Academic Writing Complete Guide

Purpose and Audience of this Guide
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Essay Writing
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Oral Presentations
Finding Sources
Good Academic Scholarship
Understanding Feedback
Exam preparation and Techniques

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How to Write a Definition Essay


Most students think that definition essays are an easy way of getting a good grade. It looks simple, but it goes beyond writing a good description of something. Definition essays are pieces of writing that define a word, a term, or an idea in details giving a personal commentary on the specific meaning of a subject. All physical objects have a definition that everyone agrees with. For instance, people will agree on what cars, windows, computers, and other physical objects are. This is because they have specific physical properties that everyone can see and agree on because they can use their physical senses.

Definition essays also can hinge on abstract terms such as pain, love, patriotism which have different meanings for different people because they play on their feelings more than their physical senses. When you are faced with this task, you are supposed to choose an abstract term, define it, and write in the appropriate format of an effective definition essay. In other words, you will be providing an extended personal definition of terms through the creating of a link or comparing the terms to other previous definitions. You have to illustrate the application of the term.

Since a definition essay provides detailed information of a term of an idea to the audience, it is supposed to be well researched. It is also supposed to draw on relevant evidence and examples to give a proper definition of something.

 How to Write a Definition Essay

Types of definition essays

Definition essay assignments are usually given to students at the start of a class. The student has to explore a specific concept or term. These concepts come in three categories that include:

  • Abstract concepts
    This demands the student to explore the full definition of a topic. An abstract concept is complicated and vast. Some of the examples of abstract concepts include love, pain, hate, generosity, and pride. This essay should focus on breaking down the concepts into manageable parts for the audience.
  • A place
    This type of s definition essay explores a place and the writer’s perspective on that place. These places can be countries, cities, neighborhoods, and parks houses and so on. The place can is either huge or small. Writing this essay is to focus on a place with which you are familiar. You do not have to write about a place that will require you to research.
  • An adjective
    This creates a definition of an adjective. The common topics explored by this essay include the description of a good or bad present, person law and so on. The essay is supposed to explore the qualities and traits of a good friend or bad present.

When writing your definition essay, you can provide a direct definition of a term although this will limit your essay to a mere clarification. You can also develop the meaning of a term by using the story that the reader will come to understand the meaning of the tat term. Your definition essay can also start with the opposing interpretation of the term. The definition of the term will then be provided in your thesis statement. The body if your essay becomes essential in elucidating on the term and use evidence and example to illustrate your explanation.

Steps of effective evaluation


Informing the audience about the term to be defined


Provide basic information that ensures clarity


Use facts, examples, or anecdotes that the audience will easily understand

definition essays writing tips

Choosing the right word

  • Select an abstract term whose meaning is complex
    Do not choose a simple word that will only give you the concrete meaning without ample contests for your essay. Go for a complex word that refers to an abstract concept and provides more details for your examination. Do not choose nouns that refer to people, place, or a thing because they have a narrowed definition, something that is no good for your essay. Instead, select nouns that refer to an idea or work since they have more content for your essay. For instance, if you choose to define a house, the essay will be dull. You can decide to take it a notch higher by picking something like home and find your way around the definition. When you compare a house and a home, a hose becomes just a mere structure with nothing or too little to tell. Home has so many things that you can use to write your definition essay.
  • Ensure that the word you select can elicit dispute
    The word that you chose should be not only complex but also has different meanings to different people. Since the definition essay is subjective, it requires an analysis that is based on your point of view. Somebody else, based on their point of view, can dispute this.
  • Choose a term with which you are familiar
    You cannot rely on the dictionary definition only. You are supposed to expand on the definition of the word, and as such, it is important to have enough knowledge or experience in the concept that you choose. For instance, you can have a hard time defining a word like ‘pedantic’ for the first time. If you want to write a good definition essay, you have to familiarize yourself with the words that you are defining. If you lack previous understanding of the words, you will not know if the definition you have provided is the appropriate one.
  • Go through the dictionary definition of the word
    This does not imply that you will rely on the dictionary in the entire process of writing your definition essay. You only need to familiarize yourself with the official definition of a word so that you can draw comparisons between your understanding of the concept and the simplest academic explanation of the concept.
    For instance, when you mention the term ‘friend’ the definition refers t feelings of affection or personal regard to someone. However, your ideas and beliefs concerning this term can go beyond the official definition. You can use the official definition of the term as a starting point.
  • Research on the origin of the word
    You are free to look for the origin of the word you are defining. You can start by using the Oxford English Dictionary for your search or any other etymology dictionary. These sources will provide the word you are defining and give you a further insight with regard to the general definition and the information that pertains to how the word obtained its meaning.

The structure of a definition essay

Just like any other type of essay, you need to develop an outline. However, the outline for this essay will vary in length. This depends on the term that you are describing. Some of the terms are logical whereas others are easy to decipher. There are those that require detailed research and analysis for the accurate formulation of and representation of their meaning. Regardless of the term that you are defining, your definition essay should follow the three classic introduction body and conclusion format.

  • The introduction
    Use the introduction to inform the audience about what the paper is dealing with. You are supposed to give the standard definition of a term and provide a thesis definition. The standard definition appears in the initial section of the introductory paragraph. Usually, this is the dictionary definition. The readers are able to get a starting point with regard to the term enhancing clarity and possible questions.
  • Thesis statement
    This is the complete version of the actual meaning of the term you are defining. It results from the mixing of the standard definition and the style of explanation or the writer. Do not give too much description as well as use passive phrases in this section.
  • The body paragraphs
    This allows you to break down the term into different parts. Consider every variation of the definition as well as its history. This will help you to break the term into organized sections. In a definition essay, a good paragraph will look like this:
How to write definition essay
  • Conclusion
    Your conclusion should be simple and straightforward. You have to summarize the major points of your argument. It is crucial to rephrase the major parts of the definition and ensure that everything you wanted to say has been summed up. Show how the term has affected you and stemming from the fact that you had a reason for picking this term. Demonstrate how it has affected your life to ensure the reader gets a sense of purpose. You have to employ creativity when writing your conclusion. If this is a class assignment, the idea is to impress your instructor because you want a good grade. Ensure that your definition essay is strictly on point.

With this information, you will be able to write a good definition essay. Remember to do enough research and allocate enough time for you to accomplish the task because it is crucial to enhancing your skills.

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