In real life, students are often called upon to classify and divide categories of items. Whether they are classifying and dividing types of jeans for a display at their job, or if they are sorting their expenses into categories for a spreadsheet or for tax purposes, knowing how to classify and divide is an essential skill.
The purpose of classification and division essays is to encourage students to think critically about the ways in which items or categories of items relate. Classification and division essays are similar in most regards. Classification can be looked at as assigning disparate items into distinct categories or parts of a whole. In a related manner, division is separating a whole group into separate parts. These strategies are so similar that the terms are often used interchangeably by professors and instructors.
Choosing a Topic and Planning
To plan the essay, consider the purpose. A good place to start is by considering the tone of the essay. If the professor asked for a serious topic that employs outside research, you could begin by thinking about categories of items within your major. For instance, if you are a biology major, you might write about categorizing different types of dinosaurs into modern categories. For example, some dinosaurs exhibit bird-like characteristics, some exhibit characteristics most like reptiles, and some may have been warm-blooded like mammals.
On the other hand, if the professor asked for humorous topics or informal topics, think about some of your observations from everyday life. For example, "Three types of clothing stores at the mall: hipster clothing stores, children's clothing, or clothing that appeals to the elderly." Then, use personal observations or examples to illustrate the points.
To plan the essay, decide upon the criteria for division or classification. For example, if your topic is artistic styles within modern art, you would write down the major characteristics of each of the styles and then divide the most famous modern artists within each style or movement.
Introduction and Thesis
The introduction should explain the overall topic and why understanding the categories is important. The thesis should explain the topic as well as the classifications or divisions. For instance, "Dinosaurs in the Cretaceous period displayed characteristics of reptiles, birds, or mammals."
The supporting paragraphs should each discuss a category of items mentioned in the thesis. In the dinosaur example, one paragraph would discuss how some species of dinosaurs developed feathers and displayed many of the characteristics of modern birds. In general, outside sources should be used to support these points, unless the professor or instructor gives permission to use hypothetical examples or examples from memory.
The conclusion should bring the categories or divisions back together and explain their importance again. For example, "Understanding how dinosaurs evolved into distinct categories is important because it helps to illuminate our understanding of how dinosaurs evolved into modern species of animals."
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