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 Critical Thinking
 Critical Thinking
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Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing, Second Edition
John Chaffee et al.
Writing Projects
Chapter 9: Defining an Important Concept

Write an essay in which you define a concept that is important to your life now or to your future life. Include explanations of why this concept is significant for you and why it needs defining or redefining. You may want to think of a concept that is expressed in a phrase rather than in a single word. Include material from two sources in addition to any dictionaries that you consult.


Purpose: This assignment can be personally useful, since you are choosing to think about a concept that affects your life.

Audience: You are a particularly important part of the audience for this assignment since what you write should be meaningful to you and may help you learn more about yourself. What concepts are important to you at this stage of life? What concepts have you disagreed with a friend or family member on? List some here.

Subject: You may discover that writing about a concept is more difficult than you first imagine. The process is rewarding, however, if you can gain clarity and insight on something that is otherwise very general and abstract.

Writer: In defining a concept you may be entering into debates that have no one "right" answer, but that involve many different, equally valid, points of view.

Generating Ideas: You can use a dictionary in order to find definitions for a concept you are interested in. The Oxford English Dictionary is a particularly good reference; many schools will have a subscription to the online OED so check with a librarian to see how you can access it. (The online OED is accessible only by subscription; it is not a free site.)

List some concepts from a dictionary here. Do not add the definitions, as you will write your own.

Defining a Focus: Be clear in your thesis statement about the concept you are dealing with and the definition(s) you are attaching to that concept. Draft a thesis statement here.

Organizing Ideas: Remember to explain in your introduction just why the concept you've chosen needs redefinition at all. Is it a particularly slippery term? Does defining it differently (or not defining it at all) have particular consequences? Try a rough version of the introduction here.

Drafting: Try to cite your sources fully even in early drafts. That way, you do not have to go back at some later point and search for page numbers or reference information.

Revising: As with any writing assignment, time away from it can help you gain new perspective. Try to budget your time so that you can leave the paper a day or two (even an hour or two will help) and then return to it.

Editing and Proofreading: Check for grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., and be sure your quotations are properly formatted and sourced.

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Either print your answers out for submission or email them to your instructor.