Classification Essays

Classification essays organize different subjects into categories and explains the defining characteristics of each group.

Classification Essay Tips

Before you start writing a classification essay, separate each of your subjects into categories. Then, use a Venn Diagram to organize the similarities and differences between each category. This will help you organize your essay into coherent sections.

Next, rank each aspect by its importance in distinguishing each category. Shorter essays may only require one characteristic, with a thorough analysis of how it helps to differentiate the various groups. Longer essays may use several characteristics.

Classification Essay Format

The thesis statement of a classification essay explains the topic of the essay and then lists (in paragraph form) the different categories within the topic. Optionally, you can also mention the distinguishing features, which you’ll discuss in the body paragraphs. For example: “There are five types of vertebraes in the animal kingdom — mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds — which are distinguished by their respiratory systems, skin and habitat.”

There are two body paragraph formats you can use for a classification essay:

One paragraph per category

Choose one characteristic. Use each paragraph to describe how this characteristic relates to each category.

For example, if you are comparing three cars by engine type:

  • Body Paragraph #1: Describe the engine in Car #1
  • Body Paragraph #2: Describe the engine in Car #2
  • Body Paragraph #3: Describe the engine in Car #3

One paragraph per characteristic

This format is preferable for longer essays, where many characteristics are used to distinguish between the different categories.

Using the car example above, here is what your essay might look like:

  • Body Paragraph #1: Compare and contrast the engine in Car #1, Car #2 and Car #3
  • Body Paragraph #2: Compare and contrast the transmission in Car #1, Car #2 and Car #3
  • Body Paragraph #3: Compare and contrast the price of Car #1, Car #2 and Car #3

Classification Essay Topics

Classification essays are particularly useful for science and history classes, as these subjects are rife with ideas, events and subjects that can be categorized in different ways. However, classification essays are useful for other subjects too. Here are some classification essay sample topics to get you started:

  • English – Types of literature, poems or writing periods
  • Math – Classification of numbers, mathematical methods or branches of mathematics
  • History – Political parties, types of warfare or American armed conflicts
  • Science – Classification of chemical elements, organisms or academic disciplines