A definition essay aims to explain and exemplify a concept or idea. Although these essays can come in all sizes, five-paragraph essays help students to organize their ideas and ensure that they write concise but thorough essays. There's no way to guarantee that you will write a paper that gets an A+, but following a few guidelines will help ensure that your essay fulfills the necessary criteria.


Your introductory paragraph should provide the definition of the concept or idea your essay deals with. You should start by introducing the topic and outlining any important information that your reader needs to know to understand the topic and provide the definition in the last sentence of your introduction. The introductory paragraph is not the place to add superfluous information. When revising your essay, see if there's any information you can get rid of without compromising your essay. If your paper is still easy to understand without one of the sentences, get rid of it.

The Body

Each paragraph in your body should help to reinforce and expand on the definition you provide. Because this is a five-paragraph essay, think of three strong points that give examples of your definition, and be as specific as possible. Like the introduction and every paragraph in the essay, there should be no superfluous information. Some common ways of organizing these paragraphs include providing a narrative illustration of your definition, comparing and contrasting your definition with other ones and describing other research that supports your definition.


Your conclusion should sum up all the points of your essay in a few sentences and provide a final closing sentence. Remember that your conclusion should finish your essay, not simply duplicate information that your reader has already seen. Try presenting the same definition with different words. Like the body of your essay, it should support your introduction, but it shouldn't provide any new information.

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The Rest

Depending on the guidelines that your school provides, the formatting of your essay will differ, but there are a few things your paper will always need. If you used other people's work in your definition essay, you will have to cite it properly. Remember to include footnotes, end notes or in-text citations. Also, you will need to have a bibliography or works cited list at the end of your paper. Your teacher or professor may also want you to annotate your works cited list by writing a couple of sentences about each of your sources and how they contributed to your essay. You will likely also have to provide a title page with the title of your essay, your name, date, class and instructor.