A Good Example Of Definition Of Terms In A Research Paper
Students have to define key terms and concepts in their research papers. If you do not know how to do this in the easiest way, you can search for good examples on the Web, visit an academic writing center, go to your university library, or ask your classmates for some help. Either way, you should learn how to evaluate an example that you find. The following information contains useful guidelines for students who want to choose a good example and compose a solid definition of terms section in their papers:
- You should define important terms and concepts at the start of your research paper. Typically, they go after the paragraph that introduces the study purpose and before the major content.
- It is recommended to use one paragraph for each term that you define. You can provide several definitions and outline the one you are going to use in your paper.
- Many writing manuals suggest starting with adjective and noun combinations. In other words, you pick terms from your main statement and explain their meanings. You should stay specific, for instance, define a term as “illegal immigration” instead of just “immigration.”
- Do not forget to specify what combinations of verbs and adjectives mean in your research. For example, phrases such as “is considered more effective” or “is worse” may have very different meanings in different kinds of studies. The same refers to combinations of adverbs such as “positively” and “negatively,” as well as verbs.
- One of the most important things to keep in mind is to define your own terms. You can use the following template: in current research, the term term1 is used to mean the following explanation.
- Some students provide terms in a list format. This makes your research assignments easier to read, especially if you format a defined term in italics. However, you may also find examples where they use one paragraph for each term.
- It is necessary to mention that you need to cite sources from where you borrow definitions. You should cite as you write. Check with your supervisor whether you can use footnotes in order to make the text more reader-friendly.
- To prepare a strong definition section, you will have to use many dictionaries, as each of them provides a slightly different meaning and it takes some effort to choose the most appropriate definitions.
- Though it is better to avoid many quotes in a research paper, you can quote from the dictionary in your work.
- The length of your definition paragraph depends on the number of definitions you want to provide, so make sure to select the key terms.
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I've often encountered this type of problem in my own academic writing (and not only in theses). The problem is that it's often difficult to talk about something before you've defined what it is. But at the same time, it's awkward to write so much expository material before being able to talk about your own stuff. It's up to you to work out, for your document in particular, the best way to present these necessary definitions.
Given that you want to say what your work is about as soon as possible, you can't avoid mentioning at least a few of these technical terms before introducing them formally. For one thing, you may well have to put them in the title! Often, you can present just enough in the abstract and introduction to allow readers to get an idea of the technicalities, but not overwhelm them with detail. The trick is to make sure your presentation is accurate and useful. If you make it too vague ("the Riemann Hypothesis is a very hard problem") then nobody is helped.
A literature review chapter is often a natural place to put definitions. It's hard to say anything meaningful about the literature if you haven't introduced the terms that the literature talks about. Also, exploring the past contributions to your subject certainly includes identifying who came up with particular definitions, who disagreed, how they adapted the definitions, and so on. This is the case for the dissertation in your first link, which defines "research" in the literature review, in the context of conflicting definitions of what research actually is (p19). The author still talks about research in the preceding pages - but that is the point where she sets the scene for her own work, using that definition in particular.
Material which is more basic or less contested could be introduced earlier, if you like. If it is general background, which readers need to know in order to understand anything you've done, but which the thesis is not particularly "about", then the introduction is a fine place for it.
Equally, definitions could be in their own section - either towards the beginning, or as an appendix. I often see this in documents where the definitions are basic reference material. Some readers will know them already, and skip the chapter; others can read in more detail. Again, this option separates the definitions from the literature review, on the basis that the definitions are simply fundamental to the field.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, unless your institution tells you what to do. I hope these thoughts will be helpful as you consider which option is best for presenting your work.
answered Apr 13 '14 at 18:56