Don’t you just love when the name of an essay is straightforward? A classification essay is an essay in which you classify something—anything—based on shared characteristics. You can classify people, things, or even ideas.
Your subject will represent a broad “whole.” The idea is to examine this whole for the parts that make it up, the parts that other people might not usually think about.
It’s a pretty simple idea on its face, but this is a chance to not only make a subject easier to understand, but also to dig into it and understand it on a deeper level.
For example, think about the common groups of students one encounters in high school.
Was your first instinct to think about the stereotypical categories (jocks, brainiacs, mean girls), either from experience or from watching cheesy American movies? Are those categories really accurate?
Perhaps you believe they are, but you may find that your classification essay takes you in a direction that you didn’t expect when you started. Trust the process.
So how do you choose good classification essay topics?
Important Things to Consider When Selecting Classification Essay Topics
They say write what you know. You may find this to be good advice as you approach your classification essay. You’ll have the opportunity to research your subject, but nothing beats living it.
On the other hand, exploring something completely outside your experience can be a great way to learn something new during this process. You’ll also have the added bonus of bringing a new perspective to the essay, which can help when exploring unique ways of classifying your subject.
Either way, it’s imperative that you put in the prewriting time to come up with some good classification essay topics. One of the most interesting parts of a classification essay is exploring the various ways that you can categorize the parts of your subject.
Just about everything can be divided into categories, but not everything can provide the material for an interesting essay.
E.B. White once wrote an essay called “Here Is New York” in which he claims there are “roughly three New Yorks.”
First, he explains, is “the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable.”
Then, “there is the New York of the commuter—the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night.”
He rounds out his categorization of New York with the people who were “born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something.”
Mr. White believed that “the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal.”
This is a prime example of a classification essay.
So start by making a list of subjects that pique your interest in some way. Then, take a closer look at how each subject can be categorized. You’ll want to find one that can be broken down in a way that’s new and interesting.
For example, most people already know that food can be divided into various food groups based on the nutrition each food provides. Writing a classification essay on this subject isn’t exactly going to create an essay that’s enthralling to read.
Once you come up with a list of subjects you like, think about how you can approach it from an interesting angle.
Is there something new that you and your reader can learn about this subject by classifying it in a certain way? If so, you’ve got yourself a good topic.
Next, you’ll need to think about how many categories there are. If you cannot come up with two or three, then you may need a new subject.
Moreover, once you decide on your subject, take the time to ensure you’ve thought of every possible category. Quickly jotting down a few categories most likely won’t cut it as leaving out an important one will not bode well for your essay.
Just to wrap up:
- Make a list of subjects that you have experience with and/or interest you
- Eliminate subjects that don’t allow for a new or interesting angle
- Choose a subject that can be categorized in various ways
- Take your time to think about all the possible categories
So now that you know what makes a good subject, here are the classification essay topics you’ve been waiting for.
20 Classification Essay Topics to Write a Great Essay
Even when not in a presidential election year, this is a subject that offers lots of material. What motivates people to enter politics? What motivates their actions once they do? This subject can be approached from many different angles and gives you and your reader the chance to make sense of modern politics.
2. College majors or classes
If you’re a college student, chances are you have recent experience in choosing a college major. If you’re like I was my first couple years of college, you may still be trying to figure it out. A lot goes into that decision, so there’s much to explore, including the forces that push us in certain directions or the types of classes you might take.
3. Types of artists
Some do it for the money, some for the fame, and others for the love of it. This subject could be explored for whichever area interests you the most—for example, writers, directors, musicians, or painters. You will have the opportunity to provide a lot of examples to back up your arguments.
4. Types of Americans
I imagine a fun, self-deprecating essay on the different types of people in a country that causes so many strong opinions, in one direction and another. Moreover, imagine all of the thinly veiled examples you can give based on your classmates or coworkers!
5. Sports fans
When I go to baseball games, I see parents with their children, old men filling out score cards alone, and people seemingly seeing how high they can stack draft beer cups. No matter the sport, there is a lot of potential in this subject to explore why people love sports so much. And research could be done at the stadium with a stack of beer cups at your feet!
While some people cook for sustenance, others cannot seem to make a meal without reducing some type of wine into a sauce. What motivates our obsessions with food and its relation to our social lives? Sounds like a classification topic winner to me!
7. Vacation destinations
There are obvious differences in the types of vacation destinations people choose—and in how people view vacation in general. No matter what angle you choose, this subject could offer you the opportunity to research your essay and dream up your next getaway at the same time.
The walls of my grandmother’s home were stacked from floor to ceiling with romance novels. It’s safe to say that she was reading for a different reason than your philosophy professor is. This essay idea could be tweaked for various hobbies.
Some are “drinkable” while others have a “full body.” Each is enjoyed for different reasons. Furthermore, people drink for various reasons. You could take this in several directions. Research could be dangerous.
10. Types of music
Writing a paper on genres of music isn’t going to provide much new, interesting information. However, people listen to different types of music for various reasons or during certain activities. What are the reasons behind this? This is an interesting topic that everyone can relate to.
11. Significant others
Some people are looking for different things in a relationship. Does this change over time and with age? A detailed exploration could be interesting and helpful for both the writer and the readers. Be careful, though. This could be a dangerous topic!
If you are writing this essay for a class, which I imagine you are, then you have a lot of immediate experience with teachers. Some want to be your friend, while others tend to act like drill sergeants. Why is this? What is more effective?
13. First dates
Some are bad. And then some make you seriously consider joining a monastery. It could be fun to explore the reasons that first dates go well, badly, or terribly.
14. Restaurant tippers
This could be a good subject for a waiter or waitress who has dealt with the one percenters and the generous alike. What is the mentality behind the decision to leave a fair amount of money to the servers or sometimes nothing at all?
15. People on social media
The insecure, the trolls, the social animals, the lonely, the photography lovers … these are just a few of the characters you find these days on social media. Perhaps there are narrower categories that could encompass the various motivations people have for using social media.
16. Legalized marijuana supporters and critics
This is a hot button issue in American politics these days. What are the motivations behind pushing for legalized marijuana? How do those who oppose it feel? What about a classification paper on the different ways beyond prohibition that one can deal with substance abuse?
17. People who work out
People work out for different reasons. Some of these reasons are healthier than others. This could be a lighthearted essay on the various characters one encounters in the gym, or it could be a serious look at how modern-day body issues manifest themselves. (On a related vein, you could also classify athletes.)
You could take this topic in a number of directions, focusing on personalities in society, in careers, or in your family. The good thing about this one is that it’s broad enough for you to approach it from whichever angle most interests you.
Have you ever seen The ‘Burbs with Tom Hanks? If so, you know what a neighbor can do to your life. Ask people about the worst neighbor they’ve ever had, and you will get some interesting stories.
20. Anything you’re passionate about
A classification essay can be a great source of self-reflection. How would someone categorize you if given the chance? Explore a topic that is important to you and you’ll be amazed at how fun and easy this paper is to write.
That’s a Wrap
Still not feeling a topic? For more ideas on potential classification essay topics, I encourage you to check out some of these classification essay examples.
Then, once you settle on a topic and churn out that first draft, send it over to the talented editors at Kibin. They will ensure your classification essay is up to snuff.
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Math is the study of numbers and forms--abstract concepts from the real world. They are not real in the sense of being things we can hear and see. We never really see numbers, not even 1, 2, and 3. Numbers are adjectives. We can only see concrete nouns--a dog, one dog, two dogs, and three dogs. Only the symbols for numbers are visible to our eyes. Mathematicians have abstracted numbers and shapes thereby creating an imaginary world where the real has been factored out.
- one white dog and two brown dogs make three dogs
(1 dog + 2 dogs) = (1+2) dogs = 3 dogs
1 + 2 = 3 (the dogs are gone)
In the world of mathematics numbers, not dogs, are real. We can manipulate them using operations with well-defined, unique outcomes. When we add 2 and 3 we get 5. When we multiple them we get 6. Mathematicians extrapolate from these patterns to create whole new realms of numbers. They count forward to infinity, then backwards into a world of negative numbers. Then they fill in the spaces between the integers with rational and irrational numbers before heading on to imaginary and complex numbers.
Shapes are similarly abstracted from a three-dimensional reality. Geometry starts with a few assumptions about lines and planes. It is assumed that they both have less than three dimensions, are perfectly straight, and go on forever. Only three-dimensional approximations actually exist in the real world. Points have no dimensions whatever. When math has discovered certain patterns this idealized world, it projects those patterns out into hyperspaces of four and more dimensions and even argues that fractal structures have fractional dimensions.
Mathematics is not a natural science. While it may get inspiration from the natural world for the patterns that it explores, it is a completely imaginary world.
arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry
numbers, vectors, operations, shapes, size, proportion
sets, substitution, functions, equations, formula
logic, axioms, theorems
abstract concepts, definite answer
theory, experiment, hypothesis, observation
thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics
astrophysics, geophysics, electromagnetism
objects, waves, measure, laws
force, gravity, weight, energy, power
space and time, motion, speed, acceleration, heat, sound
electricity, magnetism, light, color
atoms, molecules, bonds, structure, formula
anatomy, taxonomy, genetics, embryology, physiology, paleontology
plants, animals, microbes, biodiversity, species
genes, reproduction, growth, development
body, organs, nerves, cells
- Did you choose the categories? Are they original and interesting?
Can "new" items be placed?
Do categories overlap? unique assignments?
Are there any miscellaneous categories?
Are there any empty categories? categories with one item?
What principle did you use?
What is the relationship between categories and items?
What is the same within each category?
What is different between categories?
Is the relationship objective, subjective, or arbitrary?
What are you going to write about?
- by positions: forward, mid field, defense, and goalie
- by the four seasons
- meat, vegetable, fruit, other (carbohydrates)
- cheese, ice cream, peanuts, chocolate, mushroom, cornflake
- meat, strawberry, donut, spaghetti, carrot
fish?, pizza?, jelly?, rice?, salad?
- by four religions: Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish
- Russia, Japan, Vietnam, Congo
- Canada, Egypt, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Sudan
- by mammal, "reptile", amphibian, and birds
- spider, penguin, mosquito, platypus, cockroach, worm
salamander?, eft?, ant?, butterfly?
|. . . => . . .|
put into groups
|. . . => . . .|
the process (no koto)
An easy way to think about ''classification'' is to think about a school putting students into classes (groups of students). There are many students, but only a few classes (maybe 3-5). As you know from your many years of experience as students,
- (1) all students must be put in a class and
(2) no student should be put in two classes (no overlapping).
You might also imagine that when schools divide students into classes they like to avoid unbalanced classes sizes, particularly classes of only one or two students. If possible, they would move such students into one of the other classes.
A Classification Essay is a piece of writing that presents a way of dividing things (items rather than students) into classes. These things might be
- physical items: musical instruments, alcoholic drinks, or countries;
things that are not physical: power, ways of studying, emotions; OR
a combination of both--desires (things that people want).
The first two steps in writing a Classification Essay are to figure out (1) the topic--what kind of items to divide up and (2) how to divide the items.
- 2a. brainstorm many items
2b. group items that are very similar (no interesting differences)
2c. brainstorm many objective differences between dissimilar items
2d. decide which differences are interesting enough to write about
In-class speed writing assignment
There are many examples (=items, like ''students'') of _________________ (=topic) ,
but only a few kinds (=classes).
Fill-in the blank. Then continue writing.
- Topics and items that students thought of:
What Classes could you divide the items into?
|t o p i c s|
|i t e m s|
violin, trumpet, saxophone, snare drum, cymbals . . .
beer, wine, wiskey, bourbon, gin, vodka, scotch . . .
jeans, gakuran, suit, necktie, T-shirt, kimono, . . .
Hendrix, Benson, Fuse, Clapton, Beck, Page . . .
Iraq War, World War II, Boshin War, Vietnam War . . .
Yukorin, Ayu, Oyuki, Miki Ando, Crystal, Kyon-chan . . .
love, hate, happy, sad, anger, fear, embarrassment . . .
memorization, practice, reflection . . .
Lincoln, Prince Shotoku, Nobel, Eistein, Brad Pitt . . .
|c a t e g o r i e s|
Can you guess these categories?
|i t e m s|
When deciding the topic and how to divide the items, you should keep in mind the last step--figuring out (3) what to write in your essay. It is best if you have based the division of items on a single principle (based on objective differences), one which is
- (a) original, (b) useful, and/or (c) intellectually interesting.
Let's take countries as an example topic. There are about 200 countries. How could we divide them? by their first letters from A to Z. But ... such a division would be completely arbitrary. The classes would tell us nothing about the countries--nothing original, useful, or interesting--so there is nothing to write about.
We could divide them by location in the northern or southern hemispheres. That's a little more interesting, but still too obvious, almost trivial. Although we could point out that their seasons are reversed and try to explain how the classification would work for countries that are in both hemispheres, that would not be enough to make an essay interesting.
How about dividing countries by their political systems. That's much more complex. We have to think more deeply about each country. It's a little bit troublesome, perhaps, but much, much more interesting . And we'll have a much better essay when we're finished.
|c a t e g o r i e s|
|i t e m s|
Only after deciding the topic and how to divide the items are we ready to start writing process (outline, rough draft, etc.). It would be nice to start off with an Introduction--a short paragraph that will introduce the topic and inform the readers how many classes we are going to divide the items into.
The bulk of the essay then will explain the principle we are using to divide the items. Usually there will be at least one paragraph (with at least 3 sentences in each) for each of the classes. Remember we are explaining the division of items--its complexity--the connections and, perhaps, interaction between the classes. This is NOT a personal essay. You should leave out all personal material and also any irrelevent details about the items themselves--details that have nothing to do with the division of items into classes.
Finally we'll want to end the essay smoothly by putting some final remarks into a short paragraph--a Conclusion.