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How to Write a Classification Essay

A classification essay is an essay that involves grouping a number of items into classes. The topic sentence of a classification essay often lists these classes in a straightforward way, while the body of the essay then goes on to explain each individual class and the examples provided. For example, an essay discussing different types of animals might state the different kinds as mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds, and then go on to supply a definition and examples of each individual type.

Writing an Outline

To start a classification essay, write an outline. From a basic idea of what the essay should be about, make a list of:

  • The overall topic
  • The subtopics to be addressed
  • The definitions of each subtopic
  • Examples of each subtopic

To clarify, in the above example the overall topic would be "Types of Animals." Subtopics would be mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and birds. A definition of mammals would follow the "mammals" subtopic, then examples of mammals, such as dogs, cats and aardvarks.

Ideally, there should be at least three subtopics. Fewer subtopics do not allow for enough discussion. More than three is fine, but be sure the final number is not unmanageable for the required length of the essay.

Giving Your Essay Structure

Ideally, a classification essay will present similar facts about each individual subtopic. If, in the "Types of Animals" essay, reptiles are defined as laying eggs, fish as having scales and mammals as lactating, there is no real cohesiveness to the essay structure. If, however, each definition includes the manner of reproduction of each type of animal, the essay takes on structure as well as a theme from which the essay can be built.

When choosing a topic for a classification essay, think about differences and similarities between the different subcategories, and how these can be arranged to make a point or to lead to a conclusion. This will guide the writing of the essay so that the pieces fit together in a cohesive whole.

Getting Ideas for a Classification Essay

Ideas for a classification essay are limitless. Look at the required topic and sort out items that can be compared and contrasted. Some examples might be:

  • Different authors of a particular time period and how their works are similar and different
  • Major exports of different countries and how they illustrate the differences or similarities between those countries
  • Similarities and differences between three or more major religions

The classification essay format can be applied to any subject, leading to interesting comparisons and contrasts between different aspects of the topic being discussed. Topics for a classification essay are limited only by the imagination.

Format of a Classification Essay

The general format of a classification essay should include several standard elements. Jotting down a summary for each of these essay sections can keep the writing process moving along smoothly and quickly.

Elements of a classification essay include:

  • Introduction. Introduce the theme and what will be discussed in the body of the essay.
  • Main paragraphs. Discuss each individual category mentioned in the introduction. List the categories from least important to most important to give the essay more internal structure.
  • Conclusion. Summarize the point made throughout the essay and state proof or disproof of the theme stated in the introduction.

Following these steps will help create a strong classification essay that should be relatively easy to write, and that will clearly present a theme and its proof or disproof.