Definition Argument

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.

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.


Watch the video below to learn more about the structure of a definition argument.

Video Transcript
Definition Structure

Creating a well developed argumentative structure is similar to putting together a puzzle. Each piece has certain characteristics and belongs in a particular place to create the whole picture.

Although there may always be variations, a good basic outline for a definition argument might look like this.

First Piece – In your introduction, which may be more than one paragraph, summarize the details of the problem. End with a thesis that presents your claim.

Second Piece – Provide detailed definitions of the key term or terms. This may take one or two paragraphs.

Third Piece – Present detailed support for your claim with a focus on how your claims work within the definition of the term. You should present at least three key ideas for support, so this section should be at least three paragraphs long.

Fourth Piece – Address the opposing views. What problems exist with your claim? Be sure to bring the focus back to your points in relation to the definition of the term.

Fifth Piece – Finally, in your conclusion, summarize your main points of your essay and relate your issue to the bigger picture. Make it clear to your audience that a new-found understanding of the issue leads to a better understanding and support for your claim.

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.

The sample essay on the following page will provide more details about developing this type of argument.

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