Definition: A practical guide to constructing and evaluating definitions of terms


David Hitchcock
McMaster University


This book proposes guidelines for constructing and evaluating definitions of terms, i.e. words or phrases of general application. The guidelines extend to adoption of nomenclature. The book is meant to be a practical guide for people who find themselves in their daily lives or their employment producing or evaluating definitions of terms. It can be consulted rather than being read through. The book’s theoretical framework is a distinction, due to Robert H. Ennis, of three dimensions of definitions: the act of the definer, the content of the definition, and its form. The act of a definer is what the definer does in defining a term; the book distinguishes, following Ennis, three basic acts of defining: reporting, stipulating, and advocating. The content of a definition is in one sense the information that the definition conveys and in another sense the words in its defining part. The form of a definition is the way it is expressed, for example as a definition by genus and differentia.

Author Biography

David Hitchcock, McMaster University

David Hitchcock is professor emeritus of philosophy at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. He is the author of Critical Thinking: A Guide to Evaluating Information (Methuen, 1983), of On Reasoning and Argument: Essays in Informal Logic and Critical Thinking (Springer, 2017), and of many articles; co-author of Evidence-Based Practice: Logic and Critical Thinking in Medicine (AMA Press, 2005); and co-editor of Arguing on the Toulmin Model: New Essays in Argument Analysis and Evaluation (Springer, 2006).

Definition book cover with word cloud. Windsor studies in argumentation owl of minerva logo.


July 12, 2021


Details about the available publication format: Print


Physical Dimensions