlier, topics for these kinds of essays are usually an abstract idea or theory. You could be given a topic such as 'Love' or 'Laziness' to define. These are broad enough in scope that you can interpret them as you see fit, as long as you have the evidence to back it up.

Examples of a definition essay

It's a good idea to practice writing definition essays. Here're few topics that you can try yourself:

  • Success
  • A good marriage
  • Good and evil
  • Enlightenment

Practice these, and see how you handle them. When it comes to the real thing, you'll be ready.

With this guide, you can now write an excellent definition essay. Remember to do your research, and give yourself enough time to finish the task.

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