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Explain the function or purpose of the term definition argument

A definition argument is when your argument depends on the meaning of a key term or concept, it makes sense to structure your essay as a definition argument. In this type of essay, you will argue that something fits (or does not fit) the definition of a particular class of items.

To make your definitions as clear as possible, avoid making them too narrow, too broad, or circular.

Too narrow: A definition that is too narrow leaves out information that is necessary for understanding a particular word or term. For example, if you define apple as a “red fruit” your definition is too narrow because not all apples are red.

Too broad: A definition that is too broad includes things that should not be part of the definition. If, for example, you define a chair as “something that people sit on,” your definition includes things that are not chairs–stools, park benches, and even tree stumps.

Explain the function or purpose of the term definition argument

Circular: A circular definition includes the word being defined as part of the definition. For example, if you define patriotism as “the quality of being patriotic”, your definition is circular.
The success of a definition argument depends on your ability to define a term or concept so that readers (even those who do not agree with your position) will see its validity. For this reason, the rhetorical strategies you use to develop your definitions are important.

Here are some possible strategies for writing an extended definition; do not feel compelled to use them all:

Stipulate your precise meaning, but don’t begin with a dictionary definition unless you plan to use it or disagree with it.
Provide examples of the term.
Explain the function or purpose of the term.
Explore the etymology (origin and history of a word). The most fruitful source for such explorations is the Oxford English Dictionary.
Examine connotations of the term.
Discuss what it is not (Negation). Use this sparingly!
Draw analogies.

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