It's probably apparent that neglecting to explain what is intended by politicalparty aspects or success is unacceptable, because those terms obviously can convey so many different meanings. But the need to specify what is intended by academic ability, high school students, and family structure may not be so obvious, since we often find individuals using those terms without any clarifying explanation, apparently on the assumption that the words mean the same to everybody.
First consider academic. Are mathematics, history, English literature, Spanish language, home economics, auto repair, guitar instruction, and floral arranging all equally academic"If not, then what distinction should be drawn among them"And what about ability"On what evidence should judgments of ability be based–intelligence test scores, grade point averages, teachers' judgments, or people's performance in such games as Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Monopoly?
How about high school students"If we are judging their academic ability, is it important to know who they are in terms of socioeconomic status, ethnic background, home language, parents' education, and whether they are in private schools or in public schools?
Now consider family. Is family supposed to mean only a pair of parents and their biological offspring"Or does it mean people living together, whether or not they are biologically related"Or does it encompass all of a person's legal relatives, no matter where they reside?
What is family structure"Is it the set of roles that different family members play"Is it the manner in which authority and power are distributed among family members"Or is it the pattern of communication among members?
In summary, we conclude that leaving key terms undefined is not acceptable in theses and dissertations.
How to Define Terms in a Dissertation Paper
When writing a dissertation, a student will write about a topic that they have chosen and sometimes, that topic is not overly popular. The topic can be very scientific or subject specific and that tends to mean that it has a language of its own. While others who are in the same academic track or major will know what the words mean an outsider might not. So it’s important to define the specific terminology of the topic, but how should a student work in a definition into a dissertation paper without taking away from the paper itself? Here are a few ideas on how to do this:
Ideas of How to Incorporate Definitions into a Dissertation:
- When a student has a lot of terms that will need defining, an idea is to create a mini dictionary to be placed at the end of the paper, but before the bibliography. This way you can define all the important terms without interrupting the flow of the dissertation and the theories you are presenting. Those who understand the term can continue reading without interruption; those that do not know the specific topic terminology can flip to the back and determine how the term is being used.
- Another idea for a student is to work the definition into the sentence that introduces the term. An example of this is in the brackets. [An animal that walks on four legs, with paws and a tail is a dog. The dog will be man’s best friend. ] Obviously a basic example, but the student can explain the term without confusing the reader, and then can use the term from there on out without confusing the reader or audience. This is a good way to keep the flow of the paper, and still help the reader out.
- A third idea for the student is to use the context clues of the writing to allow the reader to be able to define the word themselves. They don’t flat out have to define the term, but make enough allusions to it that the reader is able to figure out what the term means. For example the word holistic means a whole approach to an act of healing. So instead of defining that in the paper, a student can hint at it. With a sentence like: [When the healer takes a holistic approach, they look at the outside factors, symptoms, and how a person lives.] This approach gives the reader enough clues to form a definition of their own.
The student should choose how they want to incorporate the definition of the paper based on the type of dissertation they are writing. They should sample each type to see how each idea will best fit into the overall layout and design of the dissertation. It’s important that the audience will understand the terms of the paper, so they can follow the overarching ideas of the paper.
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