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How to Write a Classification Essay in Nutrition: An All-Encompassing Manual

The purpose of a classification essay is to classify or categorize things, i.e., divide them into groups based on their characteristics. The purposes for giving you such an assignment can be different: your instructor may want to check if you understand the material of your course enough to analyze the information and divide the items presented to you into categories based on features you single out. Its goal may be to test your ability to apply a set of criteria to the items under scrutiny. It may be concerned with motivating you to compare and contrast the things you categorize.

The purpose is of no consequence – the approach remains more or less the same in all situations. You either receive a set of items to categorize from your instructor or choose it itself. Then you apply a criterion (or a set of criteria) to divide these items into meaningful categories. “Meaningful” is the keyword here – there should be an underlying thought or principle behind your categorization. For example, if you divide food into categories depending on whether they contain a particular nutrient and the quantity in which they contain it, you may point out a correlation between high/low levels of this component and certain health benefits.

Anyway, if you study nutrition, you are likely to deal with classification essays at least from time to time. In this guide, you will find everything you need to do it successfully.

First Steps to Take

Brainstorming the Topic

Choosing a topic for a classification essay essentially boils down to determining two things:

  • What you are going to classify;
  • The criteria you are going to found your classification on.

While you can expect to receive the former from your instructor, the latter you usually have to figure out by yourself, which will require a bit of brainstorming. Here are a few tactics that will help you carry it out in a more organized and streamlined manner.

  • Idea (or mind) map. It can be particularly effective if you are a visual learner. Write down the primary concept behind your essay in the middle of a sheet of paper (or use one of many specialized digital tools for the same purpose) – e.g., ‘food products’. Then start writing down any ideas that come into your head around it – in this case, the ideas are likely to be potential criteria for classifying the original set of items (e.g., ‘omega-3 fatty acid content’, ‘fiber content’, ‘possible correlations with cancer rates’, etc.). If an idea lead to another idea, write it down connecting it to the original one. When they see their thoughts represented in such a visual manner, many people tend to navigate them better and make better decisions;
  • List of ideas. Some people get annoyed by the perceived randomness and chaos of mind mapping and prefer to simply list their ideas. If you are inclined to this manner of thought, start writing down your ideas without censoring or evaluating them. Your purpose is to write down as many of them as possible. After that, you will be able to analyze them and pick something you like.

You should aim at a topic you are comfortable about and can gather enough information on. Here are some examples:

Tired of all the guides and never-ending instructions?
  • Causes of Obesity Classified by Their Health Impact;
  • Traditional Foods Classified Based on Their Nutritional Values;
  • Classification of Organic Foods Based on Their Fiber Content;
  • Eating Disorders Classified Based on the Severity of Their Associated Health Risks;
  • Categories of Currently Available and Used Genetically Modified Foods.

Planning the Structure of Your Essay

A typical classification essay tends to be structured in a fairly organized and straightforward manner. However, if you want your writing to go smoothly, you should not rely on your memory and the ability to think on the spot, but write a plan or outline so that you do not forget to mention anything or repeat yourself.
Here is what this plan should look like:

  • Introductory paragraph:
    • Hook – the first sentence that aims to spark the reader’s interest and motivate him/her to read on. A classification essay may not seem like the most exciting stuff, but if you apply a little bit of ingenuity you are sure to find something that can prove to be interesting. An interesting fact, an unusual criterion for classification, an unexpected point to prove – it is only limited by your imagination;
    • Connecting or background information. Leading up to your thesis statement, you should provide some information that the reader has to know before he/she can proceed to understand your classification and why it is important;
    • Thesis statement. The main idea of your essay. In a classification essay, it usually includes the categorization principle and the list of resulting categories.
  • Body paragraphs. You should have several of them, each dedicated to a single category. They consist of:
    • A topic sentence. The first sentence that introduces the category and lists its characteristic features;
    • A number of supporting sentences. These are the main ‘meat’ of your essay – here you describe the category in detail, provide examples and quote other scholars as a proof that your classification is correct;
    • o Conclusion sentence. If necessary, one sentence at the end sums up what you said before.
  • Conclusion. Finish up – restate your thesis, summarize the main points, say what conclusions you reached after analyzing and categorizing the items under scrutiny. If additional research suggests itself, describe in what direction it should move, according to your opinion.

Writing a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement is the core of your essay. In it, you express the main idea you want to prove. If you remove everything else, the thesis statement should be enough to give the reader an impression of what you wanted to say. The rest of the essay either leads up to it or proves that it is right.
Remember, your thesis statement should be meaningful. Classification cannot be an end in itself. A thesis statement like ‘In this essay I am going to classify food products commonly consumed by modern Americans by their carbohydrate content’ is meaningless. Yes, you classify these products, but what of it? What is the purpose of your writing the essay? If you write, ‘In this essay I am going to classify the food products most commonly consumed by Americans by their carbohydrate content and prove that its high percentage plays a significant role in obesity epidemic’, it is another matter entirely.

Writing as Such

Do not Feel Obliged to Follow Your Plan

The plan exists to make your writing process easier. Following it should not be a goal in itself. If halfway through you decide that you want to introduce certain changes, do not hesitate to do so – just make sure it does not result in repetitions or disrupt the rest of the essay. Most likely, you will have to rewrite your first draft anyway – so do not let the plan prevent you from introducing new and potentially valuable elements into your paper.

Maintain Balance

Unless you have a clear reason to show one category as more important than the others, dedicate roughly the same amount of space and attention to each of them. You should not spend 500 words covering one category and then use 100 words apiece to describe four others. Exceptions are possible if one category is instrumental in proving your point – for example, if you believe that a particular group of foodstuffs plays a crucial role in maintaining one’s health, and it is the entire point of your essay, you can point out its importance by discussing it at length.

Give Examples

Description of each category should be accompanied with a few examples that clearly fall within it. Explain why you believe these items to belong to the category in question, and make sure to back your claims up using evidence from authoritative sources.

Use Transition Words and Sentences

Even if the structure of your paper is otherwise smooth, you have to establish logical connections between its individual parts. You can do it with the help of transition words and sentences, such as ‘therefore’, ‘thus’, ‘unlike’, ‘similarly’, ‘differently from the first group, members of the second group…’, etc. Even if your essay has certain logical inconsistencies (although you should try to avoid it if possible), transition sentences often can conceal this fact.

Do not Introduce New Information in the Conclusion

Conclusion is the stage at which you summarize everything you said so far, analyze the information you introduced and decide whether your classification supports your original statement or not. It is not the place to introduce additional evidence or back your argument up with extra evidence. Do not spring surprises on the reader at this point.

Adding Final Touches

Do not Start Reviewing at Once

The impressions after writing are still too fresh, and you will not be able to see your writing objectively. Take a break. A few hours at the very least. A few days if possible.

Check up on Your Structure

Use the following checklist to ensure your essay is properly structured and logically interconnected:

  • Is there a distinctive hook in the introduction?
  • Do you provide enough background information for an unprepared reader to understand your essay?
  • Does each body paragraph have a definite topic sentence?
  • Does each body paragraph cover a single category?
  • Do you use proper transitions between paragraphs and essay sections?
  • Do you support your categories with examples and evidence from authoritative sources?
  • Do you summarize the main idea and give the reader some food for thought?

Read the Text Aloud

Many things that look naturally on paper turn out to sound awkward when you try to read them out loud. Trying it out on your text can help you pinpoint fragments you should reword, rewrite or remove altogether.

Get Feedback

As an author of your paper, you never see it in a purely objective way. Even after taking a break from writing, you are too familiar with the text to have a completely fresh perspective. Therefore, ask for feedback from the people you trust: your peers, your instructor, possibly even a professional proofreader. Their recommendations and suggestions aren’t necessarily 100 percent correct, but they are a good place to start.

You Will Have to Rewrite Your First Draft

Well, not necessarily, but most likely. All too often, by the time you finish writing your first rough draft, it becomes obvious that you could have done things differently and better in a variety of ways. If you have sufficient time left and feel that you can majorly improve your essay by changing it to a significant degree, do not hesitate to do it.

Do not Hesitate to Cut, Remove and Rearrange

Go through your entire essay and ask yourself an honest question about every word, sentence and paragraph: “Is it necessary to drive home my point?” If you find that some part of your essay does not add real value to it, cut it without hesitation or mercy. Even if it happens to be a phrase or fragment you particularly like, do not twist the essay around to keep it. Your purpose is to classify a set of items and prove a point with this classification. Anything that does not help you achieve this goal, no matter how well worded it is, should go.

Writing a classification essay may be difficult, especially if you never had to do such an assignment before. We, however, hope that this guide will be enough to teach you how to do it.