A classification essay (sometimes referred to as a classification and division essay) is an academic assignment aimed at analyzing a group or type of things (events, phenomena, ideas, etc.) and dividing them into a number of categories using a consistent principle. For example, if you classify types of sporting activities, you cannot base one category on the type of equipment necessary and another one on the number of players.
At a glance, it may seem that writing a classification essay is a rather straightforward task – after all, what can be so difficult about dividing already known things into categories based on a few simple rules? However, one has to understand that in college you no longer deal with simple topics you used to see in high school. While in the past you had to work with concrete and easily classifiable items, now you will be given much more abstract notions to analyze. In terms of sports, you will have to classify not different sporting activities but, for example, study well-known teams and divide them into groups based on their preferred tactics and approaches to recruitment and training. You will have to think, research and gather information before answering any of these questions. And in this manual, you will find all the necessary information to organize your thoughts, prepare and write such a classification essay.
Unless your professor has already defined and firmly delineated the topic for you, this is probably the most important stage of your work. The right choice of topic is important in all types of writing without exception, but it is especially true for classification essays. The reason is simple – if, for example, you write a persuasion essay and suddenly realize that your initial choice what suboptimal, you can alter the title, switch things around, replace and change fragments, and eventually emerge with an essay that will use a great deal of the original content and look natural. In classification essay, the entire structure is implied in the topic. Change the topic, and you have to replace or rewrite huge swathes of text.
Therefore, you not just have to choose topic you like, but also build the entire framework of your essay before you start writing it: what classification you will use, what will be the characteristic features of each category, how many examples you introduce, which examples these will be and so on.
When you are done, you should end up with something along these lines:
The categories you use are the foundation of a classification essay. You cannot just start writing and hope that everything will somehow fall into one category or another. You have to carefully think things through and create a system of categorization that will encompass all the items under your scrutiny. To do so, you have to:
Some students tend to skip writing an outline, but it is a bad idea in general and especially so for a classification essay (sudden change of structure can force you to make dramatic changes to the text beyond the affected area).
An outline is a plan of your essay, dividing it into sections and noting down what you should mention in each of them. Exactly how detailed it should be depends on your preferences – you can do with just one or two words describing the contents of each section in the most basic terms or provide an in-depth guide for yourself. Some students almost write a rough draft of their essay at this stage, and the actual process of writing for them involves just fleshing out the outline and adding some details.
Speaking of structure, there are two basic approaches to writing the main part of classification essays:
Structurally, classification essays are the same as most other essay types:
However, you should pay more attention to certain aspects of classification essay writing.
At a glance, it may seem that you have chosen a classification principle allowing you to separate all the items into individual groups based on it alone. However, as you progress with your writing and take a closer look at certain categories or examples thereof, you can discover that some elements do not fall neatly into specific categories. For example, you may have to add additional factors to explain why a certain item goes to a particular category. If you run into such a situation, it usually means that your primary classification principle needs some tweaking.
It is not enough to just list the categories and provide examples. The order in which you introduce them is just as important as what you say about them. Look at your categories and ask yourself, how do they fit each other and what bigger picture do they create? The order of introduction should be logical and follow a principle of its own. For example, you can start with the least or the most prominent (well-known, widespread, etc.) and gradually move to the opposite end of the spectrum. If two or more categories are connected with each other, introduce the ones that are necessary to understand the others first.
Again, a classification essay is more than just about dividing things into groups. It is not worth much if there is no underlying thought behind all this. Why did you choose this particular method of categorization? What does your analysis prove? There is no single way of doing it. You may study the groups you singled out and point out the one that you feel to be best suited for a particular purpose. Or you can make a conclusion that although these categories are noticeably different, they share a number of important similarities. It does not matter what your conclusion is – just make sure you end with a thought that sums up everything you have said by that point.
The first thing you have to check is the overall soundness of your logic. Reread the essay in its entirety (preferably at least a day or two after you finish writing it, if you can afford it) and see if your classification feels natural. Are there any fragments that look forced? Do you follow the same classification principles throughout the text? Is your argumentation sound? Do you ever contradict yourself?
If you have been writing your essay over a period of, let’s say, a few days, fragments you wrote on different days may fit each other poorly. Make sure your text reads as a cohesive whole, not as a collection of independent parts.
When writing a classification essay, there are two important things to remember.
Firstly, your style (sentence structures, word choice, etc.) should meet the requirements of academic writing. Slang words, contractions and emotionally colored expressions should be excluded (unless the use of a particular term is necessary to explain something).
Secondly, your style should be consistent throughout the essay. Check your word choice, sentence length and stylistic devices and make sure you never deviate from the tone you have established in the beginning.
The presence of minimal word limits in most school and college assignments means that many of us develop an approach to writing that uses many more words and sentences to express a thought than necessary. However, do not think that your professors do not know about this tendency. They can see when you bloat the word count, and do not appreciate this. Therefore, if you want to improve your reputation with them, excise everything that is not truly necessary from your texts. Prime candidates for elimination are:
As you can see, writing a classification essay about sports is rather complicated – but if you approach this task with a plan and consistently follow it, there is nothing to be afraid of. We hope that this guide will help you with the next assignment of this type!