For a definitional essay, you need to write an argument that a borderline or contested case fits (or does not fit) within a particular category by classifying that particular case and defining the category.
Definitional arguments require a definition of key terms:
Example: Joe is too bossy.
Define “bossy” and provide examples of his bossy attitude (poor listening skills, shouting at people, making decisions without asking committee—these are what define “bossy” in your argument.
Example: Low-carb diets are dangerous.
Define what constitutes “low-carb” and define what you mean by “dangerous.” Cite studies showing harmful effects, how substances affect the body, etc.
The criteria section of your argument explains and illustrates your criteria.
The match section of your argument persuades the reader that your example meets those criteria.
Example: Although the Hercules Shoe Company is nonpolluting and provides a socially useful product, [CLAIM] it is not a socially responsible company [BECAUSE CLAUSE] because it treats its workers unjustly.
Criteria Part: What points must be met for a company to be deemed “socially responsible”?
- (1) Research how others have defined your term (dictionaries, judicial opinions, expert testimony, etc.
- (2) Use your own critical thinking to make your own extended definition.
Match Part: In what ways does the shoe company meet those points?
- (1) Supply examples of how this and other situations meet your criteria.
- (2) Give other evidence about how your example meets your criteria.
For your Definitional Argument Essay:
- introduce the issue and state the claim
- define key terms
- present your first criterion and argument that your case meets your definition
- present your second criterion and argument that your case meets your definition
- present your third criterion and argument that your case meets your definition (if necessary)
- anticipate and respond to possible objections/arguments
- conclude with return to the “big picture,” what is at stake, why your argument is important, etc.
Definitional Argument Essay Proposal
- What vague or arguable term, phrase, or situation are you defining?
- What scenario are you going to use to introduce your claim?
- What is your first (1) criterion and (2) argument that your case meets your definition?
- What is your second (1) criterion and (2) argument that your case meets your definition?
- What is your third (1) criterion and (2) argument that your case meets your definition?
- What are your (1) anticipated objections/arguments and (2) responses to them?
- How will you conclude with return to the “big picture,” what is at stake, why your argument is important, etc?