Definition Structure

The definition argument focuses on clarifying a definition for a controversial term or concept. In other words, a definition argument is one that asserts we cannot make clear assertions or possess a clear understanding of an issue until we understand exactly what the terms mean.

The danger is that writers only point out the existence of the ideas about the term rather than establishing exigency.  Another common issue is that writers will only point out an issue’s importance without actually arguing anything about the best (and thus arguable) meaning of that word/phrase.

Examples of this type of argument might look something like this:An argumentative essay calling for a re-examination of the birth control requirements in the Affordable Health Care Act with a focus on explaining what birth control is, what the options are, and how they work.

An argumentative essay calling for an end to the two-party system of government in the United States with a focus on defining what a two-party system really is and what the laws are related to it.

An argumentative essay arguing for the benefits of organic foods with a focus on defining what organic really means.



Access the Excelsior OWL site’s page on “Definition Argument” here and click to see another walk-through of how to structure this type of argument.  (This differs from the previous mini-lecture’s link.)

TIPS: When writing a definition argument, it’s important to keep your essay focused. Choose an issue where there is a clear misunderstanding of a term or terms. Focus on those terms in relation to your claim.

If you’re having trouble thinking of topics for a definition argument, read a little bit about what is going on in the world. Look for issues that come up related to misunderstandings over what certain terms mean.