What is classification?
Sorting things into groups, possibly by like and unlike qualities, to create order: kinds of cars, styles of
writing, types of psychotherapy.
Purpose: to explain a pattern in a subject that might not have been noticed before.
To persuade readers that one group is superior. Allows readers to see correspondences among like things and
distinguish them from unlike things. We can name things, remember them, discuss them.
Writers classify primarily to explain a pattern in a subject that might now have been noticed before: for instance,
a sportswriter might observe that basketball players tend to fall into one of three groups based on the aggressiveness of
their play. Sometimes, writers also classify to persuade readers that one group is superior: the sportswriter might argue
3 step process:
- separate things into their elements, using division or
- isolate similarities among elements
- group or classify things based on similarities, matching
like with like
2 systems for establishing classification:
- In a complex system, each part fits firmly in its own class.
- In a binary, 2-part, system, two classes are in opposition
to each other.
Sorting items demands a principle (as well) that determines the groups by distinguishing them.
Writing an essay
Ø Be sure that your general subject forms a class in its own right – that
all members share at least one important quality.
Ø Your principle may suggest a thesis, but be sure the thesis conveys a reason
for the classification.
Tentative thesis: Political fund-raising appeals are delivered in any of six ways.
Revised thesis: Of the six ways to deliver political fund-raising appeals, the three that rely on personal contact are generally
the most effective.
A list, diagram, outline is helpful to ensure that your principle is applied thoroughly and consistently.
May be arranged in order of decreasing familiarity or increasing importance or size.
Questions to consider when revising:
- Will readers see the purpose of your classification?
- Is your classification complete?
- Is your classification consistent?
Division or Analysis Mode
Division comes from Latin meaning “to force asunder or separate”
Analysis comes from Greek meaning “to undo”
Ø When we use this method, we separate a while into its parts, examine the relations
of the parts to each other and to the whole, and reassemble the parts into a new whole (which is informed from our examination).
Ø This method is essential to understanding and evaluating objects, works, and
Ø Foundation of critical thinking: the ability to see beneath the surface; to
uncover and test assumptions; to see the importance of context; and to draw and support independent conclusions.
A principle of analysis: a framework that determines how you divide the subject and consequently the parts you identify.
Ø There is a larger goal of “illuminating” the subject (sound like
definition?), maybe concluding something about it, maybe evaluating it.
Examples of questions and theses:
Q: To what extent is an enormously complex hospital a community in itself?
T: The hospital encompasses such a wide range of personnel and services that it resembles a good-sized town.
Q: What is the appeal of the front-page headlines in the local tabloid newspaper?
T: The newspaper’s front page routinely appeals to readers’ fear of crime, anger at criminals, and sympathy
What to consider when writing:
Ø If the subject is familiar to readers, then you might not have to justify the
principle much, but your details and examples must be vivid and convincing.
Ø If the subject is unfamiliar, then you should carefully explain the principle,
define all specialized terms, distinguish parts from one another, and provide ample illustrations.
Ø If readers know your subject but may disagree with your way of looking at it,
then you should justify as well as explain your principle, and account for any
evidence the may seem not to support your opinion (with counterargument).
Organizing your writing:
In intro., let readers know why you are choosing to analyze your subject: Why is it significant? How might the essay
relate to their experiences or be otherwise useful to them?
Ø Unfamiliar subject: maybe summarize or describe a part of it (with anecdote,
Ø Familiar subject: surprising fact, unusual perspective
Ø Evaluative essay: opposing viewpoint
Body: describe parts and offer analysis (maybe part by part)
You might arrange from least to most important, least to most complex, most to least familiar, spatially, or
Conclusion: Reassemble the parts and return to the whole.
Maybe restate the thesis, summarize what the essay has contributed, consider the influence of the subject in
a larger context, or assess the effectiveness/ worth of the subject.
Questions to consider when revising:
- Is your principle of analysis clear?
- Is your analysis complete?
- Is your analysis consistent?
- Is your analysis well supported?
- Is your analysis true to the subject?