How to Write a Definition Essay in Film and Theatre Studies

Writing guide
Posted on October 2, 2020

The main goal of a definition essay in film and theatre studies (as well as all the other subjects) is to provide your definition of some term, event, person, and so on. With the help of a thoroughly researched definition essay, the author can provide not only the meaning of a certain word, but also give detailed description of it supported with facts and examples. As a rule, this kind of explanations is required in case the word, fact, event or person is special, influential or has no particular meaning. For example, many people may interpret the terms ‘beginners’ and ‘blocking’ in theatre studies differently.

College students are usually required to write a definition essay as part of their academic program that will help them to not only improve their knowledge of films and theatre studies, but also take their English skills to the next level.

How to Choose an Interesting Topic

Taking into consideration the fact that your definition essay has to include a more extended explanation of the chosen term that the existing dictionaries include, we recommend you to select the broad term that you will define. The point here is that you won’t be able to complete a high-quality essay if you choose to work with the terms like ‘stage’ or ‘play’ for the reason that these words have only a strictly narrow meaning. Thus, it is better to choose broad terms in films and theatre studies. If you do so, you will have more opportunities to provide more definitions of the term, supporting it with explanations and points of view together with your own interpretation of the word. Ensure to include examples from real life that will back up your definition.
When it comes to the film and theater studies, we recommend you to consider the following topics for your definition essay:

  • Definition of Amateur Theory;
  • Definition of Documentary Filmmaking;
  • Definition of Media Acting;
  • Definition of Streaming Media;
  • Definition of Gender Roles in Motion Pictures;
  • Definition of Acting Integrative;
  • Definition of Feminist Film;
  • Definition of Screenwriting.

In contrast to the other academic assignments, such as descriptive essays or book reviews, the definition essay in film and theater studies is unique in that it requires you to give the dictionary definition of the chosen term, and then come up with the thesis definition. Considering how narrow and dry the dictionary definitions are, you have to use the thesis definition to encompass the meaning of the word.

Choose the Notion You’re Familiar with

If you are not sure what topic to choose, we strongly recommend you to go for a term that you know or understand. This will not only ease the process of research, but also make the writing of a definition essay more enjoyable. For instance, you may pick the term like ‘screenwriting’ for the reason that you’re well familiar with it and have much to say about what it takes to become a screenwriter and succeed in this area.

Search for Evidence and Reference

In case with the film and theatre studies, you won’t lack information source. However, you need to be careful when choosing which ones to use. It is important to include topic-related quotes taken from the sources like Britannica, Intofilm or NationalTheatre. Feel free to use quotes from printed journals and books as well. As an option, you can also include quotes that you find in the interviews of famous actors that will make your definition of the word more reliable.

Don’t forget to follow your professor’s preferred citations style like Turabian, APA, Chicago or MLA.

How to Build a Definition Essay Outline

Just like in case with any other essay that you may be assigned in college, definition essay in film and theatre studies cannot be accomplished without a strong plan. What is an essay plan? In short, it is a brief draft of your project that informs the readers about some significant elements of it, describes the idea. Some college professors may require you to build an outline of a definition essay for the reason that it helps you create a supreme quality paper.

In general, college definition essay in film and theatre studies contains the following parts:

  • Introduction
  • Thesis statement
  • Body paragraphs (the number of those usually depends on the complexity of the chosen terms and how many details you’re going to provide to explain it)
  • Conclusion


In case with the definition essay in films and theater studies, the introductory paragraph is an opening to the subject of your paper. Use the introduction in order to hook the reader’s attention and introduce your topic to the audience.

Start an introductory paragraph with some special hook that will make your target audience curious about what you’re going to write next. Many writing professionals recommend using anecdotes, quotations, some impressive statistics or interesting facts that will together provide strong background for the discussed topic. For example, you may state at the beginning of your essay that once William Shakespeare had to play the character of Lady Macbeth when Hal Berridge, who gas to play her, passed away suddenly.
In contrast to the argumentative or cause and effect essays, the definition essays differ for the reason that these papers require the author to give the dictionary definition of the term, and then provide the thesis definition.

Write the Body Paragraphs

Every body paragraph that you include into your definition essay in film and theater studies must be focused on a different aspect of your topic that adds to the overall definition of the term that your essay is based on.

As a rule, the definition essay contains three body paragraphs; however, you can provide more paragraphs if you wish.

  • Paragraph 1: The History
    The first paragraph is the body section should talk about the origin of the term, as well as how the chosen word became a part of a particular language. You are free to discuss any suffixes, prefixes, root words, as well as the way this term evolved.
  • Paragraph 2: Denotative Definition
    The body paragraph that goes second in this section must be focused on the definition of the term that can be found in a dictionary, as well as how this term can be used either in oral communication or in the process of writing. For instance, the terms like “film” can appear as two speech parts like a verb and a noun.
  • Paragraph 3: Connotative Definition
    The third paragraph of the body part (this one is usually the longest one) must be concentrated on conveying the word definition of the author. Keep in mind that the definition must be always based on research that you’ve done on your topic and your personal experience as well.

Don’t be afraid to include your thoughts and ideas! The author of a definition essay in film and theater studies has a great opportunity to describe the chosen word in a unique manner. In other words, if you are original in your writing, you will be able to attract and keep reader’s attention with ease.

Definition Essay Conclusion Recommendations

Just like your write the closing paragraph for a descriptive or narrative essay, this type of university paper must also contain a logical conclusion. The number one goal of your project is to provide your audience with a clear and concise definition of the exact word. In your conclusion section, you will have to sum up the information discussed within the body. In other words, your final paragraph is a brief version of your definition essay. The author is free to explain how exactly the chosen word or term influenced or is still influencing his or her life. The thing is that readers appreciate it when the writers make sure to share their personal experiences.

Some Don’ts in Definition Essay Writing

Now that you know how to write a definition essay in film and theatre studies, we would like to call your attention to some of the things that you mustn’t do when working on this type of paper:

  • Never choose to write your definition essay in films and theatre studies on a topic that is either too well-known or too narrow. Remember – people do not like to read about obvious things.
  • Don’t make your essay excessively detailed. At the same time, it is a bad idea to be too brief in your writing. For instance, if you’re writing a definition essay about Broadway theatres, do not get too detailed stating that Broadway theatres include 500 seats, off-Broadway offer 100-499 seats, while off-off-Broadway usually provide less than a hundred seats. Keep in mind the word limit as you proceed with your writing.
  • Do not define the chosen term in every other sentence that includes the definition itself. For example, your readers won’t be happy to see the sentences like ‘Screenwriting is writing scripts for screen.’
  • Do not ignore examples that you may include into your definition essay in films and theatre studies. Without a doubt, you provide a clear and detailed definition for the chosen term, but if you fail to give substantial examples, your readers will find it hard to understand when or how this or that word should be used.

Approach any of your friends or family members with your definition essay to ask them to read your paper and provide an honest feedback. Let them provide you with their personal definition for your term. It is important to be creative in case with the definition essay and let the other creative minds help you in the process. Ask your helpers if the definition that you provided to your word is easy to understand and clear. Ask them if you have provided enough supporting details and whether it is important to find more information to make a well-developed paper. When you approach someone for help at this point, make sure to always be open to any sort of criticism since it may help you to improve your writing of a definition essay.

Final Ideas

The whole idea of the writing guide that we’ve created on a definition essay is to explain what the basic difference between this type of essay and any other academic paper, to show how to complete this type of essay, what topic to choose and how to do it. Even if you’re not sure about your writing skills right now, with some practice you will be able to accomplish a good and strong essay. After all, the field of film and theatres studies is not only interested but also full of captivating topics, which means you will be able to find something that you’d be happy to write a definition essay on. Just believe in yourself!

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