Definition Essays: Explaining a Term With Examples, Facts and Anecdotes
Definition essays define a specific term through explanation. Defined terms can be concrete or abstract. Concrete terms are words like pencil, coffee or fan; abstract terms are words like integrity, honesty or love. When this type of essay defines something abstract, you usually write from your point of view. Before you jump into writing this essay format, make sure you understand the assignment well.
The main components of definition essays
There are three components that dictate what you write in a definition essay:
In addition, any term you select to define in the definition essay should have a complex meaning, possibly mean different things to different people and stay able to be discussed in a meaningful way.
Choosing the definition for your essay
While stating the term you intend to define seems pretty straightforward, some words have multiple meanings. The definition is the central point of the essay, so before you can write about it to explain it to your readers, you must first understand the specific meaning. Some words are very broad in definition and lend themselves to creating too broad of a topic. For example, “sleep” is very broad, but you can narrow the definition by defining “sleep deprivation” instead.
Writing the thesis statement for a definition essay
In a definition essay, the thesis statement is the term and its definition. It is very simple in nature and consists solely of the term and a very basic definition. Part of developing your thesis revolves around writing an effective definition. There are multiple approaches to defining your selected term:
Using facts, examples or anecdotes to write the definition essay
As you define your term more in-depth, select facts, examples or anecdotes you can use to define your term more completely. Considerations you should make while deciding on the best way to define the term include the following:
- Do certain examples make the term more understandable?
- Which examples or facts are the most appealing?
- Can an anecdote best explain the meaning of the term?
However you decide to explain the term, never use examples, facts or anecdotes that do not support the definition 100 percent.
Choosing definition essay topics
You have virtually unlimited choices when it comes to selecting a term to define in this type of essay. However, abstract terms lend the air to more creativity and personal anecdotes. Examples of terms you might choose include the following:
When selecting a term, aim to pick something that you find interesting and something to which you can personally relate. Not only does it make the writing process easier, but it generally makes what you write more interesting. As you wrap up your essay, the final paragraph is often used to share the personal meaning of the word you selected.
The purpose of an informative essay, sometimes called an expository essay, is to educate on a certain topic. It is not for giving an opinion or convincing someone to do something or change his beliefs. In addition to being informative, it needs to be interesting.
Structure of an Informative Essay
The basic structure of an informative essay is very simple. It needs to have a beginning, middle, and end.
- The beginning needs to present the topic and grab the attention of the audience. It needs to include the focus sentence for the entire essay.
- The middle will be the main bulk of the essay and it will contain all the important facts that you are covering. This is where the audience will get their questions answered. Remember to answer these questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how.
- The end is a conclusion where you will summarize the essay. It should spur the reader or listener to learn more about the topic.
Here is an example of the beginning of an informative essay:
As you are listening to me, you might not think that today is the day that you will save a life. It is quite easy to save a life any day and it only takes a little bit of your time. I’m not talking about being a paramedic or fireman; I am talking about donating blood.
Here is an example of a closing:
So that now you know how easy it is to donate blood, it’s time to take action. After all, you have plenty of blood, so why not share? When you do, you will feel good about yourself and you will save a life.
Subjects of Informative Essays
Informative essays, sometimes called expository essays, can be used for many purposes. They can compare viewpoints on a controversial subject as long as they don’t include the author’s opinions. They may analyze data, like in a cause and effect situation, or educate the audience on ways to do something, like solving a certain kind of problem.
- An informative essay might explain the pros and cons of the death penalty, using statistics on crime rate reduction as a pro and statistics on innocent men being found guilty as a con.
- An informative essay might analyze whether lack of education is a cause of homelessness by using statistics and information about the educational attainment of homeless men and women.
- An informative essay might educate the audience on how to open a bank account.
Informative Essay Titles
To help you get a better idea of the different types of informative essays, here are some possible titles for this type of essay:
- Understanding the Link Between Cholesterol and Heart Disease
- How to Buy a House
- Understanding Your Credit Score
- Defining Poverty in the City of Chicago
- The Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
- The Importance of Regular Daily Exercise
- The Causes of Global Warming
- Reducing Carbon Emissions with Alternative Fuels
- Cost Savings of Hybrid Vehicles
- Understanding Geothermal Heating and Cooling
- Why Cleaning Your Ducts is Important
- Qualifications of Contractors
- How to Get your Commercial Driver's License
Steps in Creating an Informative Essay
Most of the work on an informative essay is done before you actually sit down to type. Here are the general steps to take:
- After you have chosen the topic, you will need to research and gather all the pertinent details on that subject. You need to ascertain what you already know about the subject and then decide what you would like to know.
- You will need to make a list of the important facts and then list the main steps in your paper. Make sure all your facts are accurate. You will need to write a topic sentence for each fact and write a focus sentence (thesis statement) for the entire essay.
- Create an outline that will organize your facts in a logical way. Then you will be ready to make your first draft.
- Editing is an important step for any writing project. Reading your essay out loud will help you notice places where the writing is awkward or unclear. If possible, have someone else read it and give you their ideas for improvement. Of course, you will need to pay attention for grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and other errors.
An informative essay is the best way to explain something that is complicated...in an uncomplicated way.