Categorizing essay topics

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1. Categorizing takes place when you have completed a brainstorming exercise. You will need to produce a logical arrangement of the ideas and items you have written down.

2. Remember that you are doing this in order to generate a coherent plan for your arguments in response to the essay question. You are trying to put the ideas into some persuasive order.

3. Do this on a separate piece of paper so that you free yourself from the randomness of the brainstorming. It should also help you to see more clearly any shape or structure which might begin to emerge.

4. As a first step you should eliminate anything which is completely unrelated to the question topic(s). Be prepared to delete even the most attractive item if it is not relevant. It is no use trying to incorporate material just because you have written it down during the brainstorming stage.

5. When you have eliminated anything which is not relevant, your next task is to look for connections between the individual items. Try to do this as you transfer them from the brainstorming onto your second page. The process should help you analyse the ideas you have produced on the subject and begin to create some form of organisation.

6. The connections between topics might exist because the items are of the same type. For instance cars, trains, and aeroplanes are all forms of TRANSPORT. Alternatively, they might belong in the same category. Banking, taxation, and public expenditure are all FINANCIAL or FISCAL matters.

7. Your task at this point is to identify these general categories. You should then assign to them the individual items from your brainstorming.

8. There may be some items which do not fit easily into any category. Put these to one side. Be prepared to incorporate them at a later stage. Alternatively, if they will not fit logically into the essay plan you are creating, leave them out.

© Roy Johnson 2003


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