Basic Information about Writing a Definition Essay

A definition essay centers around a word or phrase. The author of a definition essay tries his or her best to define the chosen word or phrase with the help of research and critical thinking. The writer seeks to supply a comprehensive definition, instead of being biased or narrowly focused.

Though definition essays are not as demanding as regular research essays, they do require critical thinking and a holistic approach. You will need at least three research sources, preferably not just dictionaries. An extended definition essay is rarely assigned by a teacher; however, if one is assigned, treat it as a research paper akin to a thesis.

Definition Essay Format

Like most essays, a definition essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. However, definition essays are commonly heavy on background information, so introductions may be longer than in other essays. The definition essay structure follows like this:

  1. 1-2 paragraph(s) introduction with plenty of background information, and a simple thesis statement that shows no bias.
  2. 3-5 body paragraphs that go over different aspects of the chosen term or phrase. Each body paragraph centers on one aspect.
  3. A conclusion that considers all the research and tries to pin down the best definition possible.
  4. Works cited section on a separate page.

A definition essay outline is simple, with only cursory notes on what will be in the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Please use your outline throughout the drafting process. Your format and the aspects you cover during the drafting process might change dramatically over your drafts. So, be wary of this, and adjust your outline respective to the content of your drafts.

Style of a Definition Essay

As mentioned before, a definition essay needs to be unbiased. The purpose of the essay is to seek research, and synthesize that research into the best definition of a certain term or phrase; so, there should not be any persuasive language or any leaning towards opinionated writing. The writing, in general, is formal, so slang and other informal language is not appropriate.

Do your best to be methodical in your writing style. Be succinct, and do not meander with side notes. Each sentence should work towards achieving an understanding of the chosen term or phrase. Your teacher will certainly not appreciate you going off topic, or commenting on related topics. Only if there is a direct tie into the main topic should a subtopic be mentioned.

Good Definition Essay Topics

Religion and Spirituality

  1. What is the holy ghost?
  2. What is the tao?
  3. What is the true definition of baptism?
  4. What is chi?
  5. Is there a spiritual meaning to the word saunter?

Philosophy

  1. What is nothing?
  2. What is truth?
  3. What is beauty?
  4. What is morality?
  5. What is reality?

Culture

  1. What is feminism?
  2. What is the American dream?
  3. What is fashion?
  4. What is racism?
  5. What is extremism?

Additional Help with Writing a Definition Essay

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