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.
Table of contents
Choosing a topic for a classification essay essentially boils down to determining two things:
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.
You should aim at a topic you are comfortable about and can gather enough information on. Here are some examples:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Use the following checklist to ensure your essay is properly structured and logically interconnected:
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.
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.
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.
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.