Thesis Statement: For this type of essay you will want a good lead up to the term. Build an interest as to why you have chosen this term. Why is it an interesting term to define? Then in the thesis statement you can identify the methods that you are going to use to define it. For instance, if I chose the term “genius,” I might say that the term is best understood by defining it, by using examples, and by contrasting/comparing it to an antonym. Or I might say that the term “depression is often only thought of in relation to a mental issue but actually can be used in other categories.”
3. Body Paragraphs:
The development of this type of essay is not the same as all of the others. Yes, we use the standard five paragraph essay. However, we do not have three points or three equal parts as we have seen in all of the other essays. Each paragraph can be distinct unto itself. How can that be? The purpose of this essay is to define the term. That part is consistent throughout the essay: what does this term mean. Each paragraph must do exactly that: enhance the meaning of the term in the mind of the individual who is reading the essay. However, the way in which the individual goes about defining the term in each paragraph is the way that the paragraph is distinct. The following are the different possibilities that can be used to develop those paragraphs. Not all of these will be used since you only need only three main body paragraphs. You can choose any that you would like.
A. Take the definition out of the dictionary. Quote it. Then take each main word in that definition and tell what it means. Enhance your reader’s understanding of that term. If it is modifying another term, define each and then show how the two function together in the meaning of the word you are defining. If it is the object of a verb, then show how it receives the action of that verb. Make sure that you constantly refer back to the word you are defining.
B. Look over the synonyms of the word you are defining. You can use the dictionary for this or a thesaurus. Choose 1 to 3 synonyms. Do the same with these definitions as you did in the preceding choice. Explain the term(s) by amplifying the meanings of the terms used in each definition. Many times there is a fine line difference between your term and the synonym. Look for that special difference. For instance, is the synonym used in a more specific situation than the word you are defining. Is there a possibility that the synonym takes on a broader or narrower meaning than your term? Is one synonym a better choice for your term than one of the other synonyms? In a way you can compare and/or contrast your term to the synonym(s).
C. Look for an antonym or antonyms to your term. Again use the dictionary or a thesaurus. For example, what better way is there to describe what love is than to describe what hate is. By describing hate and contrasting it to love, you help to define the term love. In this type of paragraph you have to constantly refer back to your term to reinforce that that is the term you are defining. If you only concentrate on the antonym, the reader will forget that you are defining a different term. Be sure to look up the definition of the antonym(s) so that you can look for specific terms that you can use to make those comparison(s) or contrast(s).
D. A term can sometimes be enhanced by knowing its etymology (its roots). Go back in history and trace the use of the term over periods of time. A term often changes over time. For instance, the word “discipline” use to have a positive connotation. Nowadays, if someone uses the term discipline, then the other person might think of “child abuse.” Tracing the roots of a word can be someone difficult; therefore, you may need help from sources on this one. Just make sure not to repeat the root word in the definition of your term. For example, if you were to say that abortion is to abort a baby, then that is called a circular definition. “Abort” is part of the term “abortion”. It does not help to define the term.
E. Exemplification is another way that a term can be defined in a paragraph or in a whole essay. In the latter case, definition and exemplification are working together. What better way is there to define “role model” than to give a different example in each of the three paragraphs of the main body. On the other hand, you can choose to use only one paragraph to give examples in as a means of defining a term. For instance, if you wanted to describe what a genius is, you might give 2 or 3 examples in one paragraph. You could talk about Einstein in relation to physics; Then you could talk about Mozart in relation to music; Finally you could talk about Michelangelo in relation to art. Each are geniuses in their particular realms.
F. A final way to develop the definition of a term is to divide it into categories. Again that is very much using exemplification along with definition. Each paragraph could be a different category. For instance, take the term “depression.” Most of you probably thought of a mental condition in relation to that term. However, what other categories can you think of? Economic depression, tropical depression, and a geological depression. Each category is a type of depression. What do they all have in common? What makes each one depressed? That is what you need to bring to the forefront.
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