Prepare a draft of your “Meaning of…” essay for peer review. Your draft should be more than 750 words
in length. It should be coherent and makes sense to your reviewers.
You may receive full credit on your draft even if you need to make substantial edits to your essay. In
other words, do not mistake full credit as a sign that you do not need to revise your draft. Revision is
expected. Review all feedback received and edit accordingly.
The Meaning Of…..
Assignment Overview
The first major assignment in 100 required that you write a paper consisting entirely of statements of
fact. This second major assignment will also include statements of fact, but the goal of the essay is to
establish something that cannot be empirically verified: the meaning of a word.
As you may have experienced when composing the Fact Paper, our ability to make an argument is
limited when we cannot appeal to values. Contrary to the belief that values diminish the validity of an
argument by rendering it mere opinion, values are a necessary part of argument. Indeed, they are the
very heart of argument. This is the case in part because evaluative terms are notoriously difficult to
To establish what is meant by any evaluative word, we must rely on precedent and context. We can
refer to authoritative sources such as dictionaries, but we must also take into account common usage
and intent. In the case of words like hot, cold, short, or tall, there may be specific temperatures or
heights that we can all agree define that term. There is no such widespread agreement for other
evaluative terms, especially cultural values.
Cultural values are key terms to which we appeal again and again when deciding a course of action.
They are values that most people would agree are fundamental to our society, even if we cannot agree
on their definition. Examples of cultural values are: freedom, happiness, efficiency, maturity, ingenuity,
independence, health, security, life, criminality, responsibility, and sustainability.
This assignment is designed to give you practice in another technique of persuasive writing, that of
defining a cultural value or other key term in such a way that seems credible to your reader. Your ability
to credibly define your terms will help you to contribute to a range of public discourse in influential
Identify an instance in a document, broadcast, or conversation in which the meaning an author assigns
to a word is debatable. You are not looking for an instance in which someone uses a term incorrectly,
such as using the word “antidote” to refer to a short story. Rather, you are looking for an instance in
which a person applies a word to an object or situation and you disagree with the person’s evaluation
of that object or situation.
When you have your example, then answer for yourself the following question: Why is it important to
dispute the meaning of that word? Your answer to that question will eventually become the thesis of
your paper.

Begin your essay by summarizing your example, presenting your thesis, and previewing your definition
of the disputed word. Following your introduction, present your research on your word that supports
the usage for which you advocate.
There are a number of ways to establish a precedent for a preferred meaning of a term, including
reference to a dictionary, though that reference should not be limited to Merriam Webster’s.
You can trace the etymology of your word in the Oxford English Dictionary, which is available
electronically via the university library: (Links to an
external site.)
Other dictionaries you can search include:
legal: (Links to an external site.)
medical: (Links to an external site.)
philosophical: (Links to an external site.)
slang: (Links to an external site.)
Another way to establish the meaning of a term is to show how others use it, even if that usage is
common only to a certain group of people. To do this, you will need to compile examples of others
using your word in the manner for which you advocate. This research might include reference to the
term’s equivalent in other languages.
A third strategy for establishing the meaning of a term is to define related terms. For instance, if you are
establishing the meaning of maturity, you may also want to define experienced, responsible, and
After establishing a precedent for your preferred meaning, explain the difference it will make to use that
meaning over another. In this section of the paper, you will want to provide specific examples of how
the word’s meaning can or will influence decision-making and social action.
Conclude your paper with a brief summary of your argument and re-statement of your thesis.
Formatting guidelines
You paper should be 1500 words in length not including endnotes and bibliography. Please include no
fewer than seven references and no more than ten. Drafts and final paper must be typed, doublespaced with one-inch margins, and stapled. Do not fold the corners of your paper in lieu of a staple.
Use 12 pt. font, preferably Times New Roman. Please do not include a title page or my name. Simply
include your name, the semester, and the assignment (single-spaced) at the top of the first page.
Citations should be formatted in accordance with either MLA or APA guidelines. Those guidelines can
be found in The Pocket Wadsworth Handbook and the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): http:// (Links to an external site.). Even when you reference a dictionary available
online, be sure to provide a complete citation for the text, including the names of editors and
When grading your paper, I will be looking for the following:
1) a compelling thesis that gives reason for disputing the meaning of a word;
2) well-organized and thorough research that lends credibility to your preferred meaning;
3) successful organization of your research into easily readable sections;
4) no fewer than seven and no more than ten reliable sources;
5) adherence to the formatting guidelines detailed above, including complete and correct citations for
all your sources;
6) careful attention to grammar, spelling, and paragraph construction.