A view of earth below Saturn's rings, earth is the tiny white speck on the right.
. . .every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. –Carl Sagan
Why a compare/contrast essay?
In college, 90% of the papers students write will be in third person. This can be a struggle for some. I have students write the compare/contrast essay next because it is an easy genre for them to develop topics and ideas while they master writing in third person. Students will also need to develop clear and concise thesis statements that identify the point and purpose of their essays while breaking their subjects down into logically developed paragraphs and essays. Since we compare and/or contrast things all of the time, students will spend less time struggling to find a topic and more time working on the necessary skills to conquer this kind of paper. Here are a couple of examples. If a photographer wants a new camera, that person may contrast Canon and Nikon. If another person wants a new cell phone, that shopper may contrast Samsung and Apple. In these two examples, the writers would develop criteria for contrasting the two companies' and their products, and then based upon their criteria, they would identify which item they would purchase. This is one of the basic examples of how we use compare/contrast every day. Another way we use comparison contrast is through juxtaposition. Juxtaposition places two items close together to create a specific effect, or so readers or viewers can draw conclusions by comparing their similarities or contrasting their differences.
Understanding the basics of compare/contrast. . .
First, what is the difference between comparing two items and contrasting two items? If we want to examine the similarities between two items, we compare them. If we want to look at their differences, then we contrast them. However, there must be some basis for comparison in order to write a comparison/contrast essay. For example, I would not compare/contrast an apple with a flight attendant. I would not contrast a dog and a peanut. There must be some basis for comparing the two items. For example, the photographer who is contrasting Nikon and Canon is contrasting cameras. But, even that is vague. I would want to make sure that I am contrasting the same type of camera: two DSLRs with similar qualities: cost, number of pixels, lenses, other miscellaneous items that may be included with the purchase. If I contrast a regular Nikon 35mm film camera with a Canon Rebel DSLR, I am not going to be able to draw clear conclusions if I am thinking about buying one of them. They are completely different kinds of cameras.
The Thesis Statement
The thesis statement is the hardest and most important sentence in a paper. It identifies the topic and purpose of the paper. Thesis statements should always be written in third person. There are two kinds of thesis statements: a basic thesis statement and a listing thesis statement.
Basic Thesis Statement
Despite a slightly higher price, the Nikon D7000 is a better value than the Canon 60D.
Listing Thesis Statement
By contrasting price, image quality, shutter speed and the auto-focus system, it is clear that the Nikon D7000 provides more camera for a slightly higher price than the Canon 60D.
The listing thesis statement acts like a check list. The information should be covered in the order listed in the thesis statement. Thus, the first body paragraph would be on price, the second body paragraph on image quality, the third on shutter speed, and the fourth on the auto-focus system. You should have at least three criterion that you use to compare or contrast.
There are two basic formats for the compare/contrast essay: block and point and point. Block divides the essay in half with one body paragraph covering one side the other body paragraph covering the other side. So, if I was contrasting a Nikon DSLR with a similar priced Canon DSLR, one body paragraph would cover Nikon and one would cover Canon.
II. Nikon DSLR
B. Image Quality
C. Shutter Speed
D. The Auto-focus System
III. Canon 60D
B. Image Quality
C. Shutter Speed
D. The Auto-focus System
A. Nikon D7000
B. Canon 60D
III. Image Quality
A. Nikon D7000
B. Canon 60D
IV. Shutter Speed
A. Nikon D7000
B. Canon 60D
V. The Auto-focus System
A. Nikon D7000
B. Canon 60D
The introduction is the hook. It is said that first impressions are the most important. This is especially true for essays. You only have one opportunity to hook your readers and get them involved, so you need to look at imaginative ways to begin your papers. Some ways to introduce the topic and get the reader involved include telling a story that is related to the topic, ask a question and the thesis answers it, ask a rhetorical question that has no answer but introduces the reader to the subject matter. The final sentence of the introduction is the thesis statement.
Begin with Narrative - contrasting bike frames and componentry
I used to bike race both mountain and road bikes. If I was writing a contrast essay describing the differences between mountain and road bikes, I could describe what it is like to race down a hill doing 50 mph.
Begin with a question - topic - choosing the best smartphone
So, which is better, the Galaxy S5 or the iPhone 5s?
Begin with rhetorical question - contrasting two Vegas resorts
Does what happen in Vegas really stay in Vegas?
Conclusions utilize short sentences that address key points in the essay. Tie the introduction to the conclusion. If you began with a quote, refer to that quote again and draw more conclusions from the information. If you began with the story, go back to the story to draw final conclusions from it. If you began with a question that can be answered. then return to that question and answer it.
Online Textbook and Readings
Power Point Lectures
The thesis statement is the sentence or sentences that identify the topic and purpose of the essay. See the presentation below or download it.
Thesis-Statements-mb-ppFormatting the Compare/Contrast Essay
- Be sure and utilize MLA formatting for the paper:
- 1" margins all around the paper.
- Double spaced
- A header on the top right hand corner 1/2" from the top of the paper should include:
- Last name and then leave a space and the page number
- On the first page on the left hand side include:
- Your full name
- My Name
- Course Title
- Be sure and type both the rough draft and final essay.
- Click on the image below to see the full-scale version of the first page of an MLA formatted paper.
Wolff, Tobias. "On Being a Real Westerner." Radford Universeity. Web, 8 July 2013.
Writing the Comparison/Contrast
- Write a 2-3 page comparison/contrast essay
- Choose a topic suitable for college;
- Avoid contrasting motorcycles and cars, cats and dogs, Pepsei and Coke;
- Choose a topic that you already know a lot about;
- This essay must be in third person;
- It should be about 2 pages long;
- Once you have written your rough draft, upload here.
- Then click on the 'Next' button.
- Use the "Editing Sheet" on the next page to edit your paper. The questions on the edit sheet are designed to help edit your paper and catch common mistakes that students make.
- Students will learn to read critically and evaluate professional compare/contrast models.
- Students will improve writing skills through a step-by-step process.
- Students will use a third person point of view.
- Students will present a thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraphs.
- Students will present the information in a well-organized and logical structure.
- Students will support the thesis statement by utilizing vivid details and examples for each side.
- Students will word process their papers using programs such as Microsoft Word.
- Students will format their papers according to MLA Guidelines. See Purdue OWL example.
- Click the "Submit" button and follow the directions for submitting your work.
Why a compare/contrast essay? Students learn to differentiate between two or more objects seeing how they are similar or how they are different. Writers must choose item that have a "basis" of comparison (something that they both share in common) before they can see the differences between them. For example, I could contrast apples and oranges because they are both fruit, or I could contrast Dell computers with Apples because they both are brands of computers. "Fruit" or "computer" would be the basis in comparison for each of these topics.
Comparison/contrast is important because it is a useful tool for critical decision-making. Whether you are buying a new car or choosing a university, it is important to master the art of this critical writing and thinking skill.
Note: you do not have to write on time and money management skills. I am using this topic as an example.
Assignment in 4 or 5 paragraph format
For example, I could compare time and money management skills. I would show how these two skills are very similar. Then I would state in my conclusion why these skills are important.
Begin by creating a list of the similarities and differences between the two skills. I could create a table to show this.
Under each item, I would list the steps and skills I have learned for budgeting time and money.
Write specific details, definitions, observations, examples for each item.
Examine both sides and see how they are similar and how they are different.
Free write on this topic.
Transform the topic into a guiding question?
How do time and money management skills impact student success?
Next compare your guiding question with your free write.
Write a thesis statement that answers your guiding question.
Using this as an example, pick a topic and use the above steps to create a rough draft.
Either edit the paper yourself or have someone else peer edit it using the peer edit sheet in assignment 5.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License by Lynn McClelland.
Compare and Contrast Essay Writing
A compare and contrast essay is a type of essay which is used to explore both the similarities and the differences between two subjects by comparing and contrasting them against each other.
A comparison seeks to present the similarities of two objects whereas a contrast aims at exposing the differences between two objects. Compare and contrast essays are popular in academic writing. The comparison and contrast may be a fraction of an essay or may constitute the entire essay. An essay may include only a comparison, contrast or both. A contrast and compare essay’s goal may be to assist the readers to make a decision on a particular topic of argument. Another aim of this type of essay may be to develop critical and analytical thinking capacities in the minds of the audience.
COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY RUBRIC
Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
A compare and contrast essay outline consists of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The introduction and conclusion are often standard paragraphs written at the beginning and end of an essay respectively. An introduction is an overview of the rest of the essay and should contain a strong thesis statement that comprehensively states the essay’s purpose.
There are two primary manners to outline or structure the body of a compare and contrast essay:
- The first way is using a block structure also called a subject to subject or a whole to the whole structure. In this fashion, an essay writer compares and contrasts all the information of a single subject or item first. The comparison and contrast of the second subject are listed after that and follows the same order as the first. A transition paragraph or sentence often divides the two paragraphs above.
- The second system is a point by point structure. In a point by point system, each point is discussed in a single paragraph. Both subjects are discussed under the same point in each paragraph. It is advised to start and end with the same subject for each point to maintain consistency. The type of structure used depends on the essay writer and the advantages of each structure. A point by point structure is clearer and more explicit whereas the block structure is easier to write.
60 SUCCESSFUL COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY TOPICS
How to Start Compare and Contrast Essay
Once a teacher gives students the two subject to be compared and contrasted, the students first go out and seek information about both topics. The first step is to identify the differences and similarities in the information. Then a way to sort out and organize the above information is sought and utilized. The best and most common way of starting such an essay is to draw a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a very helpful organizational tool. It consists of two circles that overlap creating a single overlapping area and two non-overlapping areas.
The diagram is then used to filter the information. The similar properties of the two subjects are written in the overlapping area while contrasting features are written in their respective non-overlapping areas. One can also use a table to classify the information presented in a clear and manageable way. Tables are relatively straightforward and easy to use.
How to Conclude Compare and Contrast Essay
The conclusion of a compare and contrast essay should be able to summarize the major points presented in the body of the essay. It should, however, go beyond a simple analysis. The conclusion should be an evaluation of the points given above. It should present the overall aim of the essay’s discussion. Often, a paraphrased version of the thesis statement contained in the introduction is provided in the conclusion.
The concluding paragraph, in essence, should show the significance of why the essay writer compared and contrasted the two subjects that were in question. Moreover, the conclusion should contain a vivid presentation of the opinion of the essay writer on the topic of discussion.
Compare and Contrast Essay Writing Tips
A good topic should interest readers and hold their attention. It should also aid the writer to demonstrate his writing skills through the essay. The subjects to be discussed should also be easily comparable to make distinctions as clear as possible. Information on the two subjects should be wide reaching and easily acquirable to ensure the writer has plenty of material for the essay. Choosing the essay structure that suits the writer is an important part of writing a good compare and contrast essay. A proper outline gives the essay clarity and helps the organization of the work. The structure of the essay’s body determines the shape of the entire work.
The essay structure could highlight the writer weaknesses or strengths and should be decided with the utmost of care. Use of appropriate transitioning signals is crucial. These are words, phrases, and expressions that show the reader the relationship between subjects. Such words should be undoubtedly clear whether they indicate contrast or showcase similarities. Transition signals should also be placed at the correct point in a sentence or paragraph. Feel free to use this sample essay as a model for your own compare and contrast essay.
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