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  • Topic–what
    term/concept/phrase do you plan on defining (you MAY pick but are NOT
    to a term from within your major)
  • Thesis/focus
    a kind of ‘so what’ statement that proposes what the reader
    will learn or better understand as a result of reading your definition
  • Outline
    in either bullet or paragraph form
    that indicates how you plan on
    developing/organizing your essay

What: Write about a term, concept, or phrase in a way that
explains the meaning to someone unfamiliar with it. For example, you could
select a concept vital to your field of study (your “major”) or choose an
abstract term that often holds different levels of meaning to people. Read
actively in order to prove claims with specific, relevant evidence using APA
citation style, demonstrate critical thinking skills, and apply effective
writing strategies and appeals. Compose multiple drafts as you develop this
project, revising for focus, development, organization, and then editing for
grammar, punctuation, and clarity of delivery.

Why: This assignment strengthens your ability to analyze a
variety of texts designed for different audiences, subjects, and purposes in
order to identify main ideas, supporting evidence, and conclusions. By
developing multiple drafts of this paper, you will learn important research
skills and gain practice using form, organization, syntax, diction, style, and
tone appropriate for your subject, purpose, and audience.

Writing a Definition Essay is beneficial in other ways,

  • In
    depth writing about a specific term or phrase guides your understanding of
    a process, theory, or idea, and then allows you to teach readers what
    you’ve learned.
  • As you
    begin studies in your selected field of endeavor, you will be exposed to
    many technical terms and specialized jargon. Researching definitions of
    terms and jargon for this type of project can enhance your overall
    educational experience.
  • A
    Definition Essay is also a great way for your instructor to assess your
    skills of organization, critical thinking, research, APA usage, and

How: The purpose of this assignment is to present information
about your topic that analyzes the importance of
understanding the topic better to your audience in way that teaches without
attempting to persuade. One way to define a topic is to separate its parts into
groups or categories and discuss them as sections of the larger whole. Assume
your audience knows nothing about the concept you’ve selected. How can you
explain the word or phrase in a clear, straightforward style?

Select a term or concept to define. If choosing a term
related to your major
, here are a few examples from Axelrod and Cooper’s Concise
Guide to Writing
(Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009) to spark your thinking:

  • Business
    management major:
    liquidity gap, zero-based budgeting, management by
  • Psychology
    the Stroop effect, operant conditioning, social cognition
  • Political
    Science major:
    majority rule, political party, hegemony
  • Public
    Health major:
    alcoholism, seasonal affective disorder, contraception
  • Finance
    reverse mortgage, budget, revolving credit
  • English
    plot, metaphor, symbolism
  • Some
    additional terms from popular culture, much like our readings on Big Data,
    include: Truthiness, Corporacracy, Schadenfreude, memes, the 47%, fracking,
    God particle, crowdsourcing, social economics, etc.

1) Brainstorm what you already know (and
what you’d like to know) about the concept.

2) Conduct preliminary research to further
narrow the focus of your essay.

3) Develop a working thesis statement and
progress into more extensive research.

4) Use at least 2-5 reliable academic
sources (e.g. academic database, book, organization website, interview with
expert, etc.) to support your paper. These sources should be
published/updated within the last five years.

5) Decide which research materials will be
useful to include in the essay in the form of quotation, paraphrase, or summary
(with APA citation, as needed).

6) Properly format APA in-text citations
and a References page.

7) The final draft of the essay should be
5 pages in length, typed and double-spaced with 1-inch margins. Use standard
style and font such as Times New Roman style/12 point. Include a separate
title page with a thoughtful title that does more than simply restates the
assignment type.

8) Revise the entire document several
times to ensure your thoughts are clearly conveyed and paragraphs are logically
developed. The essay’s final version should be written in 3rd
person: Do not use 2nd person (“you”) or 1st person (“I”)

9) Edit for spelling, grammar, and

A Peer Review session is scheduled for the middle draft of
this assignment via the Discussion Board; participation in Peer Review as a
reviewer and reviewee is required.

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