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11.2: Basic Structure

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    The Thesis Statement

    The definition thesis statement should not only provide the parameters of your proposed definition, but it should also establish why there is a need for establishing a shared understanding of your idea. 109

    Example \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    • While many people may believe that being educated requires formal schooling with degrees and certificates to prove achievement, being educated is also the result of learning independent of formal education: books read, journeys taken, and self-reflection.
    • Although family once meant having two parents and siblings living in a house with a white picket fence, families today consist of myriad variations of this arrangement as long as love and support of one another are the critical boundaries.

    Unlike other essay modes, the definition essay is organized around the devices that you choose to use to develop your extended definition. For example, a writer could use a process approach. In another approach, a writer could use illustration or narration to demonstrate the real life contexts where the word is used. Cause and effect could be used to clarify what happens when the word is understood in your terms and contexts; similarly, the causes that lead to misinterpretation could be considered and demonstrated. Finally, using a comparison/contrast approach is a common section of most definition essays; sometimes this approach is called negation—with the author emphasizing what the word clearly does not mean, when it does not apply.


    One strategy for starting a definition essay is to mention circulating and conflicting definitions for the word or concept to be clarified in the essay. Another possibility it to take a historical approach. How has the word or concept been viewed in the past? If the focus of your essay will be arguing for a new slang word, then use examples of other slang words have been introduced in previous generations. As a last resort, you can start with a short dictionary definition of the word, but this approach can be viewed as monotonous and boring to some audiences. Regardless of the approach that you choose, remember that it needs to lead to the thesis statement which is the clear assertion of how you want the word or concept to be understood.


    To effectively write a conclusion for an extended definition essay, think about the impacts that adopting your established definition will have for the audience in situational contexts. Reiterate why your assertion is more apt that other perspectives, and be sure to summarize the distinguishing traits used to establish your definition as they were presented in the introduction.

    11.2: Basic Structure is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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