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Argument of Definition

Assignment: Write an argument of definition about a term that you feel to be culturally significant or whose meaning you believe to have recently changed in some way. Either defend the way the term has

come to be defined or challenge the current definition, raising questions as to its accuracy,

appropriateness, efficacy, offensiveness, etc. Consider words and expressions such as liberal,

conservative, deep state, fake news, alternative facts, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, White

supremacy, disability, marriage, gender identity, white privilege, identity politics, socialism, fascism,

political correctness, free speech, etc.

Provide adequate background information regarding term you are discussing. This may include a brief history of the term and its usage, as well as a definition of the term as it is currently used.

Establish your position regarding the current definition in a clear thesis statement.

Support the thesis with detailed discussions of relevant evidence, while also accounting for and responding to possible objections.

Conclude by summarizing your position, discussing its significance, and offering a powerful emotional appeal.

Learning Objectives: To provide experience researching and thinking critically about controversial ideas and disputed


To provide experience with engaging an on-going conversation conducted in and through written texts.

To provide practice with the strategies of academic writing, including close reading and critical analysis, crafting thesis statements, crafting supporting paragraphs, responding to objections, and

incorporating sources.

Audience: MTSU Academic Community. Do not assume the audience has read the essays you are discussing. Provide enough details about the author and the essay for the reader to understand both their

positions and your own.

Tips: Review Chapter 9 of your textbook for help thinking through the kinds of claims and strategies of

support typical of argumetns of definition.

Use an umbrella thesis to make a strong statement regarding your position on the term you are defining. Alternatively, use an enumerative thesis to lay out your position and supporting points

o Umbrella: Though unconventional, using term X to mean Y is absolutely right. o Enumerative: People who use term X to mean Y are making a mistake; the term is not

only inaccurate, it actually distorts the truth, and as a result it feeds into some very

dangerous social narratives.

In defending or challenging the term you have chosen, consider the different methods of definition that may apply, including formal definition, operational definition, and definition by


For help organizing your essay, refer to the sample arguments of definition included in your textbook on pages 218-23.

Requirements: 3-5 typed pages. Double Spaced. Include the standard assignment block in the upper left hand corner (i.e. Your Name / Class Name / Instructor Name / Type of Assignment / Date). Use MLA

style and formatting throughout. Use the appropriate tone for an academic essay, as well as correct

grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This essay requires a minimum of three outside sources. All sources

must be cited both in the text of your essay and in a separate works cited page.

Due Dates: See Schedule.

Essay Evaluation Sheet

Student ___ Final Grade

This evaluation sheet serves as an indication of where your essay is strong and weak. Use this information as a guide

when you write, revise, and edit your papers in the future. Remember: you can come in and talk to me about your

papers at any time during the process of writing them or 24 hours after they are returned to you. Each category uses the

Very Good to Weak scale; 100 total points are possible. Your grade is based on the points you receive out of those possible 100 points and your final point score is calculated by applying the percentage of points out of 100 to the total

number of points possible for the specific assignment.


CONTENT _____ Very good *Interesting topic/title 54321

30 points _____ Good * Clear significance 54321

_____ Average * Meets the assignment 54321

/30 _____ Needs improvement * Attention to Audience 54321

_____ Weak * Strong support 54321

*Vivid detail 54321

ORGANIZATION _____ Very good

* Introduction 54321

* Conclusion 54321

30 points _____ Good * Development/control of ideas 54321

/30 _____ Average * Logical sequencing of ideas 54321

_____ Needs improvement * Transitions 54321

_____ Weak * Unified paragraphs 54321

Style _____ Very good * Accurate, precise word choice 54321

20 points _____ Good * No wordiness 54321

_____ Average * Tone/Voice 54321

/20 _____ Needs improvement * Sentence variety 54321

_____ Weak

GRAMMAR _____ Very good

* Misplaced or missing possessive apostrophes


15 points _____ Good

*Comma Use


_____ Average

* Sentence fragment


/15 _____ Needs improvement

*Agreement (s/v, p/a, tense)


_____ Weak * Run-on sentences 3210

MECHANICS _____ Very good * Spelling/typos 210

5 points _____ Good * MLA style/Formatting 3210

_____ Average

/5 _____ Needs improvement

_____ Weak



Learning Objectives:

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