Assignment: Definition and Exemplification

Definition and Example Essay

Length: 2 pages (non-researched) OR 3 pages plus Works Cited (researched)

Due date:

Student Learning Objectives (SLOs)

  • Compose a definition and example essay (SLO 2)
  • Organize the definition and example essay using a structure appropriate to the rhetorical modes (SLO 3)
  • Apply MLA format to prose free of grammar and spelling errors (SLO 6)
  • If choosing the research option, students will also evaluate, represent, and respond to the ideas and research of others while documenting sources (SLO 5)

Description of assignment:

Choose one of the terms below to define in a definition/example essay. This is not an argument essay, so you are not arguing for or against anything. The idea is also not to write a technical article; instead, use denotation and connotation together to define a term in such a way that your audience can easily understand. Your definition should include a basic definition as well as an extended definition, which may use specific examples, history, etymology, compare/contrast, and more.

As you plan your essay, consider these questions: Why is it important to understand this term? Why is this term in the news right now? Why is it relevant to someone living in Louisiana? If a friend asked me what this term meant, how would I explain it?

In order to answer these questions to define your term, you should use specific, relevant examples. Each example should further your reader’s understanding of your term.

The essay must be in MLA format with double spacing and Times New Roman 12-point font. The length of the essay should be between 2 and 4 full pages of text. Your essay should be free of grammar and spelling errors.

Goal of assignment:

Define a term by providing a basic definition, an extended definition, and relevant specific examples.

Skills we will work on with this paper:

  • definition
  • examples/illustration
  • research using scholarly sources (if writing the research option)
  • MLA in-text citation
  • Works Cited page
  • emphatic-order organization (“save the best for last”)

Suggestions for topics:


  • Lagniappe
  • Laissez les bons temps rouler


  • Gerrymandering
  • Gentrification
  • Cultural Appropriation

Rubric [with percentage breakdown for different aspects of evaluation/grade (%)]:

Content = 30%

A: 30-27 points

Paper is creative and original

Student has clearly followed and met the assignment guidelines


B: 26-23 points

Paper is somewhat creative and original

Student has mostly followed and met the assignment guidelines


C: 22-19 points

Paper is unoriginal and ideas are obvious or general

Student has followed and met basic assignment guidelines


D: 18-15 points

Paper is unoriginal and ideas are obvious or general

Student has not followed and met the basic assignment guidelines


F: 14-0 points

Paper contains few complete ideas

Student has not followed and met most of the basic assignment guidelines


Development = 30%

A: 30-27 points

Tone enhances the subject, conveys the writer’s attitude, and suits the audience


B: 26-23 points

Tone mostly fits the subject, the writer’s attitude is somewhat clear, and the tone is mostly suitable for the audience


C: 22-19 points

Tone is acceptable for the subject, the writer’s attitude is not clear or consistent, and the tone may or may not be suitable for the audience


D: 18-15 points

Tone is not consistent with the subject, the writer’s attitude is indeterminate, and  the tone is not appropriate for the audience


F: 14-0 points

Tone is not clear at all or does not make sense for the subject, the writer’s attitude is indeterminate, and the tone risks disengaging the audience.


Structure = 20%

A: 20-18 points

Essay has a logical order and a clear sense of flow

Introduction is engaging, paragraphs are idea-centered, and transitions are smooth


B: 17-16 points

Essay has a somewhat logical order and some sense of flow

Introduction is mostly engaging, paragraphs mostly adhere to their topics, and transitions are identifiable


C: 15-14 points

Essay does not have a logical order, though some order is obvious

Introduction offers little insight, paragraphs stray off topic, and transitions can sometimes be evident


D: 13-11 points

Essay structure seems random or chaotic, paragraphs lack development, and transitions are missing or misleading


F: 10-0 points

Essay does not have any clear structure, paragraphs are not developed, transitions are missing or misleading


Format = 10%

A: 10-9 points

Proper MLA format is evident


B: 8-7 points

Paper is mostly formatted correctly but may contain minor errors


C: 6-5 points

Text contains more than 3 kinds of formatting errors


D: 4-3 points

Formatting is problematic and has several major errors


F: 2-0 points

Formatting does not follow assignment guidelines


Grammar = 10%

A: 10-9 points

Paper has been carefully edited and contains only minor grammatical and/or spelling errors


B: 8-7 points

Paper has been edited but may contain 4-7 errors


C: 6-5 points

Careless proofreading is evident

Text contains between 8 and 15 errors


D: 4-3 points

Little evidence of proofreading

Text contains between 16 and 30 errors


F: 2-0

No evidence of proofreading

Text has more than 30 errors


Possibilities (the best essays do this):

  • Write an interesting essay; don’t focus on technical information that no one would want to read!
  • Include specific, interesting examples from your own personal experience.
  • Start each body paragraph with a clear topic sentence, and keep that paragraph focused on just one main idea.

Non-research option: Choose specific, interesting examples that you read about.

Research option: Read first. Become a mini-expert on your topic before you begin drafting.


Pitfalls (common mistakes students make with this assignment):

  • Do not use clinical language. Be clear but be yourself.
  • Avoid the second-person point of view.
  • Do not switch back and forth between present and past tense.
  • Make sure the tone fits the subject.
  • Carefully proofread your essay before turning it in.

Research option: Your essay will include a lot of in-text citations; if it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong! Remember that everything that is not common knowledge MUST include an in-text citation, even if it’s in your own words.



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Writing Rhetorically: Framing First Year Writing Copyright © 2022 by LOUIS: The Louisiana Library Network is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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