What Goes in to a Definition Essay?



You may be assigned the task of defining a word, concept or term as your writing assignment. This type of writing is known as a definition essay.
This is an extremely important writing assignment as the teacher assesses the student’s understanding of the subject area in this form of writing. Therefore, you need to know how to create this piece of writing in a way which is different from any other types of academic works.


There are various methods that can be utilized to define the word, concept or term. Below are some of these methods that you can make use of in your writing. The choice should depend on the subject for which your papers are being written.
Defining by Analysis – This method of writing requires you to break the topic into various parts and describe it separately. The differences can then be illustrated by comparing them.
Defining by Comparison – A term can be defined better by comparing the subject with something else as in a compare contrast essay. For example, if you wished to discuss the definition of something, providing its positive and negative aspects may sometimes make it easier for the reader to understand what you are saying.
Defining with Details – Details make it easier for a reader to understand a subject. Therefore, you should provide various and specific details of the subject of your paper.
Defining with Negation – Negation is something that contradicts part of all of a word or sentence’s meaning. You can define your subject in this way. For example, highlighting the points that do not pertain to the subject and explaining why it is so can define the term to the reader more eloquently than any other method.
Defining with Examples and Anecdotes – Examples and anecdotes work extremely well with abstract concepts, such as, love, hate, honor, courage etc. For example, honesty can be defined with a story of an honest person. This method can explain to the reader clearly what honesty means.
Defining through Established Theory – for certain formal subjects which have established definitions for various topic areas, the use of these theories is crucial. The assignment will expect to see your knowledge and familiarity with these definitions.



There is a number of interesting topics listed below. However, keep in mind the topic selected should be an actual term that can be clearly defined to the reader.
• The definition of independence to a teenager
• How do you define a hero?
• The definition of a leader to a business person
• Defining child abuse and sex abuse
• Love-what is it?
• What is religion and what does it mean to you?
• Defining corporal punishment in 500 words
• Marriage and other relationships defined
• Defining market economies and their key features in contrast to planned economies


Whatever topic you select, you should first make sure YOU understand its definition. Always consider explaining the term or concept in your own words. Even if you resort to “define by theory” method, use your own words subsequently to explain the concept. Wherever possible, bring up examples that can better explain your word to the reader.
Writing a definition essay is an interesting and easy task. Work hard on developing your creativity and analytical skills and you are sure to produce an outstanding piece of work.