114 Module #3 Overview

This module contains one discussion, an essay/paper, and a writing lab.

1. Read in your online textbook:  HOW TO WRITE A DEFINITIONAL ESSAY.

In our academic lives, we are exposed to new words and terms all the time: We might learn new terms—or more complicated applications of words we thought we already know—as we study history, biology, literature, or other disciplines. This happens in our everyday lives as well; we hear new words from different cultures, different technologies, and different generations. Often, when we want to know a word or a term’s definition, we think of looking in the dictionary, of going to an acknowledged, credible source to find out what a word means. We don’t necessarily think of definitions as debatable, as arguments, and many words, in many situations, are not. When you hear someone tell a teenager or young adult to act like an “adult,” you probably don’t think of that person acting like a 14-year-old. You know what the word “adult” means! But you also probably know that in a different context that word that you know so well may be contested. In criminal law, for example, a 14-year-old might be tried as an “adult” in a court if he or she has committed certain crimes. And 200 years ago, a 14-year-old was very much an adult in terms of being able to work or even marry. And in some parts of the world, that is still the case.

So once we think about it, we realize that dictionaries aren’t the only sources of definitions. Often how a word is defined is very debatable; often, indeed, it’s the foundation of an argument. For example, before a court can decide to try a 14-year-old as an adult, there must be agreement on what being an adult means in this particular legal term (that is, in terms of behavior, knowing right from wrong, etc.). How a court defines “adult” will likely be very different from the way a biologist defines “adult”, which will vary still from the way a psychologist defines it.

In college and the professional world, you will often be expected to memorize established definitions of terms. But you will often need to be able to understand and enter the debate over definitions that are contested. In this expository essay, you will define an abstract term that may be contested.

Overview of assignment
For this paper, you will choose a debatable term that is of interest to you. You will define the term using whatever evidence you determine to be the most compelling and uniquely describe the term you are defining. Make sure that the definition is your own and that it is not simply a different meaning of a word with multiple interpretations.

Purpose
Your broader purpose here is to enter into a more expansive conversation about your term, but you must still shape — and make clear to your audience — your more specific purpose. Your goal in this paper is to reflect on and articulate the meaning of a word or term that has some resonance for you. For your reader, the paper should offer a clear sense of what you think the term means, how your thoughts connect to what others think of the term, why and in what context the definition matters.

What you should not do in this essay is define something the way we already know it; in other words, try not to tell us that a computer is a machine for accessing the World Wide Web and Word processing. We don’t need to read that compromise is finding an in-between in a conflict. Aim for something clear, specific, understandable to your reader.  Remember, it is YOUR definition–it doesn’t have to agree with everyone else’s.  SLANG terms are especially in need of definition, so you may choose from the list I provided.

1. Read in your online textbook:  HOW TO WRITE A DEFINITIONAL ESSAY.

2. For your Definition Essay:

  1. introduce the term and state why it needs to be defined fully. AN EASY WAY TO INTRODUCE YOUR SLANG TERM IS TO GIVE THE ORIGIN OF THE WORD–THAT IS, HOW DID YOUR WORD BECOME WHAT IT MEANS TO YOU TODAY?  A DICTIONARY OF SLANG CAN BE HELPFUL HERE–OR JUST A REGULAR DICTIONARY FOUND ONLINE.
  2. write a paragraph using your OWN personal example of what the word means to you—this does NOT have to agree with other people’s meaning.
  3. write another paragraph, but this time use a famous person or situation that helps explain YOUR meaning.  E.g., maybe Charles Manson fits your meaning of “cray-cray”  Explain fully the example you use of this famous person–it can be a real person or a character in a movie, book, or tv series that meets your definition
  4. In your next paragraph, anticipate and respond to possible objections/arguments.  In other words, explain that what someone else might think of the term is NOT what you’re talking about.
  5. Conclude by summing up your main points and perhaps arguing that your definition is a very logical/sensible one.

 

 

 

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