Student Question

How should I write a definition paragraph on discrimination?

Expert Answers

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The easiest way to write a definition paragraph on "discrimination" is to first find a definition that clarifies its meaning to you. For instance, I would begin with a basic definition. To discriminate is...

... to make a distinction in favor of or against a person or thing on the basis of the group, class, or category to which the person or thing belongs rather than according to actual merit; show partiality

This speaks of putting people in categories—looking at individuals and grouping them with others based on some kind of personal criteria or judgment. A more in-depth explanation provides a deeper understanding of the concept. Discrimination... the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on their membership in a certain group or category.

A related concept that is involved in the act of discrimination is practicing or feeling "prejudice." Prejudice is defined as... unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason...


...unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding a racial, religious, or national group.

So "discrimination" identifies the practice of putting people into certain groups and judging them (this is based on an emotional response, not on facts or "science")—the separation of these individuals is not fair or deserved. "Prejudice" plays a big part in this behavior (and it is a "behavior")—which deals with "attitudes" and "opinions" (not based in fact) that are of a "hostile nature."

Looking through these definitions, you should highlight key elements that define the practice of discrimination.

You will then want to organize the information you will include in your paragraph, which can be in the order of importance or simplest to most complex, etc. It is your choice. (See link to "Principles of Organization," listed below.)

Finally, you should plan your topic sentence, which will introduce what you will be writing about in your paragraph. It should be to the point and general in nature. Do not start giving specific information (such as examples) in the topic sentence. 

The information you have collected will follow your topic sentence. When that is finished, add a concluding statement. It is sometimes called a clincher or a hook. Without getting into specifics again, it wraps up your topic. It may "pass judgment" about your topic. I would keep the tone serious, as your topic is a serious one. (Follow the steps in "How to Write a Perfect Paragraph..." in the link below.)

Proofread and edit several times. Do not rely simply on spell-check and grammar check: they do not always work. Whatever information you include, make sure it is in your own words: avoid plagiarizing. This is not just copying the exact words, but also copying the exact structure of sentences. Replacing words from a thesaurus and keeping the same sentence structure is also considered plagiarism.

Put the assignment down, now, and take a break. Come back in an hour and reread it with a fresh eye. You may even want someone else to read it for you. If you stay focused on your topic, define—and support with a few examples—and pay attention to the quality of your writing and organization, you should be fine!

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