Tips On Writing Compare And Contrast Essay

TIP Sheet
WRITING A COMPARE/CONTRAST PAPER

A compare and contrast essay examines two or more topics (objects, people, or ideas, for example), comparing their similarities and contrasting their differences. You may choose to focus exclusively on comparing, exclusively on contrasting, or on both-or your instructor may direct you to do one or both.

First, pick useable subjects and list their characteristics. In fact, their individual characteristics determine whether the subjects are useable. After that, choose a parallel pattern of organization and effective transitions to set your paper above the merely average.

1. Picking a subject
Focus on things that can obviously be compared or contrasted. For instance, if you are examining an idea (political or philosophical) examine the opposite of that idea. Or, if you are examining a person, like a president, pick another president for comparison or contrast. Don't try to compare a president and a cab driver, or existentialism and a legislative bill on car tax refunds.

2. Listing characteristics
Divide a piece of paper into two sides. One side is for the first subject, the other for the second subject. Then, begin to list the similarities and differences that immediately come to mind. Concentrate on characteristics that either are shared or are opposing between the two subjects. Alternately, you may construct a Venn diagram of intersecting circles, listing the subjects' differences to either side and their similarities where the circles intersect. Keep in mind that for a balanced paper, you want to make point-by-point, parallel comparisons (or contrasts).

Similarities between my math and English instructors:
Both are welcoming and available to students.
Both are organized and keep a neat office.
Both are knowledgeable and professional.

 

Differences between my math and English instructors
Math teacher listens to classic rock.         English teacher listens to jazz.
Math teacher drinks Earl Grey tea.           English teacher drinks strong black coffee.
Math teacher likes to chat about movies.  English teacher sticks to business.

As you create your list, is it clear why you are comparing and contrasting these two subjects? Do you have a preference for one or the other? If so, make sure you are evaluating each side fairly. A point-by-point list helps you maintain balance.

Once you have a list, decide whether there are more similarities or differences between the topics. If there are more similarities, concentrate your paper on comparing. If there are more differences (or if, as in the example above, the differences are simply more interesting), concentrate on contrasting. If there is a balance of similarities and differences, you might concentrate on discussing this balance.

3. Organizing
There are at least two ways to organize a compare/contrast essay. Imagine you are examining Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, both Civil War generals. In your list you have uncovered important points of dissimilarity between them. Those points are their background, personalities, and underlying aspirations. (Call these three points A, B, and C.) You have decided to contrast the two subjects.

Here is one way to organize the body of this paper, addressing points A, B, and C for each subject. This paper will follow parallel order–A, B, and then C–for each subject:

A. Lee's background
B. Lee's personality
C. Lee's underlying aspirations

A. Grant's background
B. Grant's personality
C. Grant's underlying aspirations

However, here is another way to organize the same paper:

A. Lee's background
A. Grant's background

B. Lee's personality
B. Grant's personality

C. Lee's underlying aspiration
C. Grant's underlying aspiration

For a shorter paper, the above might represent three paragraphs; if you are writing a long paper and have a great deal of information, you may choose to write about each point, A, B, and C, in separate paragraphs for a total of six. However you decide to organize, make sure it is clear why you are examining this subject. You might be able to compare apples and oranges, for example, but why would you? Include any insights or opinions you have gathered. And yes, in general, three is the magic number. While there is no hard-and-fast rule that precludes creating a paper based on two points, or four, or five, a three-point discussion is manageable, especially for complex or abstract subjects. At the same time, a three-point structure helps you avoid oversimplifying, especially when addressing controversial topics in which discussions tend to become polarized–right or wrong, black or white, for or against. Three-point treatments encourage discussion of the middle ground.

4. Signaling transitions
Learn to use expressions that precisely convey contrast or comparison. These expressions, or transitions, signal contrast:

  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • however
  • otherwise
  • whereas
  • still
  • yet

These expressions signal comparison:

  • as well as
  • both
  • like
  • in common with
  • likewise
  • also

Signal words such as these help the reader understand the relationships between your sentences, paragraphs, and ideas. In particular, if you are both comparing and contrasting, signal words help sort out what's what. Second only to effective organization, effective use of these expressions will go a long way toward helping produce a good compare/contrast paper.

How to Write a Contrast Essay

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A contrast essay is not as complicated as you think. It is about comparing and contrasting two subjects, talking about how such things are alike and how they are different. It is a way of indicating both the similarity and dissimilarity that go along with two different things. This type of essay is said to be one of the most required forms of writing in college. However, most students fail to follow how this kind of essay should be written. So to help you out with this, here are the most helpful tips on how to write a contrast essay.

How To: Contrast Essay Writing

TIP 1: Brainstorm on a contrast essay topic

When you are brainstorming on a topic, it will be better to choose subjects that have basic similarities. In other words, you don’t have to think of two entirely unrelated things just because you are contrasting.

TIP 2: Choose an appropriate structure for a contrast paper

There are two types of structures which you can follow to effectively present your contrast essay to your readers.

The introduction should state your thesis statement. It should then be followed by the first paragraph of the body, discussing the first subject matter, while the next paragraph should cover the second subject alone, without touching subject #1. After discussing two different subjects independently, you can now analyze them together in a separate paragraph. The generalization of your thesis statement should then be discussed in the conclusion. This section should also comprise your own knowledge on both subjects, and should reaffirm that your thesis statement has been proven.

Your thesis statement should still be included in the introduction. The first section in the body of your essay should then tackle all the comparisons or similarities of two subjects, while the next section should only discuss their contrasts or differences. And in the conclusion, the thesis statement should be restated and the summary of your points must be presented.

TIP 3: Stick to the format of your contrast essay

In writing  a contrast essay, you have to pay close attention to the structure or format you are following to keep track of the flow. In this way, your readers will not be confused on what you are trying to point out.

TIP 4: Pay heed to intro and conclusion of your contrast paper

Remember that your introduction must set the track which your readers can follow. You can also use authorial quotations in the body of your essay to validate your arguments. And the conclusion must be the summarized section of the whole essay, which also includes your own findings.  

Most Frequently Asked Questions About Compare and Contrast Essay Writing

What Does it Mean to Compare and Contrast?

To compare something means to look for and identify similarities between two things. To contrast is to look for differences.

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Paragraph?

A compare and contrast paragraph can be written in two ways:

  1. Block method where you explain the first subject area and then the other.
  2. Point-by-point method where you explain both subject areas together. For example, a square has four sides, all of which are equal in length. A rectangle also has four sides but only two sides are equal in length.

How to Start a Compare and Contrast Essay?

A compare and contrast essay is written similarly to any other essay with an introduction, body and conclusion. You should start your compare and contrast essay with an explanation or definition of the topic and two subject areas. The rest of the essay will explain the subject areas in-depth.

How to Write a Conclusion for a Compare and Contrast Essay

The conclusion of a compare and contrast essay must be a summary of the following:

  1. The definition of two subject areas
  2. The main similarities between two subject areas
  3. The main differences between two subject areas

How to Compare and Contrast Poems?

You can compare and contrast poems by looking at their structure, theme, background or the tone of the author. When comparing and contrasting poems, you may choose either the block method, where you explain the first subject area and then the other, or point-by-point method, where you explain both subject areas together, to write your essay. When comparing and contrasting poems, follow these steps:

  • Start with a topic sentence explaining your main point and use examples to emphasize each.
  • End with a summary of the main points and your opinion on which is better.

How to Compare and Contrast Two Articles?

To compare and contrast two articles, you need to:

  • Explain what both articles are about
  • Identify the similarities
  • Identify the differences
  • Conclude with a summary of the main points and give your opinion on which is better and why.

How to Compare and Contrast Pictures?

To compare and contrast two pictures, you need to:

  • Explain what is happening in both pictures
  • Identify what is common between the two pictures
  • Identify what makes each picture different from the other
  • Summarize the main points and give your opinion on which you prefer, giving reasons why this is so.

How to Compare and Contrast Two Stories?

To compare and contrast two stories, you need to:

  • Explain the background of each story ensuring you mention of the structure, theme and tone of the author.
  • Identify what is similar about the two stories, making sure to state what is the common theme or tone of the two stories.
  • State what makes each story different from the other, making sure to highlight unique parts that set each other apart.

How to Compare and Contrast Two Characters?

When comparing and contrasting two characters from a story, you will need to consider the following:

  • Their physical traits
  • Dialogue and interaction with other characters
  • Their actions
  • Their thoughts

How to Compare and Contrast Art Paintings?

When comparing two pieces of art, you will need to look at several aspects of each piece. These include: the style, function or symbolism and the cultural context of each. As usual, you will state what is similar and different about these two art paintings to give your reader a good idea about them.

How to Compare and Contrast Using a Venn Diagram?

When comparing and contrasting using a Venn Diagram, employ the following method.

  1. Draw two overlapping circles.
  2. Label each circle with the name of the item to be compared and contrasted.
  3. In the overlapping section of the circles, write the similarities between the two items.

In the individual circles, write the differences between each item.        

CONTRAST ESSSAY OUTLINE EXAMPLE

Below is an example of a contrast essay outline which should look as follows:

I. Introduction

A. Opening statement:  On December 27, 2015, just after Christmas holidays, I found myself in a ditch flat out drunk. My family did not have the pleasure of celebrating the holidays because they were out looking for me. After arriving home and seeing their sad and disappointed faces, I knew it was time to quit drinking. On January 2016 I checked myself into a rehab and got the help I badly needed. Since then I have worked hard to configure my life. As a sober man, I have tried to make a difference in the society, get a job, be a responsible parent and observed my health.

B. Thesis statement: As a sober man, I have tried to make a difference in the society, get a job, be a responsible parent and observed my health.

II. Body

A. Make a difference in the society (is one thing I’ve learned to do better since I stopped drinking.) 

    1. Help others quit abusing alcohol    

        a. (Sober) …

        b. (Drinking) …

    2. Take part in community volunteer programs   

        a. (Sober) …

        b. (Drinking) …

    3.  Drinking under the influence       

        a. (Sober) …

        b. (Drinking) …

B. A responsible parent 

    1. Attending my children sports events     

        a. (Sober) …  

        b. (Drinking) …

C. Observed my health

    1. Eating Healthy    

        a. (Sober) …

        b. (Drinking) …

    2. Working Out   

        a. (Sober) …

        b. (Drinking) …

III. Conclusion

Ever since I stopped drinking not only has my life changed for the better but also I have been able to shape other people’s lives. My family is happy with my progress and they too are living a worry free life since am always available when they need me. 

It is always important to keep the structure of your essay in mind. And though it is more about contrasting two different yet related subjects, it is still necessary not to sound biased. When discussing, you have to give fair treatment to both subjects. By this means, your readers will trust your information and will also see them as relevant to take note. So, if you have difficulties on how to write a contrast essay, just follow the tips outlined above.

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