The purpose of a compare and contrast essay is to analyze the differences or similarities of two different topics. A good compare and contrast essay not only points out how the topics are similar or different (or even both) but uses those points to make a meaningful argument about the topics. While it can be a bit intimidating to tackle this type of essay at first, with a little work and practice you can write a great comparison and contrast essay.
Part 1 of 4: Formulate Your Argument
Step 1. Choose two topics that can be compared and contrasted
The first step in writing a successful comparison and contrast essay is to choose two topics that are different enough to be compared. There are several things to consider when choosing themes:
- You can choose two topics that are in the same "category" but have differences that are significant in some way. For example, you can choose "homemade pizza vs. frozen pizza from the supermarket."
- You can choose two themes that don't seem to have anything in common but have surprising similarities. For example, you can choose to compare bats and whales. One is tiny and flies, and the other is huge and nothing, but they both use sonar to hunt.
- You can choose two topics that may look the same, but are actually different. For example, you can choose "The Hunger Games movie vs. the book."
Step 2. Make sure the topics can be discussed in a meaningful way
"Meaningful" comparisons and contrasts do more than simply point out that "topic A and topic B are both similar and different." A good comparison essay will help readers understand why it is useful or interesting to put these two topics together.
- For example, ask yourself the following question: what can we learn by thinking about The Hunger Games and Battle Royale together that we would miss if we thought about them separately?
- It may be helpful to consider the question "so what?" when deciding whether topics have meaningful comparisons and contrasts that can be made. If you said "The Hunger Games and Battle Royale are both similar and different" and your friend asked you "so what?", What would your response be? In other words, why go to the trouble of putting these two things together?
Step 3. Brainstorm your topic
You probably can't go straight from deciding a topic to having a thesis, and that's fine. Take some time to brainstorm the ways your chosen topics are similar and different. This will help you see which points are the main ones to focus on and can help guide you when formulating your thesis.
- A Venn diagram can often be helpful when brainstorming. This set of overlapping circles can help you visualize where your topics are similar and where they differ. On the outer edges of the circle, write what is different and, in the overlapping area in the center, write what is similar.
- You can also simply write a list of all the qualities or characteristics of each topic. Once you've done this, start looking through the list for traits that both themes share. It is also good to take note of the important points of difference.
Step 4. Consider your main points
You won't be able to provide a list of each and every way the topics are similar or different in your essay (and that's not the point anyway). Instead, pick a few points that seem particularly important.
- For example, if you are comparing and contrasting cats and dogs, you may notice that they are both common household pets, fairly easy to adopt, and generally do not have many special care needs. These are points of comparison (ways they are similar).
- You may also notice that cats are generally more independent than dogs, that dogs may not cause allergies as much as cats, and that cats do not grow as large as many dogs. These are points of contrast (ways they are different).
- These points of contrast can often be good places to start thinking about your thesis or argument. Do these differences make an animal a superior type of pet? Or a better pet choice for a specific life situation (eg an apartment, a farm, etc.)?
Step 5. Develop your thesis
There are many directions a comparison and contrast thesis can take, but you should always have an argument that explains why it is helpful to put these two topics together in the first place. For instance:
- Show readers why one topic is more desirable than the other. Example: "Cats are better pets than dogs because they require less maintenance, are more independent, and are more adaptable."
- Help readers make a meaningful comparison between two topics. Example: "New York and San Francisco are very good cities for young professionals, but they differ in terms of their job opportunities, social settings, and living conditions."
- Show readers how two topics are similar and different. Example: "While both The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird explore the themes of loss of innocence and the deep bond between siblings, To Kill a Mockingbird is more interested in racism, while The Catcher in the Rye focuses on class prejudices. "
- In high school, the standard format for essays is often the "5-paragraph format," with an introduction, 3 body paragraphs, and a conclusion. If your teacher recommends this format, use it. However, you should be aware that, especially in college, teachers tend to want students to come out in this limited way. Don't get so focused on having "three main points" that you forget to fully explore the topic.
Part 2 of 4: Organize the essay
Step 1. Choose a structure
There are several ways to organize a compare and contrast essay. Which one you choose will depend on what works best for your ideas. Remember: you can change the organization later if you decide it is not working.
- Topic by topic. This organization deals with all the points on topic A, then all the points on topic B. For example, we could discuss all the points about frozen pizza (in as many paragraphs as needed) and then all the points about pizza. homemade. The strength of this form is that you don't jump as much from topic to topic, which can help your essay read more fluently. It can also be useful if you are using one subject as a "lens" through which you will examine the other. The main disadvantage is that the comparisons and contrasts do not become apparent until much later in the essay, and it may end up reading as a list of "points" rather than a cohesive essay.
- Point by point. This type of organization changes from point to point constantly. For example, you can first discuss the prices of frozen pizza vs. The homemade pizza, then the quality of the ingredients, then the comfort factor. The advantage of this way is that it is very clear what you are comparing and contrasting. The downside is that you constantly switch from topic to topic, so you have to make sure to use transitions and pointers to guide your reader through your argument.
- Compare and then contrast. This organization presents all comparisons first and then all contrasts. It's a fairly common way to organize an essay, and it can be useful if you really want to emphasize how your topics are different. Putting the contrasts last places the emphasis on them. However, it may be more difficult for your readers to immediately see why these two topics are contrasting if all the similarities meet first.
Step 2. Make an outline of your essay
Sketching your essay will help you figure out the main organizational structure and give you a template to follow as you develop your ideas. Regardless of how you decide to organize your essay, you will still need to have the following types of paragraphs:
- Introduction. This paragraph comes first and presents the basic information on the topics to be compared and contrasted. It should present your thesis and the direction of your essay (that is, what you will be discussing and why readers should care).
- Body paragraphs. These are the heart of your essay, where you provide the details and the evidence to support your claims. Each different section or body paragraph should address the different evidence for the argument. You must provide and analyze evidence in order to connect that evidence to and support your thesis. Many high school essays may require only three body paragraphs, but use as many as necessary to fully convey your argument.
- Recognition of competitive arguments or concession. This paragraph acknowledges that there are other counterarguments, but discusses how these arguments are flawed or not applicable.
- Conclusion. This paragraph summarizes the evidence presented. You will restate the thesis, but generally in a way that offers more information or sophistication than the introduction. Remember: your audience now has all the information you gave them about why your argument is strong. They do not need you to simply express the original thesis in other words. Take it to the next level!
Step 3. Summarize the body paragraphs based on the topic-to-topic comparison
Let's say you're working on the following statement: "When deciding between going camping in the woods or spending a day at the beach, one should consider the following points: the weather, the types of activities each location offers, and the services at each location. Location". A topic-by-topic comparison would deal with the forest first and then the beach. This method of organization can be difficult to handle, so if you choose, make sure you don't let your paragraphs turn into page-size checklists on each topic. Anyway, you can have one paragraph per point on each topic; you will simply put together all the paragraphs on each topic. A topic-by-topic summary of the body paragraphs might look like this:
- Introduction: State your intention to discuss the differences between camping in the woods and going to the beach.
- Body paragraph 1 (forest): climate or weather
- Body paragraph 2 (forest): types of activities and services
- Body paragraph 3 (beach): climate or weather
- Body paragraph 4 (beach): types of activities and services
Step 4. Summarize the body paragraphs based on a point-by-point comparison
This is the most common method used in the comparison and contrast assay. You can write a paragraph about each characteristic of both locations, comparing the locations in the same paragraph. For example, in this case, you could write a paragraph describing the weather in both the forest and the beach, a paragraph describing the activities at each location, and a third describing the services at both. Here's how the essay might look:
Body paragraph 1: the first one discusses the difference between the forest and the beach: the climate or the weather
Body paragraph 2: Discuss the second difference between the forest and the beach: types of activities
Body Paragraph 3: Discuss the third difference between the forest and the beach: the services available
Step 5. Summarize the body paragraphs based on compare then contrast
This type of organization works best for when you want to emphasize the contrasts between topics. First, discuss how the themes are similar. Then finish with how they differ (and generally how one is superior). Here's how your essay might look with this organization:
- Body paragraph 1: similarity between the forest and the beach (both are places with a wide variety of things to do)
- Body paragraph 2: first difference between the forest and the beach (they have different climates)
- Body paragraph 3: second difference between forest and beach (there are more easily accessible forests than beaches, or vice versa, depending on where you live)
- Body paragraph 4: emphasis on the superiority of the forest or the beach, depending on what is discussed in paragraph 3
Step 6. Organize your individual body paragraphs
Once you've chosen an organizational method for your body paragraphs, you should have an internal organization for the body paragraphs themselves. Each of the body paragraphs should have the following three elements:
- Topic Sentence: This sentence introduces the idea and main topic of the paragraph. You can also provide a transition from the ideas in the previous paragraph.
- Body: These sentences provide concrete evidence that supports the topic sentence and main idea.
- Conclusion: This sentence rounds out the ideas in the paragraph. You can also provide a link to the ideas in the next paragraph.
Part 3 of 4: Put it all together
Step 1. Use the ideas from your brainstorming to fill out the sketch
Once you've drafted your essay, it should be fairly simple to find evidence for your arguments. Look at the lists and diagrams you generated to help you find the evidence for your comparisons and contrasts.
If you have trouble finding evidence to support your argument, go back to the original texts and try the brainstorming process again. It could be that your argument is evolving beyond where it started, which is good! You just have to go back and look for more evidence
Step 2. Remember to explain the "why"
A common mistake many writers make is letting comparisons and contrasts "speak for themselves" rather than explaining why it is useful or important to put the topics together. Don't just provide a list of "ways that topic A and topic B are similar and different." In your body paragraphs, as well as your conclusion, remind readers of the meaning of your evidence and argument.
For example, in a body paragraph on the quality of ingredients in frozen pizza vs. For the homemade pizza, you could conclude with a statement like this: "Because you actively control the quality of the ingredients in pizza made at home, it may be healthier than frozen pizza. It may also allow you to express your imagination. Pineapple peanut butter pizza? Why not! Pickles and Parmesan cheese? Go ahead! Using your own ingredients allows you to have fun with your food. " This type of comment helps your reader understand why the ability to choose your own ingredients makes homemade pizza better
Step 3. Give it a title
"Essay number one" can tell you exactly what the essay is, but it won't score points for style. A good title will anticipate something about the argument or topic of the essay. Depending on the audience and the situation, you can make a joke or pun, ask a question, or provide a summary of your main point.
Step 4. Take a break
One of the most common mistakes student writers make is not giving themselves enough time to get away from their essays for a day or two. Start early so that you can let the finished eraser sit for a day or at least a few hours. Then come back to him with fresh eyes. It will be easier for you to detect errors in your logic or organizational failures if you have had time to take a break.
Reading your essay out loud can also help you find trouble spots. Often when you're writing, you get so used to what you meant that you don't read what you actually said
Step 5. Review your essay
Look for any grammatical mistakes, confusing expressions, and repetitive ideas. Find a balance in your essay: you should provide about the same amount of information on each topic to avoid bias. Here are some things to consider before submitting your essay:
- Avoid bias. Don't use overly negative or defamatory language to show why a topic is unfavorable; Instead, use solid evidence to prove your points.
- Avoid first-person pronouns unless told otherwise. In some cases, your teacher may encourage the use of the first and second person in your essay. However, if the assignment or your teacher doesn't mention it, stick to the third person instead, like "one can see" or "people can enjoy." This is common practice for formal academic essays.
- Check out! Spelling and punctuation mistakes happen to anyone, but missing them can make you look sloppy. Review your essay carefully and ask a friend to help you if you are not confident in your own proofreading abilities.
Part 4 of 4: Sample Body Paragraphs
Step 1. Write a body paragraph for a point-by-point comparison and contrast essay
This is a sample paragraph that uses point-by-point comparison:
When deciding whether to go to the beach or the forest, the type of activities that each location offers is an important point to consider. At the beach, one can enjoy the water by swimming, surfing, or even building a sand castle with a moat that fills with water. When you are in the forest, you can go fishing or swim in a nearby lake, or you may not be near the water at all. At the beach, you can keep your children entertained by burying them in the sand or playing with a soccer ball, if you are in the forest, you can entertain your children by showing them different plants or animals. Both the beach and the forest offer a variety of activities for adults and children.
Step 2. Write a body paragraph for a topic-by-topic comparison and contrast essay
This is a sample paragraph that uses topic-by-topic comparison:
The beach has a wonderful climate, many activities and great services for the everyday use of any visitor. If a person goes to the beach during the right day or time of year, they will be able to enjoy warm but refreshing water, a cool breeze and relatively hot weather. At the beach, one can swim, sunbathe, or build sand castles. There are also very good amenities on the beach, such as changing rooms, umbrellas, and conveniently located restaurants and changing facilities. services are important points to consider when deciding between the beach and the forest.
- Collect your sources. Mark page numbers on books, authors, titles, dates, or other relevant information. This will help you cite your sources later in the writing process.
- Use reputable sources. While Wikipedia can be an easy way to get started, try heading to more specific websites afterward. Many schools refuse to accept Wikipedia as a valid source of information and prefer sources with more expertise and credibility.
- Gather your resources. Mark page numbers in books, authors, titles, dates, or other applicable information. This will help you cite your sources later in the writing process.
- If you have external sources, be sure to forever quote them. Otherwise, you could be guilty of plagiarism.