What is Definition?

The first draft of your Exploratory Essay (500 words minimum).

I. What is Definition?

Definitions limit or explain the meaning of a term or concept. Although the term definition leads most people to think of a dictionary, definitions are not always precise or universally accepted (Connelly 181).

II. Different types of definitions exist:
. Standard definitions
. Regulatory definitions
. Evolving definitions
. Qualifying definitions
. Cultural definitions
. Personal definitions
. Invented definitions
(Read pages 181-3 for explanations of each definition type.)

III. Methods of Definition (pgs.183-4) – Definitions can be established using a number of techniques:

. Defining through synonyms – use a word with similar meaning to define a term; this is the simplest method of providing meaning for a word.
. Defining by description – uses details about a word or subject to define a term; this method gives readers a sense of what a term might look, feel, taste, smell, or sound like.
. Defining by example – uses specific illustrations to establish meaning. Examples can establish meaning through identification. Complex or abstract concepts are easier to comprehend if defined by example.
. Defining by comparison – uses analogies readers can understand to provide meaning to something less familiar.
. Extended definition – this method is necessary when defining highly complex words (love; racism; justice) or concepts. A full description of abstract, disputed, or complex terms requires several paragraphs (even whole essays).

Your Definition Essay

For your definition essay assignment, you will need to apply most, if not all, of the methods listed above to develop and support the term you choose to explain and illustrate (since you are writing an essay to define a selected term, you are already defining through extended definition). Your goal as the author of a definition piece is to establish the meaning of a term, using the methods of definition, for the purpose of sharing a common understanding of that term with your reader. For this assignment, you want to choose a term that means a lot to you; since you will need to produce a strong 500 word essay to successfully complete this assignment, you want to select a term/topic that is rich in personal meaning and significance.

An Organization Tip:
For help in organizing the body of your definition piece, use at least three of the methods of definition listed above. For example, you may choose to define by description in your first supporting body paragraph, define by example in your second supporting body paragraph, and define by comparison in your third body paragraph. Whatever order you choose, do use these methods to help develop and organize your essay.

*Refer to the “Definition Checklist” at the end of chapter six (pg. 235) before you submit your definition essay for review.

Revising Your Writing

​The final step of the writing process is revision. Revision is a necessary step in writing because it involves incorporating your instructor’s suggestions for improvement and proofreading. Before student authors submit a final draft of a writing assignment, they should make certain that their work contains the qualities that make a student essay successful. All successful student essays fulfill the specific purpose of the assignment; they are unified and coherent; they contain proper support; and they display good use of grammar and language. To make certain your essay possess the necessary qualities to achieve a good grade, use the following questions when revising your work:

​Purpose: 1) Does the essay respond to the writing assignment? 2) Does it
answer the question being asked from the writing assignment? Does the essay
communicate a definite viewpoint?

Unity: 1) Does the essay contain a clear opening statement of the point of
the essay? 2) Is all the material in the essay in support of the opening point (thesis)?

Support: 1) Does the essay contain specific evidence to support the opening
point? 2) Does the essay contain enough evidence?

​Coherence: 1) Does the essay have a clear method of organization? 2) Are
transitions and other connecting words (repeated words; pronouns; synonyms)
used to tie the material together?

Grammar: 1) Does the essay contain grammatical errors? 2) What kind of grammatical errors does the essay contain (refer to “Revision Codes” for more on specific mechanic and grammatical errors)? 3) Can the essay’s objective still be effectively communicated with the presence of these grammatical errors?

Language: 1) Does the author use informal language in the essay? 2) Does the author use abstract and vague language? 3) Does the author make awkward word choices that stunt the effectiveness of his/her communication?

Note: Refer to this document before you submit your final essays. I may also ask you to reference this document when reviewing my comments on your final essay grades.

​This document contains descriptions of the most common student writing errors I noted in your first student essays. Use this document along with “Revising Your Writing” (in Course Documents) to help you proofread your essays before you submit them for review and grading.

Problem Areas
. Thesis and Support
2. Does your essay contain a thesis?
a. The main idea or main point developed in an essay is the essay’s thesis. The thesis statement appears in the introductory paragraph, usually at the end, and it is then developed in the supporting paragraphs (the body) that follow.
b. The thesis is the essay’s major topic sentence. The thesis answers the question, “Why am I writing this essay?” A well-structured thesis will state the essay topic and provide the writer’s attitude or opinion about the topic. A thesis may also contain a brief stating of the writer’s intended support for the thesis; (I recommend that you add your three- points for supporting your thesis to your thesis statement, as this greatly assists students with overall essay structure).
3. Does your essay contain support for your thesis?
a. Each of your body paragraphs should contain a major supporting point supported by minor supporting points. The major supporting point of each paragraph is stated in the paragraph’s topic sentence. The remaining body of the paragraph is composed of minor supporting points. The type of minor support (i.e. examples; description; definitions; narratives) you use for each of your student essays will vary from essay to essay to suit your writing assignments.
. Language
1. Word choice (wc)/Awkward Phrasing (awk):
a. Use words that you know. Students should use resources like the thesaurus to expand their vocabularies and avoid repetition of the same words in their essays; however, students should also use a dictionary to make sure they are using the new words in proper context. A thesaurus provides synonyms, words of similar meaning; because the meanings of synonymous words are not always exactly the same, but similar, students should be careful when substituting one word for another.
Also, non-native speakers of English may be inclined to use unfamiliar words for the sake of “sounding academic.” A writer must be comfortable with his/her own voice to produce effective student essays; a writer cannot be comfortable using words of unknown meaning. Student writers should write in a way that comes naturally to them.
In contrast to “sounding academic” is “sounding conversational.” Do not talk to your reader as if he/she is your best friend. This kind of writing is too loose, careless, and unkempt, and most importantly, it is prone to sentence construction errors.
b. Use specific words. Effective writers use specific words rather than general words. Don’t tell your reader, “The view was amazing and breathtaking.” Tell your reader, “The view was an endless bright blue that paralyzed my senses.” Use specific ideas and images instead of general and abstract statements.
c. Use concise words. Wordiness—using more words than necessary to express an idea—is often a sign of laziness or careless writing. In many cases, excessive wordiness reveals the student author’s desire to achieve a required word count.
. Sentence Construction
1. Does your essay contain sentences of varied structures?
a. Vary your sentences. If every sentence in a student essay is structured in the same pattern, writing becomes monotonous. Mix complex and compound sentences with basic sentences in a paragraph. Use punctuation marks like the semi-colon and pair conjunctions with commas to fuse two independent clauses. Use a basic subject + verb clause for a breath of fresh air among many long and complex sentences. The way you chose to structure a sentence has a direct affect on the way your ideas are communicated and thus interpreted.
2. The following are some common grammatical errors and rules to follow to avoid them:
a. A sentence must contain a subject (the who or the what of the sentence) and a predicate (the action the who or the what performs). If a sentence is missing either, the result is a fragment.
b. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause.
c. Do not join independent clauses with a comma. If you wish to join two complete sentences with a comma, you must also add a conjunction. You may also wish to add a semi-colon to fuse two sentences of related ideas.

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