Division and Classification Essays



A. The division essay separates a single concept into its subunits or a whole into its parts. Examples of this might include dividing a college into its departments (biology, philosophy, music, etc.), a city into neighborhoods, or television shows into news, features, sports, weather, editorials.

B. The classification essay categorizes a subject, moving from specific examples to groups that share common characteristics. Examples might include: levels of skills -- paperboy, waitress, plumber, lawyer, brain surgeon; degrees of trust-worthiness in news anchors -- Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Mike Wallace, Connie Chung.


A. The major purpose of each is to explain by outlining the various parts of a concept, or by defining, analyzing, and justifying the concept's organizing principle.

B. The minor purposes of each kind of essay may be to entertain or to persuade.


A. The writer must consider how the audience will read the essay -- such as a source of information or amusement.

B. A new concept, or a specialized system of classification, requires the writer to provide the audience with precise definitions and ample illustrations.

C. A familiar concept or system for classifying will not need extensive explanation. Simply outline the system; then analyze the effectivenes by using specific examples.


A. Divide the subject into major concepts that have some common trait; then, subdivide those categories into smaller parts. Your system of organization should be consistent, having the same principle for each part; be complete, leaving no parts out; and be logical, choosing an order which demonstrates a purpose.

B. Label each part so that it draws attention to the organizing principles being used.

C. Arrange the parts in an emphatic order.

D. Define each major part by differentiating it from other categories and by discussing its most vivid examples.

Points To Consider:

A. Are you going to explain an established system or create an original system?

B. Is your purpose to explain, to entertain, or to persuade?

C. How will your readers use the information?

D. Have you exhausted the subject, or have you left out some significant categories?

E. Have you defined and illustrated each category?


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