Difference between revisions of "CZ:Definitions"

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== What are definitions in the ''Citizendium?'' ==
 
== What are definitions in the ''Citizendium?'' ==
  
The ''Citizendium'' uses definitions in two different places.  The first, discussed in [[CZ:Article_Mechanics#Definitions|Article Mechanics]], are in articles, typically stated in the first sentence.  The second, which we discuss here, are created using templates of the form <nowiki>{{Def Term}}</nowiki>.  Let us refer to the second sort of definitions as "definition templates."
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The ''Citizendium'' uses definitions in two different places.  The first, discussed in [[CZ:Article_Mechanics#Definitions|Article Mechanics]], are in articles, typically stated in the first sentence.  The second, which we discuss here, are created using subpages of the form <nowiki>[[Term/Definition]]</nowiki>.  The latter are "definition subpages."
  
Definition templates provide a ''brief'' (no more than 30 word) account of the meaning of a concept, or a pithy description of a particular topic.
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Definition templates provide a ''brief'' (no more than 30 word/100 character) account of the meaning of a concept, or a pithy description of a particular topic.
  
 
== Purpose ==
 
== Purpose ==

Revision as of 00:45, 13 May 2008

What are definitions in the Citizendium?

The Citizendium uses definitions in two different places. The first, discussed in Article Mechanics, are in articles, typically stated in the first sentence. The second, which we discuss here, are created using subpages of the form [[Term/Definition]]. The latter are "definition subpages."

Definition templates provide a brief (no more than 30 word/100 character) account of the meaning of a concept, or a pithy description of a particular topic.

Purpose

Template definitions are used primarily on Related Articles pages; the latter consist of lists of term-definition pairs. When exploring the Citizendium's article offerings on Related Articles pages, we believe end users will find it useful to have definitions, especially of unfamiliar terms.

Format standards

The reason that templates are used for definitions is that, in that case, the same term-definition pairs can be used over and over again on different Related Articles pages.

It is easy to locate a template for a given term, if it exists. If an article is titled Topic, then you may find the template at Template:Def Topic. But you really do not need to know this; the correct template name is created by the {{r}} template (see Related Articles for more information).

Format of the definition itself

Only a few remarks are necessary about the format of the definition. In the following, suppose just for the sake of illustration that "knowledge" is defined as "Justified, true belief."

  • Limit your definition to 30 words. Ten words or fewer is adequate in many cases.
  • Do not repeat the term defined. So, do not write: "Knowledge is justified, true belief." Write: "Justified, true belief."
  • Begin the definition with a capital letter, and end with a period. So, do not write "justified, true belief" (lower case "j" and without a period). Write: "Justified, true belief."
  • If you must use two sentences, divide them by a semicolon, not a period.
  • Do not leave any extra blank lines after the definition. The template contents will be very short.
  • Do not add categories, images, other templates, or other bells and whistles to the template page. The template must be reusable in, potentially, many different contexts, so it should be as stripped-down as possible.

How to display a definition

You may easily display the contents of a definition template, by the way, by following this pattern. Typing

{{Def Philosophy}}

produces

Template:Def Philosophy

Simply put in, for "Philosophy" in the above, the exact name of the article whose definition you want to display. It is important that you use an upper case letter for the first letter of the article. So {{Def philosophy}} (lower case "p") will not work.

Guidelines for editing

Definitions should be created in the context of Related Articles pages; see our guidelines for creating such pages to get started.

See above for guidelines about the "physical" format of the definition.

Some general hints:

  • Do not describe the article; define the concept, or describe the thing, that the article describes.
  • Avoid jargon wherever possible; a definition's purpose is supposed to be useful to people who don't already know the meaning of the word defined. You defeat this purpose if you use even more obscure jargon to explain a piece of jargon.

When you are ready to craft a definition, examine whether the term to be defined is general and so describes many things (like "book"), or particular and so describes just one thing (like The Grapes of Wrath). Then consider the standards for definitions and for descriptions below.

Standards for good definitions

If the term is general, it is subject to definition (rather than description). In most cases, a classic genus-and-difference definition would work fine. Here are some rules taken from a standard logic text for such definitions:

  • Rule 1: A definition should state the essential attributes of the concept (i.e., of the thing defined).
  • Rule 2: A definition must not be circular.
  • Rule 3: A definition must be neither too broad nor too narrow.
  • Rule 4: A definition must not be expressed in ambiguous, obscure, or figurative language.
  • Rule 5: A definition should not be negative where it can be affirmative.

Standards for good descriptions

Strictly speaking, it is impossible to define the names of individual things, like "Paris, France." Instead we say that we make pithy descriptions of these things. Here are some guidelines:

  • For famous persons and landmarks, include what the item is best known for: "Madonna (singer): Pop music icon of the 1980s, known especially for her sexy/trashy image."
  • For persons, provide dates of birth and death in parentheses: "Amelia Earhardt: (1897-1937) Famous American female aviation pioneer."
  • For places, specify an encompassing geographical entity or a nearby landmark, and if that is generally obscure, also provide the name of an encompassing entity that is probably familiar: "Wiesbaden: Capital of the state of Hesse, Germany; pop. about 275,000."


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