Explaining a Concept

Concept analysis, explaining a concept, or extended definition papers are all part of the same thing. These types of papers ask students to explain something intangible like love, patriotism, hate, or joy. The purpose is to explain the concept. Students are not writing an argument, but they are making a point about a concept. Have the point clearly in mind.
The assignment requires students to think about different ways to explain and examine a concept.
Here are some guidelines to help students go about writing their concept analyses:
Introduce the concept
1)      Look for definitions or clues to a good definition: What is it? What do you think it is? How has the concept changed over time?
2)      Determine defining criteria for the concept (I’ll know it when I see it because…)
·         Use narratives.
·         Use descriptions.
·         Show the concept in action: Give real life examples in society of the concept.
·         Discuss causes and potential outcomes for the concept
·         Are there tools available for measuring the concept as you have defined it?
·         Gather judgments or understandings of the concept from professionals or ordinary people
3)      Move from the specific to the general. Explain the significance of the concept in the lives of ordinary people.
Methods of development:
Defining – an extended definition; especially helpful if the concept you are explaining involves difficult or unfamiliar (to your reader) vocabulary
Classifying/Dividing – a description of how your concept fits into a particular category or how it can be broken down into parts that can be described more easily; this is useful in showing your reader how your concept fits into a “big picture” and how it can be divided
Comparing/Contrasting – examples of how your concept is similar or different from other concepts/ideas with which the reader may be familiar
Narrating a Process – a step-by-step explanation of how a process works or how a concept is used in practice
Illustrating – the use of examples, anecdotes, and other details that may help your reader to better understand your concept
Reporting Causes or Effects – a description of how a particular event leads to another and how concepts are related to each other.
Adapted from: Elaine Domian at University of Kansas Medical Center, School of Nursing, Jan 2001 and http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/bobtam/website/explaining_a_concept.htm