Classification Essay

Stated simply, the purpose of a classification essay is to organize things into categories. This is done by putting useful categories in place following a single underlying principle and finding examples that fit into each category.

Before beginning to write a classification essay, the writer must decide on what organizational principle is to be employed i.e. on what basis things are to be sorted. The thesis statement of a classification essay should state the topic, how it is to be categorized and give a brief example of how this will work. This can be a simple statement like: ‘students entering institutes of higher education to study for a degree can choose from colleges or universities’. This tells the reader the topic to be discussed (studying for a degree at an institute of higher education) and the method and type of classifications (colleges and universities).

Categories must be thoroughly researched to avoid omissions, otherwise the evidence and classification would be incomplete. For example, the statement used above needs to be kept specific as a means of categorization because there are many ways to study for a degree other than by attending an ‘institute of higher education’, for example by distance or online learning. Ensure that you adhere to the stated organizational principle throughout and support each category with a roughly equal number of categories as this provides a feeling of balance.

The actual structure of an organizational essay need not differ greatly from the standard essay except that the introduction will include a very specific thesis statement and organizational principle which must be maintained throughout. Subsequent paragraphs will still need to be linked by means of ‘hooks’ but the subject of each paragraph will be determined by the examination of a category rather than developing a process of thought on a topic. Similarly, the conclusion will differ slightly by being less a summation and more of a directive towards additional and/or subsequent categorization via a different organizational principle or a development of the one outlined in the current essay.

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