Analyzing A Technical Definition

For this activity, we will examine technical definitions so that you can see examples of the genre you will work in for this next project.

Step 1:

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You will first need to find an example extended technical definition. An extended definition is a definition that is at least a few paragraphs long.) You can find an extended definition by looking up medical terms, or a by googling a technical term in your field. If you find a website, handout, poster, textbook, or similar, describing that term, you’ve probably found a technical definition.

 

 

Note: you may need to spend more a few minutes finding a good one to work with for this assignment. If you start to answer the questions below and can’t answer the questions, you may have chosen a poor example.

Step 2:

After you’ve identified one to work with, save it as a PDF or take a screenshot. Then, answer these questions.

1. Look at the first sentence of the definition. What is the category that the term is placed in? And how does the sentence differentiate the term from other items in that category?  (For example, if I say that “FIU is a public university with it’s main campus in Miami”–I am placing FIU in the category of “public university”; and then for the rest of the sentence I am saying it’s different from other “public universities” because it’s located in Miami. That’s the category [public university] and the differentiation [located in Miami]. An extended definition is supposed to start with a one sentence definition with the basic structure: TERM is a __[category]__ that _[differentiation]________. )

  • Do you think that was an effective categorization? Can you think of another category that this term could be placed in?
  • If the first sentence is a poor example of a one-sentence definition, suggest a revision. If the extended definition you chose does not include a one-sentence definition as the first sentence, then suggest one.

2. Look over the definition. What are the methods (partition, etymology, principle of operation, etc) that the writer is using to define this term ? If the definition uses many different strategies, identify at least the first 3 that the writer used.

  • Do you think the strategies came in a good order? Which do you think was the most effective at explaining the term?

3. Look over the formatting of the definition. What does the author do, if anything, to break up the definition and make it easier to understand? What other elements of the page make the page look professional?

4. Are there any images in the definition? Do they seem helpful or merely decorative?

5. What, if anything, does examining this definition clarify for you as you start working on your own definition? OR, what questions do you have for me after examining this example?

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