What is a Definition Essay?
Definition essays are just one of the many different report types that students are likely to be assigned. A definition essay is much like any other report except that it requires students to perform a specific task using a particular report format.
A definition essay is a writing assignment that requires students to fully define a term, concept, subject, or item. Definition essays rarely ask students to define simple terms such as boat, dog, or coat, but rather more complicated concepts such as ethics, honesty, sadness, happiness, or family. A definition essay assignment is somewhat like an exercise in philosophy and the concept or term being defined can have a different meaning for each pupil.
Students often find writing a definition essay somewhat difficult because the concepts they are assigned are often intentionally obtuse. Instructors use definition essays not only as a test of a student's writing skills but as a test of their critical thinking skills as well. The trick to writing a satisfactory definition essay is to pinpoint the definition and write about it in a way that encapsulates the thoughts of the pupil.
For instance, a student could write about the concept of family for pages. But, it might be far more difficult to limit the definition of the concept to a one-page definition article. It is important for students writing a definition essay to fine tune their definition and limit themselves to a concise definition of the term at hand.
A good place to begin researching a definition essay is a dictionary. Students can use a simple dictionary definition to introduce their own definition of the concept or term. The remainder of the report can be used to expand on the dictionary definition. Students should never rely solely on a dictionary definition as the basis of their definition article.
Other good sources of information for a definition essay are encyclopedias and philosophy books. The good thing about exploring multiple references is that the student gains not only a technical understanding of the subject of his or her definition essay but also gains a philosophical understanding of the concept or term. Using a combination of the technical and the philosophical encourages students to think about a variety of concepts and terms in a variety of ways.
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