How to Write a Definition Essay in Anthropology

Writing guide
Posted on February 17, 2020

The experts in the field of Anthropology take a professional approach to understanding the diversity of lives of human beings in every existing culture and society on earth. The study of Anthropology is based on both – the biological issues such as generic makeup, physiology, evolution, and nutrition, and the social issue like politics, language, religion, culture, and family.

When requested to write a definition essay in Anthropology, you’re expected to explain the meaning of a particular term by providing a detailed description of it, as well as back up your definition with solid examples, stats, and facts.

Start your definition essay in Anthropology by choosing and defining the word. After that, build up a solid draft that comprises a detailed definition using trusted sources and references. Polish up your text when you’re done, so it goes smoothly and doesn’t contain any errors or typos. Now let’s check and discuss each stage in turn.

Pick an Idea (No Concrete Issues Allowed!)

To start the paper, choose an idea or concept that you’d like to research for your definition essay. Then, choose a word that, you think, describes the idea/concept in the best manner possible. For instance, in case of the definition essay in Anthropology, the concepts might be “believed behavior,” “core values,” “boundary maintenance,” “anti-miscegenation laws,” “hierarchical society,” or “joint family.” The words we’ve just given are open enough to create your personal definition on the basis of experience and find relevant sources to support your definition.

Warning! When selecting things, issues, or objects for a definition essay, stay away from concrete ones. To cut the long story, concrete things like “nail,” “book,” or “pencil” can be pretty tough to use in a good essay. Thing is you may not be able to produce much content about concrete things or define them in an insightful or deep way. Of course, you can try to work it out and choose a concrete thing, and use a similar word to make the process more open-ended. For example, the word like “book” is pretty obvious and concrete. However, the word “plot” is more open-ended and gives you a chance to provide your own definition of the term.

Before you write a single word, establish the paper topic. Your task here is to come up with a catchy title. Here’s a short set of potential definition essay topics in Anthropology:

  • How to Explain Love?
  • What Is the Meaning of Marriage?
  • Discrimination as the Result of Prejudice and Stereotype
  • Folk Society According to Robert Redfield for Homogeneous Tribal and Peasant Societies
  • Dialect as an Integral Part of Geographically Isolated Speech Community
  • The Importance of Family
  • The Meaning of Intelligence in Different Cultures
  • Freedom of Speech as an Essential Part of Modern Society
  • Adaptive Mechanism to Survive in a Particular Environment
  • The Issues of Moral in the 3rd World Countries
  • Culture Death as a Result of the Total Acculturation
  • The Definition and Meaning of Respect in Different Countries
  • Fictive Kinship as an Expedient for Dealing with Special Circumstances
  • Scottish Clan and Families: Brief History
  • Cultural Relativism: Evaluation in Terms of Standards and Values
  • Role: The Definition of Behavior Patterns Appropriate to an Individual
  • The Role of Immigration in Humans’ History
  • How to Be a Good Parent: The Key Skills to Develop in Children
  • The Definition of the Moral Act
  • World Peace: How People Can Improve This Process?

Any of the topics mentioned above can be modified. In order to explain several terms or concepts in your definition essay, feel free to consider extended definition essay topics’ versions as well.


A definition essay in anthropological studies should be made of strongly supported statements in a well-linked series of properly constructed paragraphs that altogether present, then deal with, and finally dispose of the question you raised in the topic.

Set your definition essay in sections, each given a title that accurately and appropriately describes the content of every section. Likewise, ensure the topic you assigned your essay is appropriate as well.

What it comes down to is that you have to design your plan to make sure it answers your question and nothing else but the question. Provide the beginning, the middle part, and the concluding part. Be ready to set some information aside if you see it is not relevant to your topic. Do not include anything that has nothing to do with the topic you identified. Remember, a bunch of facts that aren’t relevant to your question will rather annoy your readers.

For example, if you want to define the term “marriage,” your essay outline may look similar to what we have here:

  1. Introduction
    • The hook
    • An overview of the term “marriage”
    • Thesis
  2. Body paragraph #1
    • A historical definition of “marriage” and all of its origins
  3. Body paragraph #2
    • The set of explanations taken from various dictionaries with trustworthy examples
  4. Body paragraph #3
    • Definition of “marriage” that is based on your own experience with good examples
  5. Concluding paragraph
    • Summarization of the key points
    • Description of how “marriage” has influenced your life

Some experts insist on reviewing several A+ samples of definition essay in Anthropology before you start writing. You will get a better idea of how your final project should look like.

Write the Introduction

The Introduction part of the definition essay serves to attract the reader’s attention with a specific hook. For instance, you may use a quotation or anecdote. You can begin your story with some interesting information from the historical background of the chosen term. Besides, it is necessary to give the main dictionary definition of your term in your intro to make readers understand the traditional meaning from the very start. In case of the term “marriage,” the common definition, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is defined as “the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law.” In case the definition of marriage that you’re going to state in your essay differs from the standard one, you have an opportunity to state that the term is actually multi-dimensional.

NB! Together with your own definition, include a thesis statement into the introduction. Use your thesis to describe our own version of what the chosen term means. Add your experiences and research to have a complete definition. Write a thesis statement that has no more than one sentence and give preference to the active voice. For instance, in a definition essay in Anthropology, your thesis statement may look like, “According to my research and personal experience, marriage is a union of two or more people that is recognized by the society.”

Write the Body

In the body of your essay, you have to take the following steps:

  • Give some theory.
  • Provide your explanation of the theory.
  • Give solid examples.
  • Explain how your examples contradict and/or support the theory.
  • Sum up the meaning of your definition in relation to the essay question.
  • Give the conclusion to round up the whole process.

Provide two, three, or more paragraphs in the body section. The number of the paragraphs in the definition essay depends on how complex your subject is and what exactly your tutor expects to see in your paper. The key aim of a student who deals with Anthropology essay is to reveal all the required facts about the chosen word. Explain several meanings if possible/necessary.

Another crucial point is an in-depth exploration of the topic and understanding/comprehending it. Give enough details to open up all the crucial facts about the chosen word, uncover its history, origin, and so on.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that definition essays should comprise facts and provide the readers with your own vision. Hence, check the sources, create a bibliography page, and ensure you have a full understanding of the theme before you write your very first sentence.

To succeed with the body part, keep the following rules:

  • One idea per paragraph.
  • In case the chosen word has more meanings, each of them should be explained.
  • Give examples, use various viewpoints – do your best to support the core info.

Conclude the Essay

Consider your conclusion as an extra part of your definition essay attached to the end of it. It is important to bear in mind that you start working on your conclusion only when you’re done with your argument or analysis.

The conclusion of a definition essay is the retrospective of what you’ve done, and the reflection of your introduction (for instance, “in this essay I began by stating that…”) Turn back time and remind your audience how you wrote the first point and took them through to the final point and why. What logical statements did you use in order to link one theme/topic to another? What exactly was it that you proved? Did your examples challenge/support or prove/disprove the theory you began your paper with? Why was this important?

If you successfully narrowed down your introduction, your conclusion will rock. Your final statement will relate your definition issue to further debates within the field of Anthropology. For instance, working out from Nefertiti to artifacts, to Archaeological Anthropology, to the broad field of Archaeology in general.

Be careful when you finish up your definition essay – don’t contradict your whole argument through carelessness! Don’t argue that Nefertiti used her beauty to convey power and then say that one of the most iconic images was actually fake, and the woman was far from beauty standards. The point is that your conclusion with be the last thing in your reader’s mind when s/he finishes reading so it should reflect the quality that you presented in the body section. End up the paper with your conclusion written in your own words, and consider the contribution that your work does to the topic.


No matter how much you want to, never quote or use an author’s written work without acknowledging it. You have to indicate where in the literature you found the concepts, viewpoints, and facts that you include in your text. When you do that, ensure to use quotation marks and a citation. Besides, you should also indicate where the words of the other author end, and your own flow of ideas is resumed. It is the Harvard style that is the most popular way of referencing among college undergraduates. For instance:

  • Johansson (1985) remarked that kinesics is the part of non-verbal communication that consists of postures, gestures, and expressions.
  • or…

  • Kinesics is the part of non-verbal communication that consists of postures, gestures, and expressions (Johansson, 1985).
    In case the source has two authors, cite it as Johansson and Peterson (1985) and if there are more than two authors, write it down as Johansson et al. (1985). “et al.” stands for “et alli” in Latin that means “and others.” Mind that in the reference list, you have to give all names of the authors (in the order of appearance).

Remain Particularly Anthropological

If you are writing a definition essay in Anthropology, ensure to write in an anthropological style. Focus on the people (readers, viewers, consumers, watchers, and so on.) rather than on issues/phenomena/things/objects themselves. Ensure people are your priority and give them voices by writing in anthropological style. If it’s not Anthropology that you’re studying as your major, make sure to familiarize yourself with the basic vocabulary in the field, such as “ethnography,” “culture,” “ethnocentrism,” and so on.

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