700 Word essay in your own words
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 using illustration and example.
For this assignment, you will work through the prewriting and drafting stages of the writing process in an illustration/example essay. You will choose one term from the list below and define the term using illustration and example—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 paraphrasing of a definition shared elsewhere.
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.
After selecting your term and the support for defining that term, consider how to best arrange your thoughts, but you will want to be sure that it is supportive and well organized. How will you weave together a definition of an abstract term with an attention-grabbing narrative and examples that best explain the concept?
What you should not do in this essay is define a term in the way we already know it; in other words, try not to tell us that pain is physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury. We don’t need to read that poverty is the state of being extremely poor. We know that. For example, what does pain mean to you? And where have you seen it … lived it?
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