How to write definitions in literature review

How to write definitions in literature review


In academic writing especially in thesis and dissertations, the use of the definitions is normally needed in two cases:

  1. a) In introductions, or in the literature review, in order to clarify a word or phrase in the research title.
  2. b) More generally, to explain a word or phrase in research, that may be either very

technical (and so not in normal dictionaries), or very recent, or with no widely agreed meaning.


A formal definition, is based upon a concise, logical pattern that includes as much information as it can within a minimum amount of space. The primary reason to include definitions in your academic research writing is to avoid misunderstanding with your audience.

Formal definition consists of three parts:


  • The term (word or phrase) to be defined
  • The class of object or concept to which the term belongs
  • The differentiating characteristics that distinguish it from all others of its class

When writing introductions, it is often helpful to define a term in the title, even when it may be in common use, to demonstrate that you have thought about it and that you have a clear idea what it means in your research, the different connotations.



  • When your writing contains a term that may be key to audience understanding and that term could likely be unfamiliar to them.
  • When a commonly used word or phrase has layers of subjectivity or evaluation in the way you choose to define it.
  • When the etymology (origin and history) of a common word might prove interesting or will help expand upon a point.




Avoid defining with “X is when” and “X is where” statements. These introductory adverb phrases should be avoided. Define a noun with a noun, a verb with a verb, and so forth.

Do not define a word by mere repetition or merely restating the word.

Define a word in simple and familiar terms. Your definition of an unfamiliar word should not lead your audience towards looking up more words in order to understand your definition.

Keep the class portion of your definition small but adequate. It should be large enough to include all members of the term you are defining but no larger. Avoid adding personal details to definitions. Although you may think the plot about your research topic in dissertation, will perfectly encapsulate the concept of stinginess, your audience may fail to relate. Offering personal definitions may only increase the likeliness of misinterpretation that you are trying to avoid. How to write definitions in literature review for thesis is now explained but if you not sure about your literature review, call us to help you. If you are doing your MBA thesis and require help…




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