How to Write a Definition Essay Describing Yourself

Although the very word can seem intimidating--particularly if you don't like or simply aren't good at writing--"essay" merely describes an organized means of writing. Not surprisingly, a "definition" essay is one in which you organize your thoughts, opinions and feelings as a means of defining a certain word or concept. Definition essays are personal by design, but that doesn't mean you can't go a step further and write a definition essay that describes yourself.

Make a list or cluster of the ideas you have before you begin writing. Since your aim with this essay is to describe or define yourself, list qualities, characteristics and beliefs that you feel make up who you are as a person, revising your list as it grows to group like ideas together. You can choose to talk about as many or few aspects as you'd like, but you should keep in mind that a number such as three to five is ideal, as that provides enough examples to be convincing, but not too many to risk confusing your readers.

Fashion a "thesis statement," which is a single-sentence overview of what you plan to show or prove within your essay. Your thesis for this essay might be, "I am a complex person and a tapestry of my political, religious and personal convictions."

Write introductory and conclusion paragraphs, keeping in mind that your conclusion should re-assert your introduction without repeating it and that the non-thesis sentences should expand on your thesis statement. An example introduction might be "I am a complex person and a tapestry of my political, religious and personal convictions. My own concept of who I am developed very early on when a family tragedy triggered an early inclination toward religion. Growing up in a disenfranchised home also energized me in a political sense. These elements of myself are therefore inextricably linked."

Arrange your ideas into a rough outline form, bookending it with your introduction and conclusion. Spend at least one paragraph on each major theme and idea. For instance, you might spend one paragraph talking about your political beliefs, one talking about your religious convictions and another that speaks to the importance of family in your life. In your outline, provide bullet points underneath each of these main points that expand on their importance. An example: A. Importance of Family I. Mother a. Father died early i. Mother raised me alone II. Little sister a. Raised my little sister to help my mom III. Uncle a. Acted as a male role model in the absence of my father.

Write and revise your essay. Expand your outline into "body" paragraphs that will sit with your introduction and conclusion as the first or "rough" draft of your essay. Read through your essay carefully and revise accordingly, for surface errors involving grammar or spelling, clarity issues in terms of your content, or stylistic conventions that affect how your writing sounds. Above all, make sure the essay defines or describes who you are; giving it to a person who knows you well to read is a great way to gauge this.

Robert Schrader is a writer, photographer, world traveler and creator of the award-winning blog Leave Your Daily Hell. When he's not out globetrotting, you can find him in beautiful Austin, TX, where he lives with his partner.