What Is a Classification Essay?
Three Tips for Effective Classification:
- Sort things into purposeful categories.
- Choose categories that follow a single organizing principle.
- Provide examples that can be placed into each of the respective categories.
The First Stages of a Classification Essay:
- Pick the categories. Make sure they are clearly defined.
- Classify based on a single, organized principle.
How to Structure Your Classification Essay
When writing any essay, the structure is essential. The good news is that the classification essay usually follows the conventional “five-paragraph” format, although you should obviously pay attention to your instructor's guidelines, especially if you are being asked to write a longer paper.
In your introduction, you should define your topic, in this particular case the groups that are being classified. If you are choosing very narrowly defined groups (for instance, left handed-pitchers, 1990s science fiction films), you will need to make sure the reader understands this from the beginning. The intro should also provide specific descriptive or informative details so that it hooks the reader and demonstrates that there is a point to your paper. Explain what the essay is going to categorize by clearly identifying the subject. Explain why you chose these objects, ideas or people. Finish the paragraph by writing a classification essay thesis statement in which you identify the groups and explain how you went about classifying them.
This should consist of three paragraphs, although your instructor could ask for more. Each paragraph should be devoted to one particular category, although if your paragraphs are long you can break them down as long as you use proper transitions. Start each paragraph by introducing a main point, in this case a particular category. Then proceed to list the items or objects that belong in this particular category. As you are arranging your body paragraphs, organize them in a clear and logical way. For instance, if you are discussing strategies for losing weight, you might start with the least effective methods followed by the most effective ones (or vice versa). The main thing is to make sure the way the order in which you write your body paragraphs matches how you list them in your thesis.
Use this paragraph to briefly restate your thesis and summarize your paper. You will also use the opportunity to create a link between the different categories you have chosen. You could make one last comment about each category, or provide a summary of their respective values or limitations. If you are focusing on strategies, you could explain why one particular approach is better than the others along with justification. Regardless, your concluding paragraph should explain one last time why you have chosen to classify these objects, ideas or people. As you put together the original draft, you can approach it from different angles, but just remember that it must always follow the structure of introduction, three (or more) body paragraphs and conclusions.
Now that you have a general idea about what a classification essay entails, let us go into a little more detail about how you can write one.
Planning Out a Classification Essay
Much like virtually every writing assignment, you do not want to simply plow right into it. You first need to develop a clear plan if you want the paper to be well organized and understandable to the reader. Here are some important planning strategies:
Brainstorm for topics. If your instructor has not given you a topic (or list of topics) to choose from, it is important to come up with a few on your own. Ultimately, you will pick a group of objects, concepts or people that you can logically separate into different groups. While you obviously will need to choose things that fall into clearly defined categories so that they can be compared, you do not want to pick too many of them. Your best bet is to select between 3 and 5 categories depending on how long your paper is expected to be. This will be sufficient for making comparisons without having so many that you are not able to discuss them in depth.
Pick your categories. Now that you have decided upon a topic, consider which categories you will be dividing them into. For some topics, you have several options, so select the way in which you will approach it. For instance, if you are choosing a group of people, will you sort them by education level? Geographic location? Height? Each category should have a single basis for classification. As a good rule, you could choose around three different categories to divide the objects, ideas or people into.
Choose the order. As you deciding how to arrange the categories, make a list of points that you plan to discuss for each category. This will make it easier to identify similarities and allow you to connect the sentences and transitions in a way that makes it flow better. Since you will need to look at the previous paragraphs in order to create comparisons, it is important that you organize them in a way that makes this possible. Within each paragraph, you will also want to organize your points in a logical manner. One typical strategy is to list things in order of importance.
Develop a thesis. Your thesis is usually the last sentence in the introduction paragraph and provides guidance for the entire paper. If you create it early in the planning process, your paper will have more focus as you continue along. Begin by stating the object, idea or people that will be divided into groups, list these respective groups and explain how you went about classifying them. Your thesis could also explain the reasons for classifying these things. For example, are you planning to argue that one group is better than the others?
After you have finished planning for your classification essay, you can proceed to writing the actual paper. Keep in mind that nobody ever writes an ideal paper in one sitting. You will need to go back and make edits and, in fact, you might even find yourself making major changes if you find that the paper is going in an entirely new, intriguing direction.
The Writing Process
At this stage you have created a well thought out plan. Now it is time to start writing your classification essay.
You should be able to describe or define each category. To do this, highlight their main features and go into a discussion about them. It will be necessary to provide a few examples to illustrate. Choose examples that typically represent the respective categories. Make sure to use an equal amount for each category. Compare and contrast to highlight how each of the categories is similar or different.
These tips useful when you are at the stage where you are ready to begin writing your classification essay. The most important thing to remember is that planning and preparation are crucial. If you take the time to organize everything in advance, it will make it so much easier to compete the assignment!
Having a difficult time trying to choose the topic? There are so many ways in which you can go about this. The most important thing is to remember that the purpose of this assignment is to take ideas, objects or people and break them down into logical, easy to understand categories. Start by picking a topic that is broad and then narrow it down. Here are some suggestions:
- Food. This topic is one of the easiest to choose. You could divide food by national cuisine types such as Ukrainian, Chinese, and Mexican. Or, you could categorize it by meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner). Another option is separating food by courses such as appetizers, main dishes and dessert. You could even do dairy foods, grains, and legumes. Using food as a parent topic, the possibilities are endless!
- Music. There are so many different ways in which you can categorize music that choosing this topic would really make your essay a piece of cake. One option is to separate by historical period such as medieval, classical and modern. Or you could classify by genres such as rap, R&B, and pop. You could even take a particular genre such as rock and split it into sub-categories of grunge, heavy metal, and light rock.
- Plants. Because of the virtually limitless diversity of plant life, there are many directions in which you could take this. For instance, you could classify plants based on whether they are a tree, flower or a type of fern. You could even choose to write about the three types of nonvascular plants such as liverworts, hornworts and mosses. Just as in the case of food, the plant parent group presents a lot of opportunities for classification.
As soon as you have the mindset of a classifier, you will have a good idea about what to choose to write about and you will be able to proceed to the next step.
Make an OutlineWe understand that most students are not big fans of making outlines. It seems like tedious, extra work. But when writing a classification essay you will find that an outline is extremely useful. It provides guidelines and keeps your paper going in the right direction. You would never drive through an unfamiliar city without GPS, right? Likewise, doing an outline is like being able to navigate, stay on course and not accidentally make a wrong turn. So if you really want your classification essay to look its best, making an outline is a great strategy.
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