How to write a definition paper
A definition paper is a paper which explores a term, such as a policy proposal or a political philosophy. This involves more than simply defining the key concept, but involves a more general discussion of the concept’s various meanings and connotations. A definition paper will offer the literal meaning of an idea before developing other connotations and associative or cultural meanings.
When writing a definition paper, the first thing you should do is research the idea you are exploring. Once you have done enough research you will have an idea of all the meanings that you will need to draw out and explore. Format your research notes into a brainstorm format to allow you to easily recall links between concepts and how they relate to the central idea.
When it comes to writing the definition paper, ensure your introduction develops the main meaning of your concept. Your thesis will be your view on what the main meaning is. When continuing with your paper you will need to cross reference this main meaning so it is important that you develop a clear concept right from the beginning.
Once your thesis is introduced, use your sub-points to support your core thesis. Have a separate meaning in each paragraph, and link that meaning to the overarching meaning you have introduced in the introduction. Start with the literal meaning, or dictionary meaning, and then move on in subsequent paragraphs to look at connotative meanings. Connotative meanings might include cultural meanings, social meanings, political meanings. Along the way describe how and why differences may arise in meanings in different contexts to improve the depth of your paper. For example, in one culture a certain practise such as infanticide may be acceptable in certain conditions, whereas in another culture infanticide may always be unacceptable. Likewise other concepts can hold different meanings in different cultures.
As you work through each body paragraph, ensure that the meaning that the paragraph relates to is sufficiently synthesised in your paper. Your reader needs to be able to appreciate the distinct meaning referred to in each paragraph, whilst still aware of your overarching thesis concept. It is also important that you address any alternative views that arise as you go, and if there are conflicting views to yours you will need to identify what they are and why you believe your understanding is the better view.
In your conclusion you bring together all the strands of meaning you have drawn out and again relate these back to your core thesis.
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