A classification essay is one of several types of essays you might be exposed to in a developmental writing or freshman composition course. Like comparison-contrast, definition, descriptive, cause and effect, persuasive and process essays, classification essays require preplanning. Classification is a method of story development whereby a large group is broken down into several subgroups, or classifications.
in a classification essay, a main group, such as “family members," is broken down into at least three distinct subgroups, or classifications, that do not overlap. The chosen subgroups are subjective; they're entirely up to the writer. At this point, you can imagine how a writing “diagram” might look on paper -- with the main topic overhead, the three subgroups listed on the left of the page and then room to fill in the details on the page. The specific details and examples form the majority of a classification essay.
Looking at the example of “my family members” as the topic, the essay could be divided into the classifications of “my parents,” “my siblings” and “my cousins.” However, the writer could chose many other categories for the same topic. For instance, the classifications could be “close family members,” “distant family members” and “deceased family members.”