Definition Essay

What Is a Definition Essay?

Academic assignments can impress with their diversity and variety, and we are talking not about the topics and fields of study. Just take a look at types of essays. This probably the simplest piece of academic work may differ a lot from other essays by its structure, paper organization, and a flow of thoughts. Today, we want to talk about a definition essay, its main differences from other papers, and its inner organization. We also glance briefly at topics and even some examples, so that you could not only learn how to write this essay but also find out how the final draft should look like.

So, what is a definition essay? A simple and comprehensive answer will be the following – it is an essay where you need to provide an academic definition of a specific phenomenon, subject, or even a word. In other words, using the gathered information, you explain the meaning of a chosen idea in a comprehensive, but at the same time academic manner.

You may say “What can be easier? You just give an answer to a question – What is this object (subject)?” Indeed, in some way, it is exactly what you should do, but do not forget that you are writing an academic paper, and a definition that is two or three sentences long will not be enough. Your essay has to explain the issue in a very detailed manner, analyzing different aspects, and even, if necessary, comparing it to a relative subject matter in order to estimate the pure meaning of the discussed word. And that is the main challenge that most students can’t see in the beginning, thinking that writing a definition essay is a piece of cake. The mistake often lies in little time that one spends on a preparation stage. The key to success is how well you have planned the essay’s structure, knowing exactly what you will write in each section and even paragraph. So, let’s move to the next step and discuss how to write a definition essay and what is necessary to do before the writing itself.

How to Write a Definition Essay

A plan. That’s what will help you to write a decent paper, which will not lack argumentations and cover all the issues that you want to present. Here is the plan that you can use to write your essay. It can work as a good guide for you, especially if you lack experience in writing such type of a paper

1.Choose an idea

An obvious first step, isn’t it? But the topic selection will determine whether it will be interesting and easy to write this essay for you or whether it will resemble a total nightmare, where you will constantly experience either not knowing what else to say or not being able to find a good piece of evidence for your position.

Our advice of a “good idea” is that it has to be neither too simple and plain nor too complex. Simple topics are too obvious, and you cannot say a lot; they enchain you, depriving you of an opportunity to write a solid assignment.

Complex topics are in contrast, hard to stand for. The argumentative basis you need to gather may not be enough. One may see it as a perfect opportunity, a challenge that will help to improve research and writing skills. But in the majority of cases, students just give up half the way to it, finding it too difficult to write an essay despite how they viewed it at the beginning.

So, pick up a concept that you are familiar with well enough so that a research stage will not take too much time. For instance, a word “home” is something that every one of us knows well, but despite it seeming very simple, the word “home” has many different aspects which you can present and discuss in your essay. In other terms, it is a perfect concept for your paper.

2. Use diverse sources

Looking up a definition of a word or idea in the dictionary is not what a definition essay is about. We do not say that you shouldn’t do it. No, that is the correct first step that you should make, but some students think that it will be enough. At best, they check the definition in a couple of credible dictionaries believing that they have conducted a great research and now they can proceed to the writing aspect.

A definition essay, as well as any other type of academic work, requires solid research and credible sources which you will use as a support for your statements. Thus, a dictionary explanation, even if you check a dozen of them, will equal only to one source. You will hardly find the huge difference in an idea’s interpretation in this or that dictionary. That’s why you need additional sources such as encyclopedias ( where you can learn the origin of a word), websites, articles, and blog posts, where people who are considered to be experts in the discussed field provide their examination of the concept.

The larger the variety of sources you have, the more diverse the result you will get. A lot of different sources will also provide you with fresh ideas for discussing in your assignment. Your essay will not look one-sided anymore since besides the dictionary explanation it will also include opinions of many experts.

3. Make your definition of the concept/idea

If you present the already well-known definition of an idea, your assignment will have little academic value. Who would like to read about the things that had already been announced by others long before you wrote your paper? The uniqueness of your essay consists in a new vision, your personal understanding of a concept. We do not state that you should write it differently at all cost, but a pinch of your vision in the essay is a must.

4. How to start a definition essay

Now, when all the materials are gathered, and you have a good vision of your concept, you are ready to start working on your assignment. But where to begin? How to write an essay that will cover all the issues that you thought of? Once again, you need a plan, or it is better to say a paper outline. That will allow you not to miss any key factors as well as provide a good organization and smooth flow between paragraphs and sections.

We offer for your consideration a 5-section outline that will work well with this type of an essay.

  • Introduction.

Introduce the subject matter of your assignment. Here, you should also provide a standard definition which most people are aware of or which is considered to be the most accepted. If you are going to argue it, offering the more correct meaning or explaining why most people misunderstand its meaning, it’s better to give the first seed of your different vision here. You can write a few sentences first about your perception of a concept and then shape your idea in a thesis statement which is a must and the final act of your introduction part.

  • 1 Section

Begin with the history of the word, its initial origins, and how it has evolved over time. It may shed light on why some people view it differently. That’s why we recommend not to limit yourself only with a dictionary definition because such a piece of information can be found only in encyclopedias or some periodical articles.

  • 2 Section

Give the analysis of a concept from different perspectives. For instance, a political meaning may significantly differ from the one we use in common life. The literal meaning may also have little in common with how this concept is understood and used, for example, by teenagers. People from different social classes may even put a negative connotation which is not seen by others. There is a lot that you can say in this section about why people view the same concept in a different way.  

  • 3 Section

Now, it is time to state your definition and support it with pieces of evidence to demonstrate that your meaning covers all the issues that were discussed before and gives a more accurate explanation. To make it sound credible and convincing, support your statements with references to experts.

  • Conclusion

That is the last paragraph in your essay where you need to restate your initial points. Use the thesis statement that you provided in the introduction, it will help you to lead your thoughts to their final destination and make a logical conclusion.  

5. A few tips about writing a definition essay

  • Despite the fact that a definition essay is an assignment where you provide your personal opinion, usage of the first person is not always allowed as well as in the majority of other academic works. That’s why clarifying this issue with your teacher is necessary before you start writing a paper.
  • Do not narrow a definition even if the explanation may take a few pages. It is a definitional essay so that it is essential that the lion’s share of your assignment is dedicated to the discussion of explaining the concept.
  • Try to make a unique definition even if it may sound too untraditional. There is no need to repeat what has already been said before you.
  • Proofread your essay the next day. You will be surprised how many errors have escaped your eye.

Definition essay topics

Now, when we have discussed how to write this type of an essay, it is time to talk about topics because they are equally important. The choice of a good topic is the key to successful completion of a definition essay. So, how do you choose the right topic? Before deciding what you are going to write about, ask these questions which will help you to understand whether you are on the right track.

  • Is it a bit difficult for you to give an accurate definition of the concept/idea?
  • Does your understanding of the idea differ from the common one?
  • Do many people give a specific connotation to this concept depending on their own experience, social status, or any other background?  
  • Is there enough information about this topic for you to conduct a thorough research?

If you can answer all these questions with Yes, then you have made the right choice and will write a good essay. By the way, if you do not have much time for making up a topic on your own or searching it online, we have prepared a list of good definition essay topics to save your time. We are sure you will find a couple of good ones there and write a good definition essay after that.

Summing Up

We have discussed a definition essay from its purpose and paper organization to choosing a proper topic and the writing process itself. It seems like that’s all that a student needs to start working on a paper. However, there is one more last thing we want to share with you. As we promised at the beginning, we were going to give you some definition essay examples, so that you could see yourself how all the things that we have discussed should be applied in practice. Use these definition essay samples as a guide or a good example of how to write this type of a paper. We are sure that you will cope well with your next assignment and get a high grade for your definition essay!