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Understand the assignment

What is a classification essay? The purpose of a classification essay is to divide a topic into several categories and describe each category. However, this essay does NOT compare the similarities and differences of each category or argue that one is better than the other; that is the purpose of a comparison essay.

Comparison

The purpose of a comparison essay is to show how two subjects are similar or different (i.e. the differences between soccer and American football).

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Classification

The purpose of a classification essay is to divide a topic into specific groups or categories (i.e. popular American sports > baseball, American football, soccer, basketball).

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After describing the main topic and dividing the topic into several categories (or listing several types of the topic), a classification essay describes each of the categories.

Brainstorm to find a topic

Think about a topic that interests you. It could be a type of person, place, thing, etc. Don't choose a topic that is too big. For example, don't write about every sport. There will be too many things to write about in a 2-3 page essay. Instead, choose a specific focus, like types of sports.

Example topics

  • Types of sports
  • Styles of dance
  • Roommates
  • Vacation destinations
  • Jobs for students

1 Exercise: Think about some topics that interest you.

Take a few minutes to make a list. Once you have your topic chosen, think about how to divide it into categories with as much detail as possible.

2 Exercise: Brainstorm to find a topic

Spend about three minutes completing a brainstorm activity for each topic that you wrote.

Make sure you divide each topic into related categories. This will help organize your thoughts and to find the topic that is easiest for you to classify.

Choose a focus

If your topic can be divided into a lot of different categories, you may need to focus on one specific type that can be divided into two or three categories (e.g., Sports > Most popular American sports > baseball, American football, basketball). Do not choose a topic that is too broad or complicated for a short essay.

Outline your classification essay

A classification essay follows typical essay organization with an introduction paragraph, body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph.

Introduction

Classification essays have an introduction paragraph that gives an overview of the topic as a whole. Your introduction paragraph should then end with your thesis. The thesis states the broad topic and how it is divided into categories (e.g., "The three most popular sports in the United States are baseball, American football, and basketball.").

Body

The body paragraphs in your classification essay contain descriptions of each category. Divide the topic into related categories and describe each category in its own body paragraph. Each category you choose should support the thesis and topic of your paper. The topic sentences for your body paragraphs should introduce the topic and category that you will describe in that paragraph.

Conclusion

The conclusion should start by restating your thesis statement. It then discusses the broad topic in a general sense and ends with a closing statement that in some way makes a prediction, suggestion, or opinion.

After choosing a topic for your paper, start outlining by thinking about how you can divide the topic into categories. Use that information to write your thesis.

Examples

  • Three popular types of music today are rap, pop, and country.
  • There are many reasons to travel; however, the three main reasons are for sightseeing, visiting, and business.
  • The most popular genres of entertainment are fiction, romance, and suspense.
  • The three most popular sports in the United States are baseball, American football, and basketball.

Then, organize your topic into paragraphs. You should have one body paragraph for each category of your topic. Look at the basic example outline.

Example: Essay Outline

TH: The three most popular sports in the United States are baseball, American football, and basketball.

TS: Baseball is one of the most popular sports in the United States. 

TS: American football is another very popular sport that many people watch and play in the United States.

TS: The third sport that is very popular in the United States is basketball.

TH: While all three sports are different, basketball, football, and baseball are all very popular sports for people to play and watch in the United States.

3 Exercise: Make an outline

Start your outline with your thesis sentence and your topic sentences. You can add the other details after your outline is approved by your teacher.

TH:

TS:

TS:

TS:

TH: