How to Write a Classification Essay in Management: A Detailed Guide to Your Success

Writing guide
Posted on April 22, 2020

A classification essay is exactly what it says on the tin: you either take or are given a set or type of things, divide them into categories based on a single and straightforward organizing principle and give viable examples that fit into each category. For example, you can analyze management strategies based on the types of leadership they require.

The purpose of a classification essay is to run a deep analysis of the field and organize the information you know about it. When you classify things (note that ‘things’ can mean virtually anything: policies, strategies, theories, leadership approaches, types of teams, etc.), you perforce have to study their characteristic features, pay attention to what makes them special and distinct from others, draw parallels and notice differences. As a result, management instructors are particularly fond of this type of academic work, and you can expect to deal with a fair share of it throughout your course. In this guide, you will find all the information you need to make it work.

Preparing the Ground

Brainstorming a Topic

When selecting a topic for a classification essay, you should not just choose something you are interested in or know a lot about, but also something that will yield a set of things (concepts, ideas, etc.) that you can conveniently classify into categories or types. If your instructor did not give you a specific topic to work on, you can find the best fit for yourself in a variety of ways:

  • Freewriting – simply start writing down all the ideas that come to your head without analyzing them or trying to select only the best ones. Let yourself write everything that comes to you naturally, and then pick the best ideas out of it;
  • Look through your textbooks and other course materials. Does anything suggest a topic to you?
  • Consult your instructor. Even if he/she does not give you a topic per se, he/she can suggest a direction in which you should move;
  • Try thinking about something that interests you personally. Perhaps it is something you encountered during your management practice – this way you will be able to use your personal experience as a foundation of your paper.

Eventually, you should end up with a topic that both allows for meaningful analysis and does not require you to turn over half a library of books to find the necessary info. Something like these:

  • Classification of the USA’s Top Companies Based on Their HR Management Approach;
  • Classification of Change Management Theories Based on Their Efficiency;
  • Classification of the USA’s Top 10 Companies Based on Their Leadership Style;
  • Classification of the UK’s Top Companies Based on the Prevalence of Digital Element in Their Management Approaches;
  • Classifying American Presidents Based on Their Management Styles.

Select Classification Criteria

Dividing items into categories is anything but arbitrary. For your classification to be consistent, you have to choose a set of criteria (i.e., characteristics or properties which define whether an item belongs to this or that category) and follow them throughout your essay. The criteria you use should be clearly discriminating – the categories that emerge from their application should have obvious boundaries so that the classes do not overlap. For example, if you divide companies by their authoritarian or democratic approach to management, you should clearly define what constitutes both of these approaches so that there are no ambiguous cases.

Write a Thesis Statement

Like any other type of academic work, a classification essay should have a thesis statement – that is, its main idea or concept expressed in short (usually one or two sentences). However, in a classification essay you usually do not offer any groundbreaking ideas – you simply point out what you categorize, what criteria you use and what categories result from it. If the space allows, you can say a couple of words about characteristic features of each category. For example, ‘Based on their theoretical background, all management theories can be divided into four groups: pre-scientific, classical, behavioral and modern’.

Your thesis statement should be:

  • Concise (preferably no more than 25-35 words);
  • Straightforward (it should leave no ambiguities);
  • Specific (it should not steer away from the core of your topic).

Collect Information

Even if you think that you navigate the topic in question fairly well, you cannot do without gathering additional information. Firstly, because your current knowledge may turn out to be superfluous. Secondly, because you have to back your claims up with evidence, and this evidence mostly comes in the form of quotations and paraphrases of texts produced by authoritative authors. Sources can be roughly divided into three types:

  • Primary – original works, papers based on original research carried out by the author, theses, diaries, correspondence, interviews, first-hand accounts;
  • Secondary – all kinds of interpretative works based on primary sources, commentaries, criticisms, newspaper and magazine articles that are opinions rather than first-hand accounts, textbooks. In other words, anything that does not contain original research but may refer to it;
  • Tertiary – these are mostly organization and categorization tools making it easier to use primary and secondary sources. They include indexes, dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies etc.

This classification does not presuppose a hierarchy – a primary source is not necessarily better than a secondary one. They both pursue their own goals and serve their own purposes. Your bibliography should maintain a balance between all three groups. If you lack primary sources, it makes it look as if you wholly base your opinion on the findings of others, if you lack secondary sources it means that your opinions are mere conjectures that do not have the backing in from the authorities, if you lack tertiary sources it means that you poorly navigate the existing body or research.

Doing the Writing

Body/Developmental Paragraphs

Body paragraphs should define and analyze each category you presented in the thesis statement, one by one. In addition to simply describing them, you may also point out notable similarities and differences between the categories. If two categories appear to be similar in some respects, you should explain what makes them different after all.

The description of each category should be accompanied with examples and explanation of why each of them belongs to this or that category. It is especially important if certain characteristics make it difficult to define where to put a particular example. Although you do not have to dedicate strictly the same amount of space to each category, try maintaining a certain balance – it does not look good if you spend 500 words on one category and a hundred words apiece on three others.

Use Proper Transitions

Classification essays are prone to feeling disjointed and disconnected because they speak about sets of mainly unrelated things. This is why it is particularly important to use transition words and sentences to connect individual paragraphs and sections together. Do not stop at expressions like “the first category is characterized by”. Relate categories to each other: ‘Unlike the first category, here we see an example of…’, ‘Similarly to the second category, the third category is characterized by…; however, it is important to see a significant difference’.

Stay Focused

One of the most common mistakes students make when writing classification essays is getting too bogged down in details. As a rule, it is always better to choose two or three the most striking characteristic features of a category and describe them in great detail than to try to cover everything and provide a superfluous description of seven or eight features. Choose what is most important to define a category and throw irrelevant details aside.

Establish a Goal and Do not Forget It

Simply dividing a set of things into categories is a pointless job. You can do it with anything and using any organizing principle. Doing it with a purpose in mind is another matter. Decide from the very beginning what the purpose of your classification is and stick to it throughout your essay. Is it to determine which management theory is more efficient in a particular situation? Is it to analyze different leadership styles and define their positive and negative traits? Make sure you remember what it is all about and get back to it in the conclusion.

Finishing Touches

Check if the Essay’s Structure Is Logical

You can describe the same set of categories in different ways depending on the order in which you arrange them. Try to shift things around and see what makes for the most logical and natural sequence. You may want to refer to the earlier categories when describing later ones, so make sure the ones that are instrumental for understanding the others are discussed early on.

Go through the Revision Checklist

The best way to make sure you did not forget anything is to have a checklist you go through every time you finish an essay. Here are some questions you may include in it (although you can modify them depending on what mistakes you tend to make):

  • Is my message clear?
  • Did I address potential questions and concerns of the audience?
  • Is my style appropriate for a classification essay and my intended audience?
  • Did I provide enough examples?
  • Does my introduction grab the reader’s attention and lead up to the main topic of discussion?
  • Does my conclusion properly summarize the contents of the essay?
  • Are paragraphs and individual sections of the essay properly connected to each other? Do I use the right transition words and sentences?

Read the Essay Aloud

What looks alright in written form can show all kinds of problems as soon as you read it aloud. Doing it with your essay immediately makes such things as run-on sentences, overused words, clichés and vague structures obvious.

Proofread Your Essay

You may be tempted to start your revision with it because proofreading is a relatively straightforward task and does not require much in terms of creativity. It is not a good idea – you are likely to rewrite and rearrange parts of your text in the course of revision, which means that you will have to proofread it all over again.

Online grammar and spelling checkers like Grammarly and Grammar Checker may look like useful tools, but avoid relying on them too much. They can attract your attention to mistakes and flaws you have overlooked, but if they offer suggestions you are not sure about, it does not mean that there is necessarily anything to change. Remember that they are not professional proofreaders, but simply algorithms, and relatively limited algorithms at that. They often make mistakes of their own, so make sure you verify their findings. Better yet, hire a professional proofreader to help you.

Read the Essay Backwards

When you revise the essay for grammar and spelling, consider reading it backwards. This way you will be less focused on the meaning of what you read and more on what words and sentence structures you use. By focusing on a single essay at a time, you will be more likely to notice mistakes and flaws.

Get a Second Opinion

As the author of your essay, you have a limited perspective. You are bound to miss certain points about it simply because you are too used to the way it is and tend to skip over parts of the text. Even if you are good at writing, it is always a worthy idea to ask somebody else to read your essay and point out what has to be altered – be it grammar or general structure.

As you can see, writing a classification essay in management is a less straightforward task than one may think – but it is by no means an insurmountable one. Use this guide, and you will not encounter any serious problems.

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