Much as the title suggests, definition essays are a type of essay that explain and define some particular thing and they are based on a specific topic or subject. Generally speaking, these essays are fairly straightforward. A lot of professors ask their students to submit definitions essays as a way of showing how well they understand the essay's subject. This genre of an essay does not require any (or much) in-depth thinking or analysis.
So, how does one go about defining something in an essay? The previous paragraph suggests the process is quite easy. However, some effort is required to get a good grade. The process begins with the writer choosing a word, term, or phrase that is interesting and one they are willing to undertake some research on. It is advisable to select a new or slightly abstract word since these will help you learn about a topic you are not already very familiar with i.e. it is a way of acquiring knowledge. Next, having decided on a word or term, you need to look it up in a dictionary, or perhaps in a couple of dictionaries. The explanations provided in dictionaries can differ from one dictionary to another so it makes sense to check the explanations in several so that you can compare them. It may be that you want to consult friends or members of your family to see if they know and are able to explain what your chosen word means. Make a note of the definitions provided by the individuals you interview. Another useful way for finding out what a word means or how it is used is through sections of the media e.g. in magazines, newspapers, movies, and so on. Needless to say, one of the best sources of useful and reliable information is books. Then you can begin writing when you have done all your research.
Below are some possible writing prompts for a definition essay.
General Topics for a Definition Essay
- Love and what it means.
- The best way to define respect.
- How would you define judgment?
- What are the ingredients of true friendship?
- Define hate - its characteristics and nature.
- Describe what it means to be successful.
- How different people define happiness.
- What are the traits of a real hero?
- What is meant by courage?
- The different ways of interpreting beauty
Topics for a College-Level Definition Paper
- How getting a college degree matters in every student's life.
- Living healthily: What things would you include?
- What makes a marriage happy?
- The freedom to make choices.
- Worthwhile jobs: What factors contribute to employee satisfaction?
- Mobile applications for learning and education.
- How to write a successful application for college.
- What qualifications do college professors need?
- What is meant by love of the platonic variety?
- Why more than one language is necessary.
Ideass for an Argumentative Definition Essay
- The causes of mass murders and what can be done to prevent these.
- An explanation of the death penalty and the pros and cons of this method of punishment.
- How the smoking of cigarettes is defined by professionals in the healthcare industry.
- The benefits and pitfalls of cell phone usage.
- Should creationism be included as a possible new subject in schools?
- Racism and the segregation of racial groups.
- What can be done to ensure elections are fair?
- What is meant by CSR (corporate social responsibility)?
- English as the USA's official and primary language.
- Have we lost control of the practice of cheating?
Topics for an Extended Definition Essay
What is meant by the following term(s):
- Healthy attitude
- Privacy rights
- A true friend
- Love - how would you describe this?
- Bad coaching
- The characteristics of a hero
- Good timing
Topics for a Definition Essay on Material Culture
- In the history of Museums, which age is the "Golden" one?
- The creation of hierarchy and an examination of the features of cultures other than Western culture.
- How material culture began and how it is has progressed.
- Describe the first studies on material culture.
- Discuss the museums of Pitt Rivers and the contribution Rivers made to material culture.
- Trace the history of ethnographic works and collecting culture.
- The influence of Georg Simmel on material culture and his role in this field.
- An in-depth examination of interdisciplinary studies.
- Describe cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary influences on material culture.
- How is material culture and anthropology connected?
- Trace the progress of material culture throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
- Explain how material culture evolved in tandem with societal evolution.
- How are society and culture portrayed through objects?
- Explain the arrangement of the Life-Group model.
- How is it possible to trace the whole of mankind back to one origin?
- Explain how material culture has developed over the years.
- What role did Franz Boas play in the recording of material culture?
- Explain early thinking on material culture and how this school of thinking was first established.
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Above, you see several samples of common topics that students base their definition papers on. It may be that you are given this type of assignment as part of your college coursework or for test purposes. The list is endless - a great many words have several intricate meanings and/or can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
The sample topics provided in the above list should be sufficient when you need to produce a winning assignment. For the best possible grades, we recommend combining at least two of these topics (or possibly more) and we advise you to pay careful attention to your essay as you write. In the event, you are unsure about the correct writing style or pattern for your work, feel free to check out our expert guide to writing definition essays. The tips you find in our guide should help you to write successful essays.
The idea is to choose a term you will define, one you are comfortable writing about and one you find interesting and you think others will be interested in. Do your best to avoid the most common pitfalls and mistakes. It is possible to become a good essay author with nothing more than the assistance of your word processor or pen! Best of luck with your writing!
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