Banner

Shim


Journal Lists
User Guide
InfoTrac Demo
Student Resources
Instructor Resources
User Comments
InfoWrite
 • Research and the Research Paper
 • Grammar
 • The Writing Process
 • Special Kinds of Writing
 • Modes of Exposition
 • Critical Thinking

Technical Support


  Home > InfoWrite > Modes of Exposition > Division and Classification
 

InfoTrac College Edition

Division and Classification

WHAT ARE DIVISION AND CLASSIFICATION?

Division and classification are two methods of organizing and explaining information.

DIVISION

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
self-defense techniques types of vacation spots
methods of generating energy current bands
construction methods kinds of athletic shoes
computer search engines internet providers

GETTING STARTED

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 general topic.

STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING DIVISION

DEVELOP A STRONG THESIS STATEMENT THAT ANNOUNCES THE DIVISION METHOD

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 points.

* 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 type.

CLASSIFICATION

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 mix standards.

* Keep categories uniform. If you are rating personal incomes or prices, maintain uniform increments -- 20,000-30,000; 30,000-40,000; etc.

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 encountered
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, or sitcoms (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

GETTING STARTED

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 fraud, AIDS

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 THESE POINTS

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?


Return to top

From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.