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.
Table Of Contents
- What is Definition Essay?
- Definition Essay Structure
- How to Write Definition Essay
- Definition Essay Topics
- Definition Essay Examples
What is 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'.
Definition Essay 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.
How to Write Definition Essay
- 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.
Definition Essay 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.
Definition Essay Examples
It's a good idea to practice writing definition essays. Here're few topics that you can try yourself:
- A good marriage
- Good and evil
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.
Write a first draft
Your first draft will help you work out:
- the structure and framework of your essay
- how you will answer the question
- which evidence and examples you will use
- how your argument will be logically structured.
Your first draft will not be your final essay; think of it as raw material you will refine through editing and redrafting. Once you have a draft, you can work on writing well.
Structure your essay in the most effective way to communicate your ideas and answer the question.
All essays should include the following structure
A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Each paragraph in the body of the essay should contain:
- A topic sentence that states the main or controlling idea
- Supporting sentences to explain and develop the point you’re making
- Evidence. Most of the time, your point should be supported by some form of evidence from your reading, or by an example drawn from the subject area.
- Analysis. Don’t just leave the evidence hanging there - analyse and interpret it! Comment on the implication/significance/impact and finish off the paragraph with a critical conclusion you have drawn from the evidence.
- a concluding sentence that restates your point, analyses the evidence or acts as a transition to the next paragraph.
See The Learning Centre guide Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting
Tips for effective writing
- Start writing early - the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
- Keep the essay question in mind. Don’t lose track of the question or task. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft and edit and work out your argument.
- Don’t try to write an essay from beginning to end (especially not in a single sitting). Begin with what you are ready to write - a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. Start with the body and work paragraph by paragraph.
- Write the introduction and conclusion after the body. Once you know what your essay is about, then write the introduction and conclusion.
- Use 'signpost' words in your writing. Transition signals can help the reader follow the order and flow of your ideas.
- Integrate your evidence carefully. Introduce quotations and paraphrases with introductory phrases.
- Revise your first draft extensively. Make sure the entire essay flows and that the paragraphs are in a logical order.
- Put the essay aside for a few days. This allows you to consider your essay and edit it with a fresh eye.
See The Learning Centre guides to Introducing quotations and paraphrasesandTransition signals