Classification Essay Guide

This guide takes a closer look at classification and division essays; what’s more, it helps distinguish the difference between classification and division, as it is often bundled into one entity because “classifying” is “dividing” into categories, groups, or types by a certain principle. 

First, let’s define the terms separately since a pure classification essay can be a bit different from a pure division essay in methods and purposes that should be taken into account during writing.

What is a Classification Essay?

A classification essay is a paper that focuses on different items that have something in common. The essay intends to group tangible or intangible things, break them down into categories, classify them, and inform the readers about this classification. This essay type is valuable in that it helps the writer gather things that share some characteristics and examine how the whole relates to parts and vice versa.

Vocabulary definition of “classify”: arrange (a group of people or things) in classes or categories according to shared qualities or characteristics.

What is a Division Essay?

A division essay deals with one item and divides it into smaller parts it’s composed of. This type is somewhat similar to a process essay, which describes how something is done step-by-step. However, a division paper examines a single unit by separating it into smaller components and making it easier to understand.

Vocabulary definition of “divide”: separate or be separated into parts.

Classification vs. Division

The main difference between classification and division is that while the former works with different items that have something in common, the latter type is confined to just one piece.

For example, were you to write a classification essay about friends, you would point out several types of friends there are according to a single principle you choose, such as, for instance, how well you know a person or what type of things you can discuss with them, etc. Division, in turn, would explore the concept of being a friend in a broader scope by diving it into things that make a person someone’s friend. 

Signal Vocabulary to Use

There are certain phrases and words that tell the reader about the sorting and grouping nature of the paper and contribute to its coherence. Check the following lists to see what vocabulary to use when writing a classification essay.

Nouns: kind, type, sub-type, sub-class, category, part, group, basis, criterion, feature, order.

Verbs: divide, categorize, classify, fall under, belong, fit, relate, associate, group, arrange, distinguish, subdivide, put into.

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8 Steps to Writing a Classification Essay

With a practical approach, you can compose a classification paper in a timely manner. The next eight fundamental steps will show you how to write a classification essay, tackle all the requirements, and, as a result, score high. 

1. Pick a topic (might be optional)

Your teacher decides whether to provide a list of topics to pick or assign students the exact topic. For that reason, make sure to clarify that in advance. Your educator can also let you come up with your own topic and write a classification essay based on it. Provided below are several exemplary prompts.

Assignment Prompt Examples 

  • Multiple study habits and mnemonics can improve students’ learning sessions and thus boost their average grades. Classify these habits into distinct types.
  • Smoking is a detrimental habit, which has, thankfully, been dropping in the U.S. gradually over the years. Write a classification essay about ways to quit smoking.
  • Fashion is a broad field that touches upon various aspects. Using a classification structure, create clear yet different categories related to fashion.
  • We spend lots of time scrolling feeds, chatting with friends, and interacting with various posts. Social media platforms play a crucial role in our lives. Classify these platforms into categories.
an example of a prompt for a classification essay assignment

Download a Classification Essay Assignment Sheet Example

Examples of things to classify

Classification essays can work with most concepts. You can choose to classify any of the following examples of things or think of something else. There are also three essay examples linked in the list below.

  • Animals
  • Bosses
  • Breakfast
  • Bullying
  • Cars
  • Cell phones
  • Censorship
  • Computers
  • Concerts
  • Culture
  • Cycling
  • Dance styles
  • Diets
  • Divorce
  • Food
  • Friends
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Hobbies
  • Jobs
  • Leadership
  • Lies
  • Literature
  • Love
  • Makeup
  • Music
  • Neighbors
  • Parenting
  • Relationships
  • Restaurants
  • Roommates
  • Sales
  • Shoppers
  • Siblings
  • Social media
  • Sports
  • Students
  • Study habits
  • Tools
  • Tourists
  • Video games

260 Unique Classification Essay Ideas – take a look at a huge list of categorized classification topics.

2. Decide on categories and purpose

Suppose you have come up with the topic and are ready to kick off the essay writing process. What are your next steps? Before writing, it is necessary to determine what you plan to reveal within your paper. 

In other words, defining the purpose of your writing, along with the categories, would be your first task. While there shouldn’t be any problems with the purpose (ask yourself why you think this specific group of items needs to be classified), deciding on particular categories might be tricky. The following section will help you complete this task.

Choose a single classification basis 

Choosing a single classification basis is essential because it establishes the direction your classification essay will go. The paper must be meaningful and organize things logically. You must deliver some message and make sure the included information A) makes sense and B) is valuable to the readers

For instance, let’s assume your task is to classify homework. In that case, you can organize things differently, for instance, by the deadline, subject, complexity level, type of assignments, form, etc. Importantly, remember to make different categories mutually exclusive. 

Besides, avoid jumping from classes, mainly if they don’t pertain to the items. Leave some space for exceptions and/or exclusions; there are many categories, so don’t limit your classification essay by two or three widely accepted options.

3. Develop a thesis statement

Once you have a clear purpose, categories, as well as a single classification basis, you can begin writing a classification essay. Your thesis statement should indicate the object of your essay (what you categorize), the categories of your classification, and the principle you chose. 

Thesis statement examples

The following are a few examples to show you what a strong thesis looks like:

  • Professional hikers point out three types of hiking when exploring the mountains based on their difficulty: intense, semi-challenging, and picturesque.
  • Students often classify lectures into three types, depending on the level of excitement: monotonous, acceptable, and fascinating.
  • Based on the education methods employed, teachers usually fall into one of three categories: explainers, involvers, and enablers.

An outline is typically an optional element for a classification essay task. Teachers rarely ask students to attach outlines to their papers. However, it doesn’t mean that outlines aren’t helpful. As a matter of fact, they are a convenient tool that helps you structure the easy better. Here is an example of a simple yet effective outline.

Outline example

Topic: Classifying street food in Mexico.

  1. Introduction: An opening sentence about Mexican cuisine, its unique features, and worldwide preponderance.
    1. Then, slowly whittling down the dishes and focusing more on the notion of street food.
    2. Writing a thesis statement with clear categories– Street food in Mexico can be divided into groups based on the ingredients used: corn, avocado, and jalapeno.
  2. Body Paragraphs
    1. 1st paragraph: A topic sentence about the historical significance of corn in Mexican lands. 
    2. Example of street food that contains corn 
    3. Explaining why corn is used and how it fits the dish
    4. Conclusion with transition
  3. 2nd paragraph: A topic sentence about the importance of avocados.
    1. Example of street food that is served with avocado (the second category)
    2. Explaining why avocado is added and how it underscores the meal’s taste
    3. Conclusion with transition
  4. 3rd paragraph. A topic sentence about gastronomical appreciation of jalapeno.
    1. Example of street food that includes the third category – jalapeno
    2. Explaining why jalapeno is served and how it enhances the flavor
    3. Conclusion with transition
  5. Conclusion
    1. Reinforcement of the main points alongside the categories– Mexican street food usually includes corn, avocado, and jalapeno. 
    2. Remind the audience of key thoughts stated within the body and move toward the end.
    3. The last sentence might include recommendations on which street food the audience is encouraged to try.

Here’s a fillable outline template in PDF for a short classification essay – Download.

Deciding on the order of your categories

It would be reasonable to decide on the order of your categories before writing the classification essay. Depending on the topic, the order of objects may vary and be either chronological, logical, or emphatic (importance). Try using the one you think pertains to the context the most. For example, if your group of elements has historical value and is scattered in time, opting for chronological order would be a good option.

5. Write the introduction

The best way to write an efficient introduction is to start broad and narrow down the content before including a thesis statement. Make sure your introduction has:

How to Start an Essay – here’s our separate guide on writing introductions (with examples).

The introduction of a classification essay must establish several things:

  1. What things you are classifying
  2. Why you are classifying them, and
  3. What classification principle you use

6. Write the body paragraphs

Body paragraphs in a classification essay don’t differ from other paper types. A body paragraph comprises a topic sentence, focuses on a single point (a category in this case) from your thesis, provides supportive evidence, and gives examples.

Plus, it must have a brief wrap-up and smoothly move to the next section with a transition. Remember to use specific vocabulary and phrases to increase the paper’s quality.

In classification essays, each body paragraph usually starts with the introduction of one of the categories of your classification. For division essays, it would be one of the parts of the whole.

Each category should be accompanied by its characteristics and traits backed up by solid examples.

7. Write the conclusion

The conclusion’s primary purpose is to end a classification essay properly, encapsulating the information you’ve provided in the previous sections. Notably, a conclusion can begin by rephrasing your thesis and providing major points described in the body. You can conclude a classification essay with a question, recommendation, or implication. Regardless of your choice, ensure it doesn’t include any additional information or new categories.

How to End an Essay – you can read our full article on writing conclusions here (with examples).

8. Revise and edit

It’s best to take a step back upon writing the first draft and let your attention and productivity restore before editing the piece. The editing process requires approaching the classification essay from various angles, e.g., reviewing the categories, correcting spelling and punctuation errors, and polishing the content. The order of methods depends on your preferences. 

Seven questions to ask yourself when revising a classification essay

Asking questions is yet another practical way to ensure your classification essay meets the requirements and is coherent, comprehensive, and mistakes-free. Try asking questions related to different parts of this essay type. Here are some questions to pose when revising:

  • Does my essay fall into a classification/division type, as was required?
  • Are my categories mutually exclusive and include room for exceptions?
  • Have I used the most appropriate order to arrange my categories?
  • Does my thesis statement contain all three components, namely the subject, classification basis, and categories?
  • Have I provided strong examples to highlight the significance of my chosen categories?
  • Does the conclusion re-emphasize each category with a view to reminding the audience of the core statement and its significance?
  • Have I paid equal attention to each category, or does any category look lacking compared to others?

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