Definitions matter. Just ask a scientist, a mathematician, an engineer, a judge, or someone who wants to marry someone of the same sex (how is “marriage” legally defined?). Arguments of definition aren’t abstract academic exercises; they are contentious and very often have important consequences for ordinary people. They wield the power to say what someone or something is or can be. Such arguments can both include or exclude; a wolf in Montana either is or is not an endangered species. They can be also open for debate: at what point is an electronically manipulated image no longer a photograph? Crucial political, social, and scientific terms, such as intelligence, social justice, war, or marriage – are reshaped, reargued, and updated for the times. The argument over how to define terms cannot be settled by consulting a dictionary, no matter how up to date it is. Dictionaries inevitably reflect the way that particular groups of people use words in a specific place and time. Like many forms of writing, these reference books can also mirror the bias of their makers. In this essay, you will define a term or phrase “on your own terms,” establishing your argument for why the reader should reconsider the “status quo.” Prompt Write a minimum 3-page (MLA) argument of definition about a term or phrase that is controversial, culturally significant or recently changed in some important way. Either defend the way that the term or phrase has come to be defined or raise questions about its appropriateness, offensiveness, or inaccuracy. You may use Raya, Takaki, Hughes, Gay, Das, Scorsese, Lewis (all of which we’ll read for this unit) as well as the student essay examples as a guide. Structural Suggestions Like any essay you write for me, you must have a clear beginning, middle and end. There must be an argument present throughout the essay, a thesis that you develop clearly with individual claims and evidence that supports each point you make. Any evidence you provide should be thoroughly analyzed. Introduction Consider opening with a story that sets up the argument to come (P1). Introduce the reader to your argument – provide some context regarding the term or phrase that you will examine. If you reject a term, consider questioning the existing general connotations of the term. Give a formal definition and explain why you refuse it. Then examine assumptions society makes based on the term, or what is at stake. Make it clear that this is an argument of definition (your thesis should be debatable). Your thesis, in this essay, is the definition you’ve established, or the one you question. Body Develop your thesis claim by claim in clear body paragraphs (why is this new definition important, or why is the old definition flawed). Each body paragraph should have evidence to support it, whether it’s from your own experience, specific examples, or from a validated source. Tie your body paragraphs together and back to your thesis by thinking about the connections between your points (are you making many points and then considering a counterargument?). Conclusion Conclude with a paragraph that explains the significance of your argument, or that describes the general importance of reclaiming definitions for ourselves.