Definition Essay Exercise: English 1a focus: Design a Definition

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Definition Essay Exercise: English 1A
Focus: Design a Definition essay using a scientific principle to define an aspect or multiple aspects of life. Choose a technical or scientific term that you think will be unfamiliar or abstract to most readers. In a humorous or serious essay, define the term as it used technically, then show how the term can shed light on some aspect of your life and the lives of others. For example: the term supernova could be linked to a new rise of success in an area of your life, such as stepping into a new level of advancement at work, or suddenly emerging as a star in some aspect of or skill in life.

  • Using an essay as a model, and a definition resource for information, brainstorm subject matter for a definition essay, using a scientific term, explaining its definition and features, as well as process, and relating it to a similar condition or conditions in life.

  • Examine the structure of a sample essay, especially in the beginning stages and introduction, and write a parallel structure, using your own information and examples.

Beginning brainstorming and structuring an essay:

  • Develop a hook in the introduction.

  • Utilize exemplification to establish definition perameters and provide support.

  • Add any background information to orient the reader.

  • Define the term formally and informally, early on, then extend the definition into the rest of your essay in stages.

  • Embed a thesis into the essay, implied or stated, directed to a particular audience. (Purpose)

  • Orient the reader in your introduction to how you feel about this term and its workings on life, and what your angle or approach will be involving this term. (Purpose)


  • Use the Longman text for reading – Definition chapter pp. 432-444

  • Have the response questions notes finished for access to analysis (from discussion in class previously)

Task: Brainstorm, design, and compose a parallel definition essay to Entropy using another scientific principle: like erosion.

  • You can choose to use this term for your own essay, or you can choose another scientific principle and term, and base your essay on that principle. You will need to research formal definitions and concepts related to that term.

Other interesting terms you might use:

symbiosis, gravity, velocity, volatility, equilibrium, resonance, catalyst, corrosion, inertia, relativity, mitosis, fusion, chaos theory, order, disorder, etc.

  • Substitute terms: order or disorder. You can decide to use either one of these terms to write an essay in which you define order or disorder by applying the term to a system that you know well—for example, your school, family, workplace, relationships, social systems, or others. Develop that definition in an extended way in your paper by giving examples, showing contrasts, and by analyzing the process underlying the system.

  • Compare the scientific principle to some aspect/s of life: relationships, politics, work, social structures, knowledge, family, the way things work on a daily basis, etc.

  • Decide: Who is your intended audience? (age group, readership, related to purpose)

  • Decide: What is your purpose? What do you intend to show about that term? (positive, negative, or both?)

  • Discover: Is there any irony or wordplay with that term? Any double meanings?


Step One

  • Skim an informative article and pay close attention to the definition/s given

  • Identify phrases and pieces of information that appeal to you, and that you might use. List the terms and phrases on the graphic organizer.

  • Identify other terms and synonyms that you might use in the materials. List them.

  • Decide on a parallel to life—how is erosion (or other term) similar to other processes or aspects in life? To others? To you? Write this down on the graphic organizer handout.

  • How has this principle affected you personally in the past or present? List examples on the handout. (anecdotal evidence---personal narration)

  • What are your observations and opinions about how this term operates in life? Positive, negative, or both. List them. (persuasion)

  • How has this principle affected people you know? List examples. (observation)

  • What is happening or has happened in the past, in a broader sense, in the world at large, with this principle as a basis? List examples of news events, historical events, social behaviors, etc. and events from reading, films, discussions, and other sources.

  • Quote someone commenting on this principle or the parallel to it in life – a peer, friend, teacher, or famous person (using quotations from reading).

  • After reading the definition and facts, discuss the topic of erosion or your selected term with your editing group, and gather a quotation or two from a peer about the subject. Use it if it works. Be sure you ask their permission and get the correct spelling of their name if you use their story.

  • Share your findings with your editing group before beginning your essay. Gather any suggestions on your approach. Read-around of graphic organizer.

Step Two

  • Either working on a computer, or in longhand, write out your essay, following the right side of the handout in which you parallel Kole’s essay, adding any more details, examples, etc. needed, and checking for complete sentences.

The final draft will be typed, so it is best to begin typing early in the draft in order to move items around as needed.

  • Add transitions to the paragraphs for shifts in focus or direction and for connective words to establish relationships between paragraphs.

  • Check to see whether you have included enough information, quoted material, and your own analysis or discussion of the material. Give several examples from life.

  • You can add more details and examples than found in the model essay, if you wish.

  • Check for tone: Do your attitude and feelings toward the subject come across clearly? Do we understand your position on the topic?

  • Do you have clear definitions? Are your definitions imbedded smoothly and effectively? Are the definitions extended and broken down into parts with corresponding examples?

  • Check mechanics and complete sentence structure.

  • Does your conclusion reiterate or emphasize your main points about the term and its significance to life? For others….and for you?

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