Writing a Definition Essay

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 13th May 2020
Wordcount: 305 words

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“A definition essay, as the name implies, consists primarily of saying what something means, how it is ‘defined’. There are several ways of ‘defining’ and different subjects may suggest different methods but the writer should decide early on which methodology to adopt. Clearly, this will be influenced by many intrinsic factors.”

The opening statement should indicate clearly what is to be defined and how this is to be done. It should also provide a brief definition. There are many ways to define, for example by function, structure, analysis or opposition. Structural definition depends on describing how something is organised; functional definition describes how something works or is put together; analytical definition depends on comparison; defining by opposition means that you base a definition on what something is not rather than what it is. These are just a few methods, there are many more. You should state clearly which approach is to be used but a combination is acceptable if clear distinctions are made and indicated. Clarity is very important in definition essays.

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The definition essay follows the basic essay structure, where the introduction is followed by developing the stated premise (in this case, definition) via supplementary paragraphs and a conclusion. The paragraphs in the main body of a definition essay might contain additional explanation by means of anecdotes or illustrative examples to help to explain why particular methods are being used and help the reader’s comprehension. The conclusion will re-state the term to be defined, the methodology adopted and it effectiveness. New information should not be introduced at this stage, as with all essays, but further explanation may be offered if necessary.


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