How to Write a
Classification Essay

High school and college students alike are likely to encounter classification essays at some stage in their education. They are commonly assigned in order to help tutors evaluate a student’s ability to categorize data based on certain properties. It can seem like a daunting prospect if you have never approached this type of assignment, but once you learn how to write a classification essay you will come to realize that it really isn’t so bad after all.

Let’s take a look at some of the tips and tricks you can use to properly structure a classification essay.

What is a Classification Essay

If you are going to learn how to write a classification essay, then you will first need to understand what it actually is! The easiest way to explain a classification essay is that it is a formal piece of writing designed to showcase your skills in categorizing and generalization.

You will be required to organize things into groups and offer up examples that fit into each. It is up to you to decide on the criteria for classification, but you must be able to explain your reasoning.

How to Structure Your Classification Essay

One of the first things to think about when learning how to write a classification essay is the structure. For the purpose of this guide we will go with the popular ‘five paragraphs’ method, but when you come to actually write your assignment you can add in additional paragraphs as appropriate.

  • Introductory Paragraph – As with any type of essay, your starting point is the introduction. You will want to clearly identify your subject, so explain what you are going to be categorizing. It is also a good idea to offer readers an explanation of the purpose of your essay. Why are you categorizing these items? Finally, you will want to close your introduction with your thesis statement. This will identify your groups and perhaps offer a brief explanation of the criteria for each of them.
  • Body Paragraphs – The body of your essay will be 3 or more paragraphs. Each paragraph should deal with a different category. Start by explaining the criteria for each of them and perhaps discuss the strengths or weaknesses. You should also offer relevant examples. Depending on the length of your paragraphs you may wish to break them down into shorter ones. This is fine, but you will need to make sure you have clear transitions when moving to a new category.
  • Conclusion – The final paragraph is where you will pull together the various categories that you have examined in the body of your classification essay. It is usual to offer a brief summary on each of them. Depending on the subject matter, you may also decide to recommend the particular one over the others, but if you do so make sure you emphasize why you have come to that conclusion.

Structure Classification Essay

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Planning How to Write a Classification Essay

Now that you have a grasp of how your essay is going to be structured, it is time to sit down and plan how to write a classification essay. This is not the type of assignment where you can just sit down and start writing a first draft without a clear plan of action.

There is some initial planning that has to be done in order to produce a coherent classification essay. Here are a few of the essential planning steps you will need to consider:

Brainstorming Ideas

If you haven’t been allocated a topic then your first step is going to be to brainstorm a few potential ideas. You need to settle on a group of people, things or ideas that can be logically divided up and brought together into groups. You will want to come up with something that has definite categories to allow for comparison, but you will also want to avoid topics with too many categories.

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for 3 to 5 categories depending on the word count requirement of your assignment. This would be enough to make comparisons, but not so many that you can’t go into depth with your criteria for classification.

Choosing Your Categories

Once you have your topic chosen, you will need to think about what categories they will be split into. Some topics may have multiple options, so you will need to decide which angle you are approaching it from.

For example, if it is about a group of people, would you sort them by age, appearance, job or something else entirely. Each of your categories should have a single basis of classification.

Getting Things in Order

It is important to consider which order you are going to place the categories in when it comes to discussing them. It can be helpful to make bullet point notes on points you wish to discuss for each category as this may highlight similarities which will help you to write linking sentences and transitions to make your essay flow smoothly.

It is good to refer back to previously discussed paragraphs for comparison, so it makes sense to order categories in a way that best suits this approach. Within each discussion itself you will also want to order your points appropriately. A common choice is to go from most important to least important or vice versa.

Develop a Thesis

Your thesis is going to form part of your introductory paragraph and it will shape the entire approach of your essay. It is important to develop this at an early stage as it can help keep your writing on track. Start off by stating what you are dividing into classes, list the different categories and explain what properties or criteria are used to classify them.

Your thesis may also explain the purpose of classifying these items or ideas. Are you going to determine if one group is superior? Start with a basic thesis statement to guide you, but be aware that you may have to refine it as your essay begins to take shape.

Only once you have gone through these initial pre-planning steps are you ready to crack on with actually writing your classification essay. Don’t expect to knock it out in one sitting, you will likely need several drafts to get it right and your plans may change slightly along the way.

General Tips for How to Write a Classification Essay

So, now that you have the structure down and have come up with a plan of how to approach your essay it is time to get started. Here are a few quick tips that will also help with how to write a classification essay.

  • Make sure you describe or define each of your categories. Start by making a list of their main characteristics and then discuss them.
  • You will need to provide several illustrative examples. Look for examples which offer a typical representation of the class. Have an equal number of examples in each of them.
  • Use the comparison and contrast technique you will have developed in other essay formats to point out the various similarities or differences between each of your categories.

These are just a few guidelines to help you get started with how to write a classification essay. The key to succeeding with this type of assignment certainly comes down to preparation. Spend time planning your essay and figuring out your categories and you will find that the rest of the assignment falls into place much more easily.

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