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Classification

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Classification

The word classification means arranging things according to their attributes or characteristics; in other words, like-items are grouped into categories by specific criteria. To navigate this page, you likely had to filter through a system classified first by subject, then particular topics (like rhetoric), and finally came to the classification.

You can see how useful classification is in everyday life. Also, it is an effective way to organize a thought or argument, which is why it’s a commonly used rhetorical mode.

What Is the Definition of Classification as a Rhetorical Mode?

First, what is a rhetorical mode? These are a way of organizing communication—whether spoken or written—so the audience is impacted most effectively.

As a rhetorical mode, classification provides a framework for thought or discussion by organizing concepts based on shared characteristics.

Homicide is classified as either first, second, or third degree. Much the same, burns are classified as first, second, or third-degree, depending on tissue damage. There are varying degrees of homicide and burns, so it is helpful to divide them by levels of severity. Simply saying, “It was a third-degree burn” indicates that the damage to the victim was severe, without going into detail.

One of the main strengths of classification as a rhetorical mode is that it categorizes items by things they all have in common but express differently. This often leads to a conversation of comparison and/or contrast, which can help further develop a concept.

Classification is a basic rhetorical mode, which means it does not require a deep analysis of the subject to be used effectively. For example, you could classify the works of authors based on when they were written, and you wouldn’t need to expound on the different genres or any other characteristics unless you wanted to.

ClassificationSynonymsForClassificationStudySmarterClassification is also known as division, categorization, or ranking, Unsplash.

Synonyms for Classification

Classification takes one large category and divides it into smaller, more manageable categories. For this reason, the rhetorical mode that refers to this process is also often called division.

Some other synonyms for classification include categorization, ranking, and grading. All these words indicate the act of dividing something into smaller segments based on their attributes. No matter what you choose to call it, the classification process is still the same.

Classification Techniques

Your goal in any rhetorical situation is to express your thought to your audience in the most effective way possible. In a classification essay, the true aim is to explain a complex topic by breaking it down into digestible parts for your audience.

The first step is to analyze your topic and look for ways to break it down into subtopics for clarification and explanation. A subtopic is one of the parts or divisions of the main topic of discussion.

After you have subdivided your topic into subtopics, look for ways to group these smaller categories by looking for a classification principle.

A classification principle is whatever rule or set of rules you use to categorize items together. Simply put, it's whatever all the items in a category have in common.

Be sure the classification principle is clear. If it’s not obvious to the reader what it is, you might consider an explanation. It is important to use an accurate classification principle to create your smaller groups. In other words, make sure the commonality between each item in the group is true in every instance and that the subtopics don’t overlap.

The Winter Olympic Games can be classified in the following way:

Winter Games

  • Ice sports

    • Bobsled

    • Luge

    • Skeleton

    • Ice hockey

    • Figure skating

    • Speed skating

    • Short track speed skating

    • Curling

  • Alpine, Skiing, and Snowboarding events

    • Alpine skiing

    • Freestyle Skiing

    • Snowboarding

  • Nordic events

    • Biathalon

    • Cross-country skiing

    • Ski jumping

    • Nordic combined

In the above example, the main topic is the Winter Olympic Games, and there are three major subtopics (Ice Sports, Alpine, Skiing, and Snowboarding events, and Nordic events). Inside each subtopic is a commonality between each sport: The ice sports are all played on top of a body of ice (typically on skates), the Alpine, Snowboarding, and Skiing events are all downhill, and the Nordic events are the cross-country and ski jumping events.

What Is the Purpose of Classification in Academic Writing?

The purpose of classification is to break up complex subjects into smaller, more specific parts to be examined more thoroughly. It connects a single thing or idea and how it relates to the whole subject. It is a useful skill that tests the writer's ability to group related words and ideas.

You’ll often see classification used in the sciences such as psychology, biology, and anatomy. This is because it is an effective strategy for organizing information with lots of pieces. For example, anatomy classifies bones, muscles, and other body parts to be better understood on their own.

ClassificationClassificationInAcademicWritingStudySmarterClassification is used in the natural sciences to establish a hierarchical system, Unsplash.

Imagine taking an anatomy class that spent the entire year covering parts of the human body without any way to categorize them all. You might go from studying the brain to teeth, to the cardiovascular system, to diseases without any overarching system to organize them all. You would likely forget or miss many details about each topic because it would simply be a blur of information.

Now imagine the same anatomy class but with the content segmented into groups (i.e., one month to study organs, one month to study the skeleton, etc.). Not only does it make the content more manageable for memory, but it also allows the class to study the interaction between things in the same subtopics. This could be a study of how the categories are similar, how they are different, or a combination of the two.

Here's a snapshot of a properly organized Anatomy 101 syllabus using a system of classification:

Week 1

Skeletal system: Bone

Skeletal system: Appendages

Skeletal system: Axial

Skeletal system: Appendicular

Skeletal system: Joints

Week 2

Nervous system: Nerves

Nervous system: CNS

Nervous system: Peripheral

Nervous system: Somatic/ Automatic

Nervous system: Special senses

The skeletal system and nervous systems are both subtopics of the larger topic, the human body. Each item following that is a smaller category that can be discussed alone and in relation to the other subtopic categories (i.e., how do bones function differently in the skeletal system than joints?).

Classification can be used in academic writing to illuminate the message or meaning inside of a topic. The following example breaks down the topic of book genres and points out that everyone can find something interesting; they just might need to try a new genre.

Some people don't enjoy reading, but that's perhaps because they happened to pick up the wrong book or wrong type of book. Literature can be divided into eight main genres: poetry, fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, biography, drama, and nonfiction.

Writing a Classification Essay with Examples

Classification can be used in a single paragraph or section of writing to explain a concept, and it can also be assigned as a way to organize an entire essay.

As with all essays, a classification essay should begin with an introduction to the topic and mention your thesis statement. In a classification essay, the thesis statement follows this basic formula:

Topic + subtopics + rationale for the subtopics = thesis.

Remember, a thesis statement is a single declarative sentence that includes the main idea or position on a topic and mentions the way(s) you intend to prove or support that idea. A thesis lays out the expectation for the audience of what your point is and how you intend to prove it. In a classification essay, your position is your rationale for how you divided the topic.

Consider the following possible thesis for a classification essay:

Many students would not be able to achieve their dream of a college education without the various class formats available to students thanks to modern technology; online classes, in-person classes, and hybrid classes are available options for millions of students.

The method of organizing a classification essay is based on the main topic, which is modern technology and education, and the subsequent subtopics (online, in-person, and hybrid classes) and their categories.

Each body paragraph is dedicated to fully developing the subtopics. Here are possible body paragraph topics based on the subcategories from the above example:

(Outline the various formats of classes available to students)

  1. Classes in person

  2. Online classes

  3. Classes that combine both

Be sure to use strong details, examples, and explanations for each subcategory, always pointing back to your thesis statement (which should include why you’re dividing the topic the way you are).

Do not simply state all the information you know about each of the subtopics in the body paragraphs. The topics of each body paragraph should be developed with examples and further details, always linking back to the thesis or main idea behind the classification.

The conclusion should link all the subcategories together again, illustrating your rationale for your classification. Restate this rationale in the form of your thesis. Your conclusion should successfully wrap up your essay by connecting everything to the topic you mentioned in your introduction.

Classification essay outline example

Title: The Use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Marketing

  • Thesis: Consumers can mitigate the controlling impact of advertising by actively evaluating the messages and understanding how companies use the three modes of persuasion—ethos, pathos, and logos—to push products.

    • Ethos: An appeal to the credibility of the author, speaker, or some other important figure who has authority on the topic.

      • Example: Celebrity endorsements

      • Explanation: Ethos works because a recommendation on a product from someone they trust goes a long way

    • Pathos: An appeal that utilizes the emotions of the audience.

      • Example: Commercials that show videos of soldiers returning home to family after deployment.

      • Explanation: The emotional videos and images shown in advertisements can move a consumer to take action to support a cause.

    • Logos: Facts presented in a logical manner to convince an audience of something.

      • Example: Cleaning product commercials present a problem using a common cleaning product—say, a traditional feather duster. The company presents their product, a solution to the dust problem!

      • Explanation: Companies seek to convince the audience that they need their product to replace whatever product they are currently using (or not using).

Classification - Key takeaways

  • Classification means the process of arranging things according to their attributes or characteristics.
  • Classification is a basic rhetorical mode, which means it is one common way to arrange a thought or idea.
  • A synonym for classification is division.
  • A classification principle is the rule or set of rules you use to categorize items
  • The steps to classification are:
    • Analyze the main topic
    • Identify subtopics
    • Group items into categories based on a sound classification principle

Frequently Asked Questions about Classification

The word classification means the process of arranging things according to their attributes or characteristics.

Classification is important in academic writing because it breaks up complex subjects into smaller, more specific parts to be examined more thoroughly. 

Yes, classification is a basic rhetorical mode.

Classification is used to organize information with lots of pieces. It also makes an important connection between a single thing or idea and its relation to the whole subject.

The difference between classification and persuasive rhetorical styles is that classification's main goal is to segment a topic into smaller parts and explain the rationale, while persuasive writing's primary goal is to convince the audience of something. 

Final Classification Quiz

Question

What is the definition of classification?

Show answer

Answer

The word classification means the process of arranging things according to their attributes or characteristics; in other words, like-items are grouped together into categories by specific criteria.

Show question

Question

True or false: Classification is a basic rhetorical mode

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

_________ are a way of organizing communication so the audience is impacted most effectively. 

Show answer

Answer

Rhetorical modes

Show question

Question

How do classification principles function in the classification process?

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Answer

Classification principles are whatever rule or set of rules you use to categorize items together. 

Show question

Question

The classification principle should establish _________ among items in a category. 

Show answer

Answer

Commonality

Show question

Question

As a rhetorical mode, classification is also known as _________

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Answer

Division

Show question

Question

Which step is missing from the process of classification:

  • Analyze main topic
  • _____________
  • Group items into categories based on a sound classification principle

Show answer

Answer

Identify subtopics

Show question

Question

True or false: Classification is a common essay type

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which element is missing from the thesis formula for a Classification essay?


Topic + subtopics + ___________ = thesis.


Show answer

Answer

Rationale for the subtopics

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Question

What are the basis for body paragraphs of a Classification essay?

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Answer

Subtopics

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Question

The body paragraphs of a Classification essay should include strong details, examples and explanations that all point back to _____________. 

Show answer

Answer

The thesis statement

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Question

True or false: You should restate your thesis in the conclusion of a Classification essay

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Answer

True

Show question

Question

How is classification used as a rhetorical mode? 

Show answer

Answer

As a rhetorical mode, classification is used to provide a framework to thought or discussion by organizing concepts based on shared characteristics. 

Show question

Question

One of the main strengths of classification as a rhetorical mode is that it categorizes items by things they all have in common but express _________.


Show answer

Answer

Differently

Show question

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