When we think of abstract concepts and ideas such as courage, strength or love-though we may have a particular definition in mind, we also know that, this definition of ours can be very subjective. This is because in reality the meaning of all of the terms mentioned may vary considerably depending on each person, place or situation.
How you may come to understand an issue such as marriage and divorce or what it means to be responsible, in many respects will be based on you own cultural background and experiences. The way in which you were taught about responsibility for instance, may differ from someone else personal experience regarding that. And in this way the definition essay
allows for each perspective to be adequately portrayed and defined.
How to go about choosing a good topic
So what makes a good topic? Regardless of the discipline or type of essay being constructed, there are a few basic guidelines to any good topic. Before you choose a topic for your definition essay
you should consider each of the following.
Is my topic narrow enough to be fully covered in my paper or essay?
If you take on a topic that is too broad you will likely be setting yourself up for failure. You only have a limited amount time and space to craft your assignment, and selecting something that you can not adequately cover is one of the biggest blunders in topic selection-so stand clear.
Is my topic suitable for my audience?
When you keep your audience in mind you can better choose a topic that will not only satisfy you as the writer but also provide your reader with a beneficial experience. Some things to consider in this area are the different ages and backgrounds of your audience. If writing for a general adult audience for instance (that also shares your same cultural context) you would likely be able to use any of the above mentioned definition topics in a manner that they can easily understand and relate to.
Are all the resources I need accessible and readily available?
Another important issue to consider is which sources will be your main areas of reference for a particular project. This issue may not be so much of a concern today with the advances of technology and the Internet, but say for instance you would like to pursue a complex idea that was thoroughly examined by several well known authors. The only problem is, their books are not available online and the library that you need to use is very far away. Is this a topic you want to choose? No. So this is what is meant by selecting a topic for which the sources needed are accessible and available to you.
What makes a topic interesting?
With this particular type of essay in mind its ideal to choose a topic that you really have a genuine interest in, and or personal experience with. Thankfully when it comes to definition writing, many of the topics are broad and general concepts that many people experience in their day to day lives. For instance, happiness, anger, joy, anxiety etc. Likewise, along with selecting a topic that interest you, you may also want to consider something that you've always felt the need to define or clarify. Possibly because of your own personal experiences or simply from what you've gathered in the news and public media, you notice that there is a pressing issue that you'd like to clarify and examine-this would make a great definition topics as well.
So in short, an interesting topic is one that is interesting to you as the writer. Hopefully in writing what you care for or are passionate about, your reader too will find it interesting and worth the time to sit down and read.
Sample definition topics and how to narrow them
One of the great things about definition topics is that in most cases they translate right into abstract concepts or ideas. So pretty much anytime you have a concept that is abstract or non-tangible, it will be a topic suitable for a definition essay. Some samples can be seen below.
Though these are great topics, many of them are too broad or expansive to be examined. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, a bit of narrowing is in order. There are several ways to go about narrowing a topic. The first would be to think about the topic from different perspectives or viewpoints.
For instance if you wanted to define tolerance for example, you may decide to focus on what tolerance means to African-Americans for instance (considering America's history of slavery and racism). Therefore using this perspective you would narrow down the broad topic of tolerance to something more like tolerance through a different lens for instance.
Additionally, some topics may not need to be narrowed down in such a way at all. In fact many of the ones listed can easily be confined to a reasonable essay with little refining (though a thesis or objective statement would still be in order to clarify the exact limitations of the essay or paper). For instance, if writing about sympathy, the writer would explain in their thesis statement that they will be writing about what it means to be sympathetic and also the role of sympathy in our lives.
The key qualities of a definition essay
Compared to other essays
, the framework of the definition essay is pretty simple. In addition to reviewing the dictionary definition of something you may also be looking at several different perspectives and interpretations of it coupled with precise and clear examples and explanations. After selecting a good topic a key issue to determine in crafting your definition essay is whether or not you will focus specifically on your own meaning of the term with supportive evidences or to synthesize various definitions and interpretations into a collective meaning of the term (perhaps with regards to a specific geographical location, culture, or group of people).
*Though also note that in some cases you can even combine between these two approaches and provide strong personal as well as cultural implications connected to a particular word or term.
Lastly, remember that a definition essay should serve the purpose of defining a term as well as providing concrete examples. This is a very important point because examples, anecdotes, or any other means of support serve a big role in increasing the understanding and comprehension of the term for your audience.
Likewise, an essay such as this can be approached using a few different methods, some of them being; describing the function of that particular term (as with the topic sympathy), analyzing or examining it, and defining it as it relates to its components, framework or structure.