Definition Essay What is it?
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Definition Essay What is it? A Definition Essay: Explains what a term means Sets the boundaries of a thing, concept, emotion or value Answers “what is it?” as well as “what is it not?” Specifies the main qualities and its essential nature Formal Definition Stipulative Definition Extended Definition Formal Definition Usually gives the standard dictionary meaning or the specialized meaning agreed to by a particular group A statement of general class followed by the distinction between it and other members of the class. Examples of Formal Definition When to use formal definition It is most useful to use a formal definition to explain the basic or most commonly used meaning of a term in order for the reader to understand the rest of the discussion. A formal definition should only be used as a starting point. Stipulative Definition Clarifies the PARTICULAR WAY that you are using a word Stipulation Example If you want to argue that PRIDE can ruin a relationship you might first stipulate a meaning of PRIDE that ties it with that purpose. If you want to argue that LOVE is all you need, you might stipulate a particular kind of LOVE that you are discussing. When to use stipulative definition It is best to use a stipulative definition: when the concept you are discussing is broadly defined and used when you are using a term in a specific way Extended Definition WHAT WE ARE DOING :) Used to explore a thing, quality or idea in its FULL COMPLEXITY Draws boundaries around it until its meaning is complete and precise Besides defining your purpose it may be used to: Persuade readers to accept a definition To explain To amuse (only slightly please) An ABSTRACT CONCEPT like patriotism A CONTROVERSIAL PHRASE like “beginnings of life” A COLLOQUIAL OR SLANG EXPRESSION like hype A THING like microcomputer A SCIENTIFIC IDEA like natural selection An EVERYDAY EXPRESSION like nagging Used when the subject is: Complex Vague Laden with emotions or values Misunderstood Arguable Note: Everyone must write an extended definition! How do we do it? Step 1: Choosing a Topic Words that have complex meanings Words that are open to varied interpretations Words that may be unfamiliar to readers Should be something that you know and care enough about to explore in great detail and surround completely Examine and list some conventional meanings Possibly consult an unabridged dictionary Examine differences of opinion regarding the word Step 3: Strategies to Consider How can the subject be DESCRIBED? What are some EXAMPLES? Can the subject be DIVIDED into qualities or characteristics? Can its FUNCTIONS help define it? Will COMPARING AND CONTRASTING it with something else help sharpen its meaning? Do its CAUSES OR EFFECTS help clarify its sense? Step 3cont: Other Defining Strategies Synonyms: convey the range of the word’s meaning(s) Negation: convey what the word does NOT mean and how this limits the meaning or focus Etymology: convey its buried or original meaning Note The previous strategies may be used separately or in combination to create the desired effect. Step 4: Select your Purpose Are you explaining an unfamiliar word? Are you expressing your own views so that readers see a familiar subject from a new angle? Are you arguing in favor of a particular definition? Are you persuading readers to look more closely at themselves or their surroundings? Step 5: Formulate a Thesis Your thesis should include: The word you are defining The direction of your essay (may be implied) Example: In my opinion, the term ‘monster’ does not refer to an individual of hideous appearance, but rather, the term ‘monster’ refers to one who partakes in immoral acts or decisions. Also, it is my goal to prove that truly we are all monsters. Step 1: Introduction Should explain why the definition is significant or necessary Consider: Reporting the incident or event that made this definition relevant to you A quotation from another writer that supports or contradicts your definition Explaining what the word does NOT mean (negation) The etymology of the word (NOT the definition!) DO NOT USE THE DICTIONARY DEFINITION AS THE BEGINNING OF YOUR INTRODUCTION! EX. “According to the American Heritage Dictionary……” Step 2: Body Should proceed paragraph by paragraph to REFINE the characteristics or qualities of the term being defined. Should include as many previously mentioned ‘defining strategies’ as necessary to adequately fulfill your purpose. Step 2: Body Organization You might: Move from general to specific Arrange your points in order of increasing importance Begin with a personal experience and show how your definition operates in your environment Step 3: Conclusion You might: Summarize your definition Indicate your definition’s superiority to other definitions Quote another writer who supports your definition Recommend that readers make some use of the information that you have provided BIBLIOGRAPHY 40 Model Essay: A Portable Anthology By Jane E. Aaron
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