The classification essay is designed to encourage students to consider parts of a whole. This is a helpful skill for many fields. For example, students going into the life sciences or medicine often have to classify different types of plants or animals, or classify diseases. In a similar manner, art, music, or literature students must be able to classify movements or artistic periods.
Audience and Tone
The audience for a classification essay are those who are educated about or interested in the topic. For example, if the student's topic is "types of alternative music," the audience might be lovers of alternative music or professional musicians. The tone should be objective and straightforward, unless the professor or instructor asks for a humorous or light-hearted tone, in which case humorous topics can be considered, such as "The three basic types of lazy students."
Use of Sources
Whether sources may be used depends on the assignment. If the topic is serious or scientific, the professor may require that the student uses academic sources to support their argument. However, if the topic is humorous, the writer may use hypothetical examples or funny examples pulled from the news or popular culture.
The introduction of the classification essay should outline the problem or the topic under discussion. For example, if the student's essay discusses the "Three types of lazy students," the writer might discuss how laziness is a problem in college. The thesis should clearly state the position and name the categories that the writer will be discussing. For example, "There are three main types of lazy students: the slacker, the club goer, and the overwhelmed student."
Each of the supporting paragraphs should discuss one of the categories that the writer named in the thesis. The paragraphs either use outside sources or hypothetical examples as support. For example, to lend support for the "slacker student" category, the writer might mention an example of a slacker student from a popular movie to illustrate their point.
The conclusion ties together the categories. In the lazy student example, the writer might state, "No matter whether the student is a slacker, a club goer, or an overwhelmed student, the result tends to be the same: failing out of school." From this point, the writer can offer a simple recommendation or look to the future and explain how these categories might be expected to change in light of recent events.