Division/Classification/Definition Paper

You will be using the following three strategies to write your first paper. How you combine them depends on your approach to your subject. You will be writing this paper for a specific audience, which will require your identifying and fulfilling a specific purpose. Because this is a combination of three techniques, regardless of which approach you take, I expect this paper to be around 800 words in length. That means your division (scope) of your subject needs to be adequate to meet the demands of this assignment. If it doesn't, you'll get it back to do again.

Division is taking one item (idea, object, entity, etc.) and breaking (dividing) it up into its component parts according to some principle for some purpose. The item could be as simple as an egg or as complex as the universe or as abstract as the meaning of life. This provides the structure or framework of your paper. Because you will be writing your paper for a specific audience, you may not need to divide your "item" into 100% of its parts. You may need to only focus on part of it. That also depends on your purpose.

Classification is taking several things (objects, ideas, data, information, etc.) and putting them into various groups or classes (divisions) according to common characteristics. This provides the content for your paper. Having an adequate division isn't enough: you need to have something to say about your subject, as well. In terms of your paper and writing in general, classification refers to the body of information available about a particular subject. You need to decide what part of your paper that information fits into in order to fulfill your purpose.

Definition is applying a meaning to a word that most people would agree upon or establishing what you mean when you use a specific term in order for you to be able to communicate your ideas to others. Meanings can be either denotative (dictionary meaning, arrived at by convention or consensus) or connotative (a special or personal meaning some contexts or individuals or groups attach to a word). In this type of writing, you should stick to the denotative meanings. Definitions can be parenthetical (one word or phrase paired with the actual word in the text), sentence (when one sentence can adequately define the term in the text, introduction, or glossary), and extended (when it's necessary to use a paragraph or sometimes even a whole essay to define the term or concept).

The Assignment

1. Pick a general subject or field, such as education, business, art, law, medicine, psychology, etc., (this should be the general area that you are studying, working in, or will be working in); now, subdivide that subject according to your interests or what you might need to know about your subject in the future, e.g., different types or branches of psychology, law, medicine, or art. The next step would be to define those divisions, to tell what their meanings and characteristics are: for example, "Cubism is a school of modern art characterized by the use of cubes and other geometric forms" (Webster 152). At that point, you would probably decide to give examples of artists and their work that would fit into that category, e.g., Picasso and some of his works. You have then used all three techniques I asked for in the beginning. You've used division to come up with categories within your subject, you've used, classification to supply the details and examples, and your over-all approach could be considered a definition with sentence definitions thrown in for clarification of each category.

Remember that this should be written for a particular audience with a particular level of knowledge and a need to know specific aspects of your subject though probably not everything about your subject. Provide enough information for you to fulfill your purpose in writing and your audience's purpose in reading. Where necessary, don't forget parenthetical references and a works cited page if you borrow directly from these sources. Check out the sample paper on vitamins on this site as an example.

2. Focus on a particular profession, such as teacher, doctor, lawyer, nurse, accountant, artist, etc. Create an over-all description of what this profession is really about. Make it for an audience that needs to know as much practical information about this field as possible for possible career choices or program selections (purpose). A high school senior or a student about to enter the community college for the first time would be appropriate. How will you divide your subject? It could be according to things a student would need to know about the profession, which could contain things someone would have to know about any profession. It could be things like, education needed, aptitudes, working conditions, specialties, salary and benefits, and anything else that seems appropriate or useful. This should be a very practical guide to that profession. Your headings and subheadings should reflect that. Where terms or concepts need to be defined, do that also. You will want to go to South Campus' Career Center in the Student Services Building and consult their various materials and SIGI-Plus and Focus II, their computer programs, which will provide very specific and concrete information about your field. To visit our career center online, click here. Don't forget to use parenthetical references and a works cited page if necessary. Check out the sample paper on the community college English professor on this site as an example. There is also one on a career as a physician.

For those who might have missed it or need a refresher on what I said in class, here are some guidelines:

Division, Classification, and Definition

Division is taking one thing and breaking it up (dividing it) into its component parts, according to some principle, for some purpose.


It need not be a 100% division, but your purpose should be clear.

Division, by itself, only gives us the structure of an essay.


Classification is taking several things and putting them into groups (divisions) according to common characteristics. This supplies the content of your papers.


It makes sense to begin with division. Itís easier to create a framework or basic structure for your paper before you begin supplying the details.


This is also true for doing research: know what youíre looking for, in as specific a way as you can, before you begin looking for information.


As I have pointed out before, always remember the

principles of the mind-sized bites.


This will be the basic structure of all your papers:





Note: Main headings or sections of a paper are always in CAPITAL LETTERS, and they are centered on the page.


In addition to the main headings, your paper will also contain subheadings. For example:




In this section, define your subject, and give enough

background information to allow your reader to

know what it is youíre talking about.


Audience, Scope

In this section, state exactly for whom this paper has

been written, e.g., a high school senior, or a college

student, etc. Tell what the reader can expect to get

out of reading this paper, e.g., "The purpose of this

paper is to help the reader make career decisions."



In this section, state exactly how youíve divided this

paper. List the major divisions in the BODY of your

paper. You need not list the subdivisions, but you

can if you want to.


Note: Subheadings are flush left and underlined.

Be sure the paper is typed and double-spaced

with one inch margins. Skip two spaces after

the end punctuation in a sentence. If you have

the ability to do so, turn off hyphenation. Do

not justify text.



In the body of your paper is where the bulk of your

work will appear. Remember to use headings as

indicated in your Scope.


Since these are not actual paragraphs, by definition,

there is no need to indent the first line of each

section; instead, be sure you have headings,

underlined, in the left-hand margins to indicate

what is going on in that section.




Avoid solid blocks of text. If possible, subdivide

your sections further.





In order to become a professor at a major university, one must obtain both undergraduate and graduate degrees while in college.

Undergraduate Studies

The first step in becoming a college professor is to obtain a bachelor of arts degree in . . .

Graduate Studies

In order to teach at a community college . . .


Note: In the previous example, subdivisions of a particular heading, in this case, Education, were created, e.g., Undergraduate Studies and Graduate Studies, to further clarify what was being discussed.


Notice that the subheadings were indented, but the "paragraphs" were not.


Donít worry about using or leaving white space on a page; this makes it easier to read.



In this section, review your subject and purpose. Briefly review the main points of your paper (Scope). If there are any recommendations you wish to make to your reader, based on the data of your paper, this is where you would do it.


Donít introduce new topics or draw any conclusions not warranted by your findings as stated in your paper.



If you made any citations in the text of your paper or quoted any of your sources using a direct quote (with quotation marks), be sure to have a bibliographic entry for that source. If you cite specific numbers, such as salaries, etc., be sure to say where you found that number.

For example:

Beginning teachers with a bachelorís degree can expect to make anywhere from $21,500 to $26,500 their first year of teaching (SIGI Plus).


Sample entry:



SIGI Plus, Broward Community College, Career Center,

September 25, 1996.


Remember, Division and Classification work together to build the structure of your paper, as well as supply the content.


Another important element of a paper is Definition.


We frequently need to define our terms in order for us to effectively communicate with others.


Where and how we define terms is crucial to our success.


Definition is the meaning of a word or concept.


Meanings can be either


Denotative or Connotative.



The factual, concrete, dictionary meaning


Imaginative, personal, emotional meaning


Connotative meanings can be either positive or negative.

Avoid them in technical writing.


There are basically three types of definitions:



A parenthetical definition is a one word or phrase definition (synonym) that appears in the text of the paper where needed.







Note: When you use an acronym, be sure to tell what it stands for the first time you use it in your paper.

Why use parenthetical definitions and not just put the simpler word? Maybe the reader lacks sufficient vocabulary. By pairing both words, you are expanding your reader's basic knowledge.


A Formal (Sentence) Definition is the typical dictionary meaning. It is the most frequently applied meaning of the word.


It consists of three parts:

      1. The word or term itself
      2. The class that the term belongs to, and
      3. The distinguishing features



Distinguishing Features


a mixing device

in gasoline engines that blends air and fuel into a vapor for combustion within cylinders


a surveying instrument

that measures horizontal and vertical angles


a metabolic disease

caused by a disorder of the pituitary gland or pancreas, and characterized by excessive urination, persistent thirst, and decreased ability to metabolize sugar


a legal document

containing all the facts and points of law pertinent to a specific case, and filed by an attorney for the protection of political and civil liberties


Once youíve decided which terms need to be defined and what those definitions are, itís time to decide where to place them.


Placement of Formal Definitions



In the INTRODUCTION, list definitions (no more than two or three) in a section called Working Definitions.


Do this if you feel the reader needs to know these terms before he or she reads the paper.


Donít overdo it.


The reader may not remember them if there are too many.

Put the formal definitions in the text of your paper if you feel it would be more appropriate or useful to your reader(s).


For example:


It is important to distinguish between the different tools a scientist may use. An electron microscope, for example, is a microscope that uses electrons rather than visible light to produce magnified images.


Of course, depending on your audience, you might also have to define electron or even visible light.


A glossary is used when there are many definitions that a reader might need while reading your paper.


Also, if there may be more than one level of reader, you may want to use the glossary so that only those readers who donít know the term will need to read it.


A glossary is an alphabetical (donít number them) listing of all defined terms, at the end of your paper.


You need to let your reader know that there is a glossary and which words are there.


Do this in the INTRODUCTION.


For example:




Working Definitions

Key terms are marked with an * and are listed in the glossary at the end of the paper.


For example:


For anyone who hopes to work in the cable industry in the future, it is important to fully understand the principle of fiber optics*.



Fiber Optics is the technology that uses light energy to transmit voices, video images, and data through hair-thin glass fibers.

Readers who already know what fiber optics is donít need to be bothered by the definition in the text.


The last type of definition is the Extended Definition.


This definition could be a part of your paper, or it could be the whole paper, if your purpose is to create an expanded awareness of your subject for your audience.


There are a variety of techniques a writer could use to expand a definition. You have probably used most of them in ENC 1101.


Techniques for expanding a definition


e.g. Biology is from the Greek words bios (life)

and logus (study of).

e.g. X Rays were first discovered by . . .

e.g. Electron and visible light are two kinds of

microscopes. . .

e.g. The computerís CPU is like the human brain. .

e.g. A is not B


How much you have to define something will be determined by your audience (to a point) and how important that meaning is to your report and fulfilling its purpose.


Always make your meaning(s)


Regardless of what type of writing assignment you are given, you will always begin with the principles of Division and Classification.


If you have stayed with me so far, it's now time to check out the sample papers I have on the website. I hope this has been useful for you.