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Differentiating Concepts from Definitions in Academic Papers
Michael Oghenenyoreme J.
March, 2020
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Within the undergraduate environment, the terms concepts and definitions are often used interchangeably. Hence, undergraduate scholars who used the subtopic “definition” may not add concepts and vice versa in their studies. Nevertheless, as scholars grow in their academic endeavour, they begin to understand that concepts and definitions are indeed different terms that have different meanings.

 What is a Concept?

Ordinarily, a concept is defined as a general idea of something. Any definable word have components, dimensions, activities, examples, rules that apply, distinctive attributes, or comparisons with related terms that helps to identify the particular term. A concept in itself is not a definition of a term but an end to a definition. That is, available concepts about a term helps a scholar define what a term is all about. Concepts are the fundamental building blocks of our thoughts and beliefs. They play an important role in all aspects of academics. For instance, we can have the following concept about the term “human being”:

  1. A human is a living being
  2. A human can be male or female
  3. Humans only naturally exist on planet earth
  4. Humans have various complexion
  5. Humans are either short or tall, etc.

The above information about a human are not definitions in themselves but are building blocks that will ultimately help us define what a human really is. The concepts about humans are much – we can go on and on. Therefore, haven known these concepts about a human, we now have a better idea about what a human being is and can then define human being in accordance with the available dimensions and components of concepts. Take note that concepts do not define but reflects the various characteristics of a term.

Therefore, a scholar attempting to fulfill a subtopic such as “concept” in his/her paper does this by bringing up what other scholars has said about the term along with what he/she knows about the term. The scholar does not define but discuss the characteristics of the term in question. In the word of the layman, a concept is merely beating around the bush when discussing about a concept. You are not expected to define the term but to beat around the definition, bringing up issues that will ultimately lead to the definition of the term under investigation.

The term concept has also been defined as an abstract idea conceived by a person with the aim of better understanding a term. However, such dimension of concept is not adopted here as it does not suit the purpose of this paper.

What is a Definition?

Simply put, a definition is a statement of the exact meaning of a word. So we can see that here, no more beating around the bush. You just come straight to tell your readers the true meaning of the term. Note that the definition can even be two or three sentences lifted from the concept and merged together to form the definition. This is why we say concepts about a term lead to the definition of such a term.

Definition has also been described as explaining the meaning of (a word, phrase, term, etc): to show or describe (someone or something) clearly and completely: to show the shape, outline, or edge of (something) very clearly. It is the act of making something definite, distinct, or clear.

Definitions show in clear terms, the total meaning of a term. A definition can contain from one to several sentences – preferable a maximum of three sentences. Definitions help readers to grasp to overall meaning of ideas without in all its ramifications.