Essay Writing Steps With Examples What Are Differences

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 an A+ Comparison Essay on any Topic

Published 3/10/2013

What is a Comparison Essay?

A comparison essay (or a Compare and Contrast essay) is a commonly used type of writing assignment in various classes of high school and college, from art to science. In a comparison essay you should critically analyze any two subjects, finding and pointing out their similarities and/or differences.

Depending on your assignment, such essays can be comparative only (looking only at similarities), contrasting only (pointing out the differences) or both comparative and contrasting.

Choosing a Topic for Comparison Essay

In order to write a good essay, first you need to have a good topic for it, i.e. a topic that lets you easily demonstrate your writing skills and get a high grade easily.

What does that mean specifically regarding the comparison essay? Very simple: the subjects must be easy comparable, so you don’t need to work too hard to point out their similarities or differences. For example:

A big college campus and a small college campus
World War I and World War II
Two perspectives on the same place: morning and night
William Shakespeare with William Wordsworth
Windows vs. Linux

Using the following links, you can find a lot of good comparison topics for your essay:

100 Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

50 Compare and Contrast Topics

List of Compare and Contrast Essay Topics

Comparison Essay Structure

Considering the right structure for your essay is one of the key points of success. Sticking to a recommended essay structure is the only way to properly outline and write it, paragraph by paragraph from the introduction to conclusion, without mistakes.

There are two recommended patterns for a comparison essay: point-by-point (or "alternating") pattern and subject-by-subject (or "block") pattern.

Alternating pattern

Alternating pattern is also known as "point-by-point comparison". This mode of comparison will result in your essay having 5 paragraphs. Alternating pattern is also known as "point-by-point comparison". This mode of comparison will result in your essay having 5 paragraphs.

In it, you will need to consecutively compare and contrast each of the similarities and differences in the given subjects:

  • In the introduction you state your thesis.
  • Then you discuss both of your subjects together for each point of comparison and contrast.
  • In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize your essay.

Block pattern

Block pattern is also known as "subject-by-subject comparison". According to this pattern, you will be required to separate the body of your compare and contrast essay in two parts.

The first part of the body will be dedicated to the first subject, while the other half will be centered around the second subject:

  • In the introduction you state your thesis.
  • First you discuss the first subject.
  • Then you discuss the second subject.
  • In the conclusion you restate the thesis and shortly summarize your essay.

Writing an A+ Comparison Essay

Introduction

The introduction of an essay is very important. It gives the reader his/her first impression of the comparison essay’s text. Remember: first impression counts!

Grab the reader’s attention

There are a lot of tips and techniques to help you in capturing a reader’s interest. You can find some pretty good information in the following articles:

How to Grab the Reader's Attention

A Proper Introduction

Essay Introductions

The most common five methods to grab your reader's attention, commonly used by professionals, are the following:

  • Give a brief historical review of your topic for help reader to better understand it
  • Start from a little story or an anecdote, which leads the reader into your topic
  • Try to use a surprising statement – something disgusting, joyful or even shocking
  • "Dropping" the name of a well-known person (celebrity) usually gets the reader's attention
  • State straight out what your essay is going to be about, simply and clearly

Start from a short background

High school students often find it difficult to view their teachers as anything but "the enemy." However, after the first few months of a school year, students learn to appreciate their teachers as individuals with different approaches. Some teachers are "cool," while others are "tough."

State the thesis

Although Sally Strict & Larry Lax are both respected teachers at our school, their teaching styles and expectations for students differ significantly. While Ms. Strict maintains a highly structured classroom atmosphere to keep her pupils disciplined and motivated, Mr. Lax downplays structure in order to allow his students to push themselves.

Point paragraph

State the point

Finally, Ms. Strict enforces high standards for her students' written work.

Provide supporting details

She collects homework every day at the beginning of class; to turn it in five minutes late is to turn it in a whole day late. Every piece of writing, whether it is a journal entry or a formal essay, must be typed and stapled. Last but not least, all homework must display a sophisticated level of thinking and writing.

Use appropriate transitions

Transitions are important in comparison / contrast writing to avoid confusion. Without transitions, the points you are comparing / contrasting may blur into one another. Also, a variety of transitions prevent monotony.

For comparison:

Like, compared to, similar to, similarly, by analogy, likewise, in the same way, as well, both, too

For contrast:

Unlike, conversely, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, still, although, while, but, even though, although, despite, yet, regardless, on the one hand … one the other hand

Conclusion

The conclusion of a comparison essay is just as important as the introduction. The conclusion seals the comparison essay and tries to close the issue. Conclusion is the last part of the essay that your reader will experience.

Summarize the similarities and / or difference of the subjects

Thus, Ms. Strict and Mr. Lax both accomplish their goals of motivating their students to do excellent work, though they do so in very different ways: while Ms. Strict emphasizes the high standards she expects everyone can meet, Mr. Lax uses a more personal approach.

Emphasize the thesis and say why this topic is important

Their success demonstrates the importance of diversity in a school community: different students respond to different teaching styles. So rather than viewing their instructors as a monolithic "enemy" intent on making them suffer, students should recognize how they benefit from the variety of ways their teachers inspire them.

Finalizing your Work

Pay attention that even though your essay is fully written, it still isn’t ready to submission.

There are some common and annoying mistakes which may significantly harm your grade. However, you can avoid those grade lowering mistakes by completing the following checklist:

  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Ensure that your essay is fully compliant with the required formatting standard
  • Properly organize all the citations and the References / Works Cited page
  • Ensure that your title page is done as required
  • Take a final look at your paper to be certain that everything is indeed fine
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