Compare and Contrast

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The Compare/ Contrast Essay

First, let’s explain compare and contrast:

When we compare, we show our readers a subject's similarities. When we contrast, we show our readers a subject's differences.

Compare and Contrast essays are learning-process essays. You learn about your subject as you gather and organize information.

This type of essay takes a bit of organization, and it's this organizational process, this gathering of facts, that helps you learn as you go.

You will create lists of qualities or traits that each of your subjects has, and as you do this, you will discover insights to your subject that, at first glance, you may not have realized were there.

It’s like buying a new shirt. The moment you spread it out on your bed, you start seeing things you hadn't noticed in the store. Perhaps a button is loose, or the pocket is torn, or it's a size too big. But there's more! As an intelligent, probing writer you're going to ask questions of this shirt: why, what, where, when, how, who. Why are buttons on the collar? What other type of shirt does this shirt remind you of? Where was it made? When was it made? How did it get to your store and into your hands? Who made it? The questions are endless. But you must ask them to understand your subject. Using why, what, where, when, how, who, you to probe into the core and the reason this shirt exists.

The same type of probing and uncovering will happen to you as you outline your subject's qualities. You’ll discover all sorts of new things as you ask why, what, where, when, how, who, and as you uncover these new points, your essay will change. In the end, most essays end up far different than expected.

Your Thesis

You will offer a thesis, like in an argumentative essay, but in this essay, your thesis sets the tone of your paper. In other words, through your thesis, you want the reader to understand what you plan to compare or contrast.

Keep it simple: Your thesis will be one or two sentences on what you want to offer (your subject), and if you’re comparing or contrasting.

Getting Started

If possible, find an interesting subject about which you can write. This is important because your enthusiasm will show in your work.

This essay calls for an outline list: you are going to list the qualities of both subjects, qualities that can be compared, contrasted, or shared.

For example: let's say your comparing and contrasting surfing to snowboarding. Your first job is to list the qualities of each subject. From these qualities and your insight, you can then develop your thesis.

|Qualities of A: surfing |Shared Qualities |Qualities of B: snowboarding | |surf on water |both use a water medium |snowboard on snow | |need wetsuits and trunks |both require special clothing |need winter clothes and boots |

A thesis that will set the tone of your essay for the qualities above might read: Though surfing and snowboarding are done in different seasons, these sports have more similarities than differences.

Of course, the list above is incomplete, and, perhaps, not as academic is we would want it to be. But it’s a start. You keep listing qualities until you believe you have enough information to write a valid essay. A list of five to ten qualities works well for the average paper. But you may have to list twenty qualities to get five that will work for you. When listing, it is good to overdo it; this way, when you're ready to write your paper, you can weed out the qualities that won't work and pick the best of the bunch.

Three Parts

Opening: You will begin your essay, introducing the subjects you plan to compare and contrast and ending your fist paragraph with your thesis.

Body: text by text (first discuss all of A...
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