Skip Navigation
Skip to Menu Toggle Button

UMGC Effective Writing Center How to Write an Extended Definition

Usually when you hear the word "definition" you think of a dictionary or encyclopedia. For example, a juvenile delinquent is an underage person convicted of crime or antisocial behavior. Likewise, a venture capitalist is a person who provides money for innovative projects.

Perhaps you have written a narrative essay about a personal experience in which you are called upon to classify and to analyze causes and effects. All of these patterns and more can be used in your paragraphs to clarify and extend the term you have chosen.

Example: Single Pattern

Sometimes a single pattern will be sufficient to extend the definition to achieve the effect you want for your audience. For example, let's say in an introductory sociology course, you are introducing the term "juvenile delinquent" to the class. You could use the "classify" pattern to clarify how broadly the term in used in this field:

  • Term: juvenile delinquent
  • Standard definition: an underage person who has committed a crime.
  • Pattern: Classify
  • Overall Point: To understand "juvenile delinquent" in this field, it's necessary to know the major types of delinquents.
  • Support points:
    • The first type of delinquent is . . .
    • The second type of delinquent is . . .
    • The third type of delinquent is . . .

Example: Multi Pattern

Depending on the term, you may find that using several patterns is the best way to help shape your audience's understanding of a term. For example, let's consider the innocent sounding term "arbitration." Maybe you wish to make the point that sometimes legal terms are used to desensitize us from what is really taking place. Consider this example:

  • Term: Arbitration
  • Standard definition: legal process of resolving a dispute
  • Classify Pattern--list and define types of arbitration, including "forced arbitration"
  • Narration Pattern--The FAIR Act seeks to end the use of forced arbitration by U.S. employers
  • Cause/Effect pattern: Multiple examples of the victims of forced arbitration have pressured Congress to act through legislation

In the End

Your task in writing an extended definition is to add to the standard/notional definition in a way that will allow your audience to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the term in a particular context. Whether you do this by adding facts, telling what a term does not include, or applying any of the many development patterns (classify, illustrate, cause/effect, compare/contrast, narration, description), matters not. Only the development of clear understanding between you and your audience should be the ultimate goal.

Video Tutorial: Writing the Extended Definition Essay

Follow along with UMGC's Effective Writing Center as they walk through the Extended Definition Essay.

Contact Us

Our helpful admissions advisors can help you choose an academic program to fit your career goals, estimate your transfer credits, and develop a plan for your education costs that fits your budget. If you’re a current UMGC student, please visit the Help Center.

Personal Information
Please provide your First Name.
Please provide your Last Name.
Contact Information
Please recheck your email address.
Please provide a valid E-Mail Address.
This field is required.
Please provide a valid ZIP Code or APO/FPO.
Additional Information
This field is required.
This field is required.

By submitting this form, you are giving your express written consent without obligation for UMGC to contact you regarding our educational programs and services using e-mail, phone, or text, including automated technology for calls and/or texts to the mobile number(s) provided. For more details, including how to opt out, read our privacy policy or contact an admissions advisor.

Please wait, your form is being submitted.