How to Write a Definition Essay in Religious Studies

Writing guide
Posted on February 17, 2020

The first thing that you have to keep in mind when approaching a definition essay in Religious Studies is the unique and multilevel nature of the subject. In addition to its distinctive peculiarities, the so-called interdisciplinary nature of the area makes RS (Religious Studies) both highly challenging and fascinating.

This guide is the result of professional effort among several academic writers and college professors who want you to get engaged with the writing process and complete a winning definition essay no matter how tough the topic is.

What is Religious Studies writing about?

First of all, the study of religion in college should be considered an academic rather than a religious issue. Your task is not to refute or defend certain spiritual beliefs or values. Instead, you consider some supernatural and metaphysical issues and focus on what can be learned about this or that religious phenomena through a good definition essay.

By the way, what is a definition essay?

This type of academic paper requires you to write an academic yet personal definition of a specific word. The definition that you provide must be lengthy and thorough. It is important to pick the word/issue/phenomenon/term that will provide you with enough information to write about, and there are some standard tactics that one can use in order to elaborate on the chosen word. Here are some of the guidelines that we have for you to accomplish a rocking definition essay with ease.

Step 1 of 5: Picking the Right Term

Make sure to give preference to an abstract term that has a complex meaning. The point here is that a simple term that is relevant to a concrete word won’t give you much space for writing. That is why a more complex term that refers to an abstract issue will give you more to explore.

  • Usually, all the nouns that are related to a place, person, or thing are too primitive for a good definition essay in Religious Studies. It’s better to focus on nouns or adjectives that refer to a certain idea.
  • For instance, the word “church” is pretty simple, and a definition essay composed around this term may be quite dull. If you make sure to switch to something that is more abstract like ‘abode,’ ‘place of worship,’ or ‘temple,’ you will get a great opportunity to play around with more definition options. Basically, the words like ‘place of worship’ or ‘temple’ are more concepts by nature, and there are many different elements that are involved in the process of creation of a ‘temple.’ In comparison, a ‘church’ is just a structure.

Step 2 of 5: Ensure the Term/Word/Issue/Phenomenon Is Disputable

In addition to being complex, the chosen term should also be relevant to something that can have different meanings in the eyes of different people.

A definition essay in RS is quite subjective by nature because the paper requires you to choose, analyze, and define the term from your perspective. In case the answer that you have after thoroughly analyzing your term is the same answer that every other person would have, be ready to face the fact that your paper seriously lacks certain depths. The latter is a must-have, by the way.

Step 3 of 5: Provide Captivating and String Introduction

The first chance that you get to hook the reader’s attention with the definition essay in RS is in the introduction paragraph. When it comes to the definition essay topics in Religious Studies, consider starting with providing your readers with enough contextual information in order to 100% understand the kind of setting that you’re applying your hypothesis or argument. Let’s see in detail what exactly one should do in order to create a superb definition essay opening for the course of Religious Studies:

  1. Give a strong and enchanting opening. The first sentence of the opening paragraph has an important function – it draws your reader’s complete attention (if it is successful, of course). There are some methods that you might apply but make sure to remain within the same overall tone. An interesting fact (Did you know that some faiths like Jehovah’s Witnesses require believers to refuse all sorts of medical treatment, which means they aren’t allowed to receive even blood transfusions!), an anecdote (be careful here since what is funny for you might offend some people in your environment), or a quote (for instance, “Anyone who thinks sitting in church can make you a Christian must also think that sitting in a garage can make you a car,” says Garrison Keillor) would do great to hook your reader’s attention and encourage one to keep on reading what you have to say on the topic.
  2. Dwell upon an informative background. Once you realize that you hold your reader’s attention tight, you can move on to the information background part of the definition essay intro on Religious Studies. What you’re going to include depends completely on the nature of your topic. However, you shouldn’t stray too far from the main theme, and at the same time, you do have to provide enough info that your reader needs to put your topic into a broader context. Provide no more than three to four sentences for this segment of the introduction to ensure your readers won’t lose the focus.
  3. Ask the questions that you are going to answer. Make sure to present a question or a set of questions that you’d like to address in your definition paper. These questions might serve as a mindset that you’re free to adopt at any point of writing.
  4. Close the introduction paragraph with a solid thesis statement. At the end of the opening paragraph, make sure to end it with a solid thesis statement that concisely and clearly states what is it that you’re about to argue. Don’t make it confusing by using the terms that only religious figures are aware of or complex constructions that distract the readers from the theme of the paper. Keep it straight to the point and simple.

Step 4 of 5: Write the Body Paragraphs

Every paragraph that you write for your body section should be focused on a different aspect that adds to the overall definition of the term/subject/phenomenon/issue/word that you discuss.

First goes the history paragraph. As a rule, the definition essay in Religious Studies will include three body paragraphs; however, you have an opportunity to provide more if you think it’s necessary. The first paragraph of the body part focuses on the origin of the term, and how the chosen word integrated into the language. The writer is free to discuss all the theories about the origin of the word, its basic parts (suffixes, prefixes, and so on), and the word evolution through the years. For instance, if you choose to write a definition essay based on the term ‘atheist,’ you are going to include the details as follows: ‘the word ‘atheist’ means ‘godless person who denies the existence of a supreme being to whom moral obligation is due” and originates from French word “athéiste” (16 century.), and from Greek “atheos” meaning “without god, abandoned of the gods.’

Second, you write the denotative definition paragraph. The paragraph includes the word definition that one finds in a dictionary. For example, in the case of the term ‘atheist,’ Merriam-Webster dictionary states the following: ‘a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods; one who subscribes to or advocates atheism.’ Or, as an alternative, check Oxford Dictionary with its definition: ‘a person who believes that God does not exist.’

Third, we insert the connotative definition paragraph, which is usually the longest one. In this section, you are to convey your own definition of the term. Make sure it is based on the results of your research and your personal experience. Be bold and don’t hesitate to! Feel free to describe the term the way no other scholar ever did. It’s your unique chance to be original – defend your choice by all means.

Step 5 of 5: Write Your Conclusion

The conclusion is the final part of your definition essay and the most important, to be honest. In this fragment, you’re required to briefly summarize the main points of your body paragraphs. Ensure to wrap up your thesis statement as well and illustrate the importance of your definition together with how it affects other people. As an alternative, you might want to include your past experience related to the term to ensure the topic appears more practical to the audience. If, for example, you’re a member of a certain church and the word that you define it ‘to worship,’ you might want to actually define it the way people in your church see it, i.e. – ‘to show a lot of adoration and love for God.’

How to Choose Hot Topics for Definition Essays in Religion

The success of your definition essay in Religious Studies starts from the way you choose your topic. Some of the topics in this subject might have too little to discuss, which means you won’t be able to keep up with the length requirements of your project. Ensure to consider the following when selecting the most appropriate topic for your definition essay:

  1. It is recommended to pick an abstract term, phenomenon, or issue that has a complex meaning. If you decide to define the word that has a direct meaning, you won’t be able to properly illustrate the term due to the lack of materials. Give preference to the words that have general meanings, such as ‘faith,’ ‘lay,’ ‘belief,’ ‘dogma,’ ‘hymn,’ ‘ideology,’ and so on.
  2. The word of your choice must be easily disputable. Thus, you will be able to manage many views and write from those in your definition essay. For a term or phenomenon to be disputable, make sure that it has meanings that are similar to the other term/phenomenon that, in turn, brings important contradiction.
  3. Pick the term, issue, or phenomenon that you’ve already dealt with. If you ensure to go for a term that you are well conversant with, you will be able to provide good examples and explain it in the best possible manner. It would be difficult to define a word if you know nothing about its origin, meaning, or usage. The chances are you may end up messing up your project and academic progress in general.
  4. Check the origin of the term that you dispute. Before you start writing the paper, make sure to do your research on the origin of the word to see how it was formed. Once you do this, you will illustrate to your professor that you have sufficient knowledge on it and did your job well.

Got into trouble with choosing the best topic for your definition essay? In the case of Religious Studies, picking a good one is as easy as pie. Here are some of the topics that would serve well for your paper:

  1. The Primal Religions
  2. Zoroastrianism
  3. The Afterlife
  4. Monotheistic Religion
  5. Atheism
  6. Trickster Gods
  7. Totemism
  8. Interfaith
  9. Liberation
  10. Meditation

As you can see, writing a definition essay for the course of Religious Studies is not just a way of expressing your personal views. Instead, it is a complex process that helps you structure your thinking as well as turn some random insights and terms into a high-quality project that deserves the greatest rewards.

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