Academic Writing Tips 2: Basic skills for writing categorization essays

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Academic Writing Tips 2: Basic skills for writing categorization essays

Post  Jason Renshaw on Tue Mar 25 2008, 09:54

Categorization Essays



What are they?

Categorization essays involve explaining a topic or issue by breaking it down into logical sections. They are not really about arguing an opinion. They are more about presenting ideas in a top to bottom fashion that is well organized and therefore clear to follow. Reading a good categorization essay, the reader will get a feel for the broad topic, different aspects of the topic, and supporting detail for each aspect.



Why learn and use this kind of essay format?

1. Categorization essays are useful for topics that present a general topic that requires the writer to show his/her knowledge about it in an organized and detailed way.

2. This is one of the most basic kinds of essay formats. Once it is mastered, it becomes a very useful 'blueprint' of academic essay writing style that can be adapted in small ways to fit other kinds of writing.



How should a categorization essay be organized and formatted?

This kind of essay should have three basic parts - an introduction, a body (consisting of 2 or more paragraphs) and a conclusion.

The introduction should start with a 'hook' to present the topic in a contextualized and/or engaging way for the reader. It should then present the initial breakdown of the topic into categories.

The body should consist of two or more main paragraphs. Each paragraph should present and then explore one of the categories presented in the introduction. The category becomes the topic of the paragraph, and the writer then needs to provide supporting detail and exemplification to show what the category means or involves. Note that each body paragraph should stick only to its own category and not overlap with other categories.

The conclusion can re-present the categories and stress how they fit together to represent the overall topic. It may mention the relevance or helpfulness of breaking the topic down in this way, and finish with some sort of concluding thought.



Strategies for applying a categorization essay


"Top-down"

This involves using the brainstorm stage to immediately break the broad topic into different possible categories. Some details could then be added to each category to see how viable it is for writing about later during the composition stage.

A "top down" approach is useful if you have a logical and organized way of thinking about things, and find the broad topic familiar. It also helps to ensure that you are organizing your writing into clear parts right from the beginning.

On the negative side, this approach can result in essays that lack sufficient detail. The writer may be good at breaking the broad topic into smaller categories, but then during the writing stage finds he/she can't generate enough good details to show exactly what each category is about. This is kind of like presenting forests with very few trees in them. This shouldn't be a problem if the writer already knows a lot about the topic and categories.


"Bottom-up"

This involves using the brainstorm time to write down as many details as possible in response to the broad topic. Once enough have been generated, they can be examined and put into groups based on a similar focus or relevance. These groups then become the categories that will comprise the body paragraphs in the categorzation essay.

This approach is useful if you have trouble coming up with details for your writing, and/or are unsure exactly how you might be able to categorize aspects of a broad topic. The brainstorming can help you come up with these groupings.

However, it can also create confusion if the details don't appear to group well. The writer may end up presenting a lot of interesting details that aren't organized into clear enough categories. Another possibility is "information overload" - or "too many trees and no forests".



Practice with setting up a categorization essay

Work in a small group with 1-3 other students. For each essay question below, decide:

1. what the broad topic is about
2. how you are going to break the topic into categories (bottom-up, top-down, or both?)

Based on this, come up with an essay plan/outline for each essay question so that it can be applied as a categorization essay.


Essay question 1:
Describe the essential skills necessary to become a good, balanced user of English.

Essay question 2:
Write about how English can benefit Korea as a nation.

Essay question 3:
What are the different stages of English proficiency and how might you describe each?

Essay question 4:
Describe the kinds of skills required to become good at speaking in English.





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