WHAT ARE DIVISION AND CLASSIFICATION?
Division and classification are two methods of organizing
and explaining information.
Division separates items into categories. Complex subjects
are easier understood when broken down into smaller groups.
A complicated discipline like medicine is divided into specialties
-- hematology, psychiatry, and neurology. Scientists organize
rocks by the way they were formed, such as sedimentary and
volcanic. College students, for instance, can be separated
by ethnic groups, major, birthplace, or gender. Pollution
can be easier to analyze by dividing environmental hazards
by type -- biological, chemical, radioactive -- or by source
-- sewage, ground run-off, or automobile exhaust.
In studying the homeless population, you might discover that
the people you meet in shelters fall into one of three distinct
groups -- alcoholics, mental patients, and battered women.
To address the problems of the homeless, it would be necessary
to appreciate the needs of each group.
In writing a division essay, it is important to develop appropriate
categories. In discussing cars, you could divide them by price,
manufacturer, type, or nation of origin. Do not mix categories.
It does not make sense to write a paper about economy cars,
German cars, and off-road vehicles.
* Your categories should be as distinct as possible. An individual
item should be placed in one group. In creating categories,
remember that your goal is to make your subject easier to
understand and work with.
* Categories should be meaningful and not based on superficial
differences. One might write a meaningful essay about American
Presidents by dividing them by their politics, their attitudes
toward the Supreme Court, or their religious convictions.
But dividing Presidents by their horoscopes, their pets, or
their nicknames serves little purpose.
* Categories should avoid including too many diverse elements.
* Avoid distorting the complexity of a subject by presenting
simplistic divisions. Suggesting that they are three kinds
of bosses, four types of teenagers, or three ways of coping
with depression obscures individual differences.
SELECTING TOPICS FOR DIVISION
If your instructor does not assign a topic, you might consider
one of the following items.
Select a topic, then explore its possibilities using one or
more prewriting strategies:
|the ways people cope with bad news
||types of off-campus housing
|the ways students prepare for exams
||kinds of investment plans
|ways of rearing children
||types of sitcoms/soap operas/movies
|methods of losing weight/exercising
||kinds of computer systems
||types of vacation spots
|methods of generating energy
||kinds of athletic shoes
|computer search engines
Developing a topic for writing division can be made easier by
considering your paper to be a series of descriptions or definitions:
1. Narrow your topic.
2. List sub-topics on a page or computer screen in columns.
Consider using clustering to develop topics.
3. List ideas under each sub-topic.
4. If you develop too many subtopics, consider narrowing the
STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING DIVISION
DEVELOP A STRONG THESIS STATEMENT THAT ANNOUNCES THE DIVISION
Consider writing a strong thesis statement that announces
the topic and explains the method of division:
People cope with loss in four common ways: anger, depression,
denial, and compensation.
Children develop personal values from three major influences:
parents, peers, and teachers.
* Stating the number of subtopics can help readers recall major
* Some abstract topics may defy such a simple and direct thesis.
* Before stating your thesis, you may wish to address misconceptions
or possible reader objections and include background information.
QUALIFY YOUR DIVISION
To avoid oversimplifying your subject, qualify your remarks
and point out possible exceptions:
Most people deal with loss in three ways. . .
In most instances investigators use one of four methods to detect
fraud . . .
USE VISUAL AIDS
To make your division easier to follow and remember, consider
using bold type or larger fonts to highlight each subtopic.
Use paragraph breaks to make clear transitions between each
Classification essays, like division essays, break a topic
into subtopics -- with a difference. Instead of simply dividing
a topic into groups, a classification essay rates or ranks
the groups according to a common standard. Homicide, for instance,
is classified as first, second, and third degree murder according
to circumstances and intent. Burns are classified as first,
second, or third degree depending on tissue damage.
You will study classification in psychology, anatomy, biology,
business, and economics. It is a convenient way to organize
data and simplify complex decisions, Insurance companies base
rates on codes, classifying businesses according to their
chance of experiencing a loss. Stockbrokers classify investments
from a low to a high risk.
* The method of measurement must be clearly stated.
* Each category must be measured against the same standard:
price, quality, durability, time, quantity, etc. Don't
* Keep categories uniform. If you are rating personal incomes
or prices, maintain uniform increments -- 20,000-30,000;
SELECTING TOPICS FOR CLASSIFICATION ESSAYS
If your instructor does not assign a topic, you might consider
one of the following items. Select a topic, then explore its
possibilities using one or more prewriting strategies:
rate cars by quality, ease of repair, or sticker price
rate best to worst bosses, students, or customers you have
evaluate the best to worst methods of disciplining a child
rate local daycare options by price
classify local apartments by size, price, or age
apply a personal rating system to classify movies, talk shows,
(make sure you clearly establish your method of evaluation)
rate best to worst computer search engines
classify mutual funds or other investments by risk or current
rate of return
rate stores from best to worst in service
rate airlines from best to worst based on your personal experience
Developing a classification paper is a two step process:
1. Choose a subject
2. Select and define a clear method or standard of evaluation
SELECT AND LIMIT A TOPIC
Keep the length of your paper in mind as you consider
subjects. If you are assigned a 500 word essay, it is unlikely
you can classify apartments in Manhattan in any meaningful
way. It might be better to limit your subject to apartments
in a single neighborhood, or a type of apartment such as lofts,
or a particular price range ($1,000-$2,000 a month).
ESTABLISH A CLEAR METHOD OF CLASSIFICATION
In some cases a method of classification may be clear cut,
especially if you are working with numbers. You can easily
classify car engines by their number of cylinders. But if
you are rating subjective elements such as "desirability"
or "quality" you will have to clearly define what you mean
by this term:
The quality of airlines can be classified by their on-time
record, their response to customer complaints, their ability
to address special needs.
Talk shows can be classified by their choice of topics, their
quests, and the host's attitude.
USE A DIAGRAM OR A CHART TO OUTLINE IDEAS
To keep your ideas straight and develop a clear
outline, use a chart to guide your first draft:
BEST TALK SHOWS
Socially meaningful topics -- child custody, computer
Expert guests -- professors, authors, researchers
Thought provoking host -- seeks to summarize/explain complex
ideas for a general audience
AVERAGE TALK SHOWS
Entertaining topics -- celebrity divorces, fashion, fad diets
Celebrity guests -- movie stars, comics, singers
Entertaining host -- seeks to entertain by showcasing talent
and interviewing for gossip rather than insight
WORST TALK SHOWS
Controversial topics -- sex, drugs, cults, gangs
Dysfunctional guests -- criminals, social misfits, rebels
Confrontational host -- seeks to bait guests into fights,
arguments, confrontations to excite audience
STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING CLASSIFICATION
OPEN YOUR PAPER WITH AN EXPLANATION OF YOUR ROLE AND PURPOSE
If you are establishing a personal method of evaluation,
state it clearly at the outset of the essay. Explain what
the classification method is based on:
Having worked in the restaurant business for six years, I
can classify most customers in one
of four categories of tippers. . . .
EXPLAIN EXCEPTIONS TO YOUR CLASSIFICATION
If any elements might not fit into your categories, explain
them clearly at the outset or conclusion of your paper.
DIVISION AND CLASSIFICATION CHECKLIST
BEFORE SUBMITTING YOUR PAPER, REVIEW
1. Have you clearly defined your goal -- to write a division
or classification paper?
2. Do you make meaningful divisions or classifications -- does
your paper oversimplify a complex subject?
3. Are your categories clearly defined?
4. Do you avoid overlapping categories?
5. Do you use parallel patterns to develop categories and items?
6. In classification, do you use a single standard of evaluation?
7. Do all the parts of your subject clearly fit into a single
category? Are there any items left over?