How to write a definition essay outline: following the manual


One of the most misunderstood essay projects is the definition essay. While the essay itself is actually quite enjoyable to write, most students fear this essay because they know so little about it. Once they learn how to write it and they learn about the word they are defining, they quickly realize that their fear was due to misunderstanding. Interestingly, when students are finished writing their first definition essay, they are ready to write another one.

The outline of the definition essay is similar to the outline of any other essay. The biggest difference in the definition essay versus the other types of essays is that the definition essay discusses a word or concept and what it means through denotation and connotation. This is what your essay outline should resemble:


  1. Introductory Section

    • Hook/Attention Getter: Begin with one of the many different techniques, like a short anecdote, an extended definition, or a collection of open-ended questions.
    • Bridge between the hook and the thesis: Include a few sentences that help the reader understand what your essay will define.
    • Thesis: This should include the word you are going to define and how you plan to define it.

  2. Body Paragraphs

    • First point about the word.
      • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
      • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
      • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.
    • Second point about the word.
      • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
      • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
      • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.
    • Third point about the word
      • - Define the word in a topic sentence that refers back to the thesis.
      • - Show examples of the word being used this way.
      • - Provide an analysis of the word being used.

      (Continue this section in as many paragraphs as you need or as required by your instructor. In most cases, you should include at least three examples in each paragraph and each example should be analyzed.)


  3. Conclusion

    • Restate the thesis in new words.
    • Restate the main points of the essay with references from all of the body paragraphs.
    • Connect back to the hook/attention getter to close the essay.


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