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How to Write an Extended Definition Essay

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Writing an extended definition essay is like an essay about anything: you need to make it interesting and worth reading. With definition essays, however, you must do one more thing that is not always necessary with other types of writing—you have to prove whatever you are defining (no matter how obvious).

What is an extended definition essay?

An extended definition essay is a writing assignment where you have to choose a concept and define it. To do this, you’ll need to provide an explanation of the concept (i.e., give its meaning), as well as examples of what the concept entails. This is also known as representing or exemplifying the concept through descriptions, examples, and details.

What is an extended definition?

An extended definition includes more than just the word’s general meaning and/or synonyms of the concept in question. Also included are: a history of the term, why this term was chosen over others, how it compares to similar concepts, and its strengths and weaknesses. This will of course depend on what you’re writing about.

Why would an extended definition be used?

Depending on the subject of your extended definition essay, this type of writing is usually used in academia to describe a concept in detail. In higher education, students are expected to know why certain words were chosen over others when defining a term, and how it fits into the context of a specific discipline.

Why are extended definition essays important?

An extended definition essay is used to describe a concept in detail, which can help you further your understanding of it. This can be helpful for researching information for other essays or assignments, conducting scientific studies that rely on accurate identification of variables, and so much more!

How to write an extended definition essay – step by step

If your readers don’t understand what something means after having read your paper, then you have not proven it. When you do this, then readers will see that a subject is worth writing about. With the following steps and a little creativity, you can write a great extended definition essay.

Step 1: Gather Your Information

To have proof of your extended definition, you need to have proof—facts, statistics, quotes, and well-thought out examples. The amount of information you need depends on the topic, but typically more is better to support your definition. You can find information in textbooks, encyclopedias, magazines (like TIME), newspapers online , and there are plenty of resources available to help with research like Google Scholar .

Step 2: Brainstorm Your Points

Once you have the information you need, it is time to think of your points. You can do this beforehand or while doing research—whichever way works best for you. Consider everything that is associated with your topic and start making a list. Some examples:

-A car cannot function without gasoline (combustion)

-Coffee is a stimulant

-The sun gives off light and heat energy

Once you have your list, go through it and pick out the main points. These will be your thesis (defining sentence) and topic sentences for each supporting paragraph. If you find that some of your examples do not work as proof or are redundant, then you can either remove them from your list or cut and paste them into a separate document.

Step 3: Write Your Thesis, Topic Sentences, and Supporting Paragraphs

This is the hard part because you need to make each of your main points as effective as possible. Start with the first point on your list. Read through your information and think of how you can make it interesting, new, or applicable to something that your reader will know. Once you have the idea for your topic sentence, write it down. Then read through what you have written so far and rewrite it until you are happy with the final result. This example applies to an extended definition paper about aspirin:

Aspirin is a drug that helps with pain and inflammation.

Thesis statement: Aspirin is a drug that helps relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Topic Sentence 1: One way aspirin does this is by stopping prostaglandins from being made, which are chemicals that contribute to pain, fever, and inflammation.

Evidence/Proof: Aspirin blocks prostaglandins from being made by sticking to COX enzymes that help with the process of making them.

Topic Sentence 2: Another way aspirin helps is by stopping substances called thromboxanes, which lead to bruising and blood clotting.

This topic sentence is saying the same thing as the previous sentence. You can either cut this paragraph or move it to a separate document if you choose to add extra information about aspirin later on.

This topic sentence is introducing a new way that aspirin helps, so it would be best to leave it. And its proof should go in a separate paragraph anyway since it is more complicated than the other examples.

Here is one possible example of how your essay might look when you are done:

Aspirin, a common drug in households worldwide, has many benefits such as relieving pain and reducing inflammation. One way it does this is by stopping prostaglandins from being made, which are chemicals that contribute to pain, fever and inflammation. Aspirin blocks prostaglandins from being made by sticking to COX enzymes that help with the process of making them. Another way aspirin helps is by stopping substances called thromboxanes, which lead to bruising and blood clotting.

Topic Sentence 3: One last way aspirin helps is by stopping substances called cyclooxygenases from being made, which are chemicals that contribute to pain and inflammation.

This topic sentence is introducing a new way that aspirin helps, so it would be best to leave it. And its proof should go in a separate paragraph anyway since it is more complicated than the other examples.

After you have written your thesis and all of your topic sentences, you can add in any other proofs or details. While it is not necessary to add them to the example above, they should go into separate paragraphs with topic sentences that make them easier to follow.

For an extended definition essay about aspirin, here are some additional facts that might be added:

Aspirin is the only available drug that stops inflammation on its own.

It has few side effects when taken in small doses, but it can damage the stomach lining if too much of it is ingested at once.

Like all medications, aspirin should not be taken without a doctor’s prescription.

Step 4: Revise Your Essay

It is a good idea to read through your entire essay before you decide that it’s ready for grading. Look in the margins of the paper and check if your paragraphs are organized. If all of them have topic sentences, they should flow from one to the next without being confusing. If you have an intro and a conclusion, they should do their jobs of making the reader interested in the topic and satisfied with what they read before moving on.

Once you are happy with your essay, print it out or copy it onto a computer file so that you can save it for later. You could even use this for a study guide or review before a test on the same topic.

The Extended Definition Essay Checklist

These are some of the most important things you should check for in your essay:

  • – Does my intro make me want to read on?
  • – Is there a transition sentence at the end of each paragraph that leads into the next one?
  • – Do the topic sentences in each paragraph match with their details?
  • – Is there a proof to back up every topic sentence?

Once you have gone through your extended definition paper and made sure it has everything it needs, you can hand it in or email it to your teacher for grading.

Extended definition essay outline

A good extended definition essay outline is all about being able to show you understand the concept of extended definition. This can be somewhat complex, so an outline is a great place to start!

What is an extended definition essay outline?

An extended definition essay outline helps you organize your thoughts and ideas before starting on the actual writing process. It also ensures that all of the information you’re providing to your audience makes sense by revealing the bigger picture first, then filling in the gaps afterward.

Start with a brief introduction of the concept

Typically, this section should include a short introduction explaining what your extended definition essay is about. You might also want to provide a thesis statement in this section that states whether or not your subject is going to be defined accurately.

State the meaning of the word/concept

In the second section, you should explain how other words relate to this one and/or what concepts are similar or different than the one you’re defining.

Detail the history, origin, and/or evolution of this concept

This portion should include details on how and where your specific word was first used. Also discuss why it was chosen over other words that mean more or less the same thing. Then, end with a quick summary of what the term is currently used for.

Compare and contrast your subject to other similar concepts

In this section, you should explain how your chosen concept relates to similar ones. For example, if you’re writing about a computer virus, you might also include information on a human virus as well as other types of malware that affect computers or mobile devices.

Discuss the benefits and/or drawbacks of this concept

Lastly, you should wrap up your extended definition essay outline by discussing why this concept may be advantageous or problematic. Even though there are good points to every idea, it can be helpful to point out things that might affect people in general if they don’t know about them.

Write a conclusion

In the conclusion section of your essay, you should write a short summary of what you said in your outline. This is basically a preview of all of your points as if you were trying to convince someone to take an interest in your subject or idea. You might also want to leave them with something that makes them hungry for more information by asking a question, such as “Why is this good/bad?” or “What can we learn from this?”

Create a works cited page/references

Make sure to include a works cited page that has all of your sources and information where you got the data for your extended definition essay! This should be done in MLA, APA, or any other citation format and should list all sources that you used in the order that they appear in your extended definition essay writing.

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