Definitions are an important part of the technical and professional world. You might find that you need to include parenthetical or one-sentence definition in your communications with clients or coworkers to make sure they understand your argument or the information you are providing. For example, you might be expected to define a product or service that your company provides in a document that you provide to a client (that’s a definition); however, in order to describe/define that product or service, you may find along the way you need to clarify certain terms used (those are parenthetical or sentence definitions). In another common example, your job will provide definitions to you. For example, let’s say your job announces that they will help pay for “continuing eduction” for qualifying courses. Well, what counts as continuing education? How do I find out which course qualify? How can I be sure that I will be reimbursed for these expenses? In short, definitions–short and long– are part of the daily workplace.
For this assignment, you will write an extended definition, approximately 300-400 words long. You will need to follow guidelines for good technical definitions, including:
- avoiding circular and synonym definitions
- avoiding when/where phrases (“A brazier is what is used…” or “Hypnoanalysis is when..”)
- ensuring that your first sentence is a clear one sentence definition
- ensuring that you use expansion strategies that work best for you.
- ensuring that you organize the definition so that the most helpful or useful information appears first.
In order to pick a good term, I’d like you to pick something your career or field that is NOT incredibly well known: you might pick a term that you’d expect only about 50% of people who are not in that field to know. For example, “poem” would not be a good word for English majors to choose, since most people know what a poem is–even non-English majors; hard drive” would not be a good word for computer science majors to choose, since most people know what a hard drive is, even if they aren’t computer science majors. In order to pick a good term, that you did not know 3-5 years ago, but now you are expected to know in classes related to your major.
Audience: audience matters in technical communication. For this assignment, you are preparing this definition for a general audience. That includes your classmates, myself, your parents, your neighbors, and other students on campus. This means you should avoid jargon and highly technical language. Think carefully about the layout and organization of the information.
Purpose: you will pretend that you are creating this document for work. Your boss asked you to define the term and create a document that can be distributed by you and others on your team. For this reason, you’ll not only want to make sure that you define the term clearly, but you’ll want to create a professional-looking final document.
Note about plagiarism: this is a difficult assignment in some ways, and you may be tempted to google definitions of your term. I expect you not to copy and paste from outside sources, but instead work to write your own definition. You should have close to zero quotations in your definition–and I would prefer it if you had none. Your final document will be run through Turnitin, which will detect if you used language you found in other online definitions.
Student samples: I’m including the beginning half of two student samples below. Note that these are not the COMPLETE definitions:
Here’s how you’ll be graded:
- Peer Review: 25% of your grade (rubric to be provided)
- Post-Project Reflection: 10% of your grade (rubric to be provided.
- Technical Definition: 65% of your grade:
- Does the student begin the definition with a one-sentence definition that places the item in a category, then differentiates the term from other items in that category? (5%)
- Does the student use at least two expansion strategies and both of those strategies are effective for the term being defined? (10%)
- The writer has considered the needs of the audience (public audience). The definition is easy to understand. There’s no jargon and the sentences are clearly phrased. (10%)
- The student organizes the information in a way that makes sense. The definition is not repetitive or disorganized. (10%)
- The student does not plagiarize. The definition is mostly original. If an outside source is used, it is cited and the author provides a work cited sheet. (15%)
- The student submitted a document that is generally free of grammatical and mechanical errors. (5%)
- The student formats the document in a way that makes this look like a professional document, appropriate for representing a company. The minimum word count is met. (10%)