Essay 2

Arguing Definitions
Dictionaries provide us with formal definitions of words but often words can have multiple layers of definition. Definitions play a role in how we think about words and ideas. Arguing definitions can be an effective path for change and rethinking an important topic. Essay 2 will give you a chance to explore the layers of definition. Choosing A Topic For this essay you will choose a word to explore and argue the definition of. I am leaving the topic choice up to you. However, remember to have a narrow focus that will allow you to as the important questions. When defining, the “whys” are often more important(or interesting) than the “whats”. The term you choose should be debatable, so using a less “concrete” topic works well. You could, for example, define courage, or evil, or honesty, or laziness, or marriage. As you’ll be asking others for their definitions, your terms should be fairly universal, and should have some significance to your audience. (See audience below.) As you begin working on your topic, remember that you’ll be expected to explore the topic fully – all the subtle “layers” as well as the more obvious. We will discuss ways of exploring definitions in class. Developing A Thesis Begin with a working thesis, but as you progress in your thinking and research, refine that thesis into a revelatory statement. You want to develop a thesis that provides a specific way of defining your topic. A dictionary definition is too broad and uninteresting. We’re looking for more. Developing Support For this essay, you will be asked to use a number of different types of support. 1 Interviews – you’ll determine a set of questions to ask others about their definitions. (we will discuss interviewing in class) 2 Example – use a particular case to illustrate your definition. This case may be from personal experience, firsthand knowledge, or from a newspaper account. 3 Allusion – use at least one reference to public knowledge. 4 Appeal to Value – connect your topic to a value that you assume your readers share. 5 Appeal to Logic – provide a line of reasoning that will lead your readers to your definition. If you wish, you may also use Testimony and/or a Scenario to help you define your term. Concessions and Counter-Arguments There must be other ways to define your term (or else it’s not an appropriate topic for

argument.) So, in your paper, you will need to at least briefly acknowledge other ways to define your term. You may be able to use your interviews to present these. Audience For this essay, YOU will define the readers you have in mind. What group of people do you want to influence? For example: you decide to define animal cruelty by looking into the conditions of cattle raising in feed lots. If your audience is The Humane Society, your goal will be very different that if your audience is the Cattleman’s Association. As you type your final paper, you’ll need to identify your readers – you can type it in under your name in the left hand corner. Length This essay will be 3-4 pages. The assumption here is that it will be at least 3 full pages of text. The 3-4 pages does not include any visuals you may choose to include in your essay. As support for your interviews, you’ll also hand in your interview notes.