Compare or Contrast

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Academic Resource Center Wheeling Jesuit University

How Do I Write a Comparison/Contrast Essay?
Comparison = Similarity Contrast = Difference

Comparisons are discussions in which a student finds similarities between two or more ideas or things; contrasts, ON THE OTHER HAND (a popular but overused transition between concepts) are discussions in which a student indicates differences between two or more ideas or things. As you might sense from the previous sentence, comparison/contrast essays can be very dull without the use of some imagination, particularly in the use of transitions. There are several ways of writing a comparison/contrast essay, all of which depend on the choices of topic and the direction of the thesis: Mainly contrasting? For example, if you want to talk about why dogs and cats are different, comparison probably shouldn’t be a major component of the paper; while comparisons ought to be acknowledged in a contrast-heavy paper, they needn’t be developed beyond a paragraph or two, and probably toward the beginning of the paper, before the “meat” of the thesis. Mainly comparing? A paper centered largely on similarities would, of course, take a different approach. Say the topic is dogs and cats, but the thesis attempts to discuss why dogs and cats are similar (because of their status as the most popular domestic animals, perhaps, or because of the comfort both can afford to human beings). In a paper emphasizing comparison, acknowledge the contrasts, then spend the majority of the time discussing the similarities.

Different Ways to Organize Ideas in a Comparison/Contrast Essay

Beyond determining that an essay’s emphasis is similarity or difference, you also need to decide how you will present these similarities and/or differences. Is it better to explore one side completely, then the other (Block-by-Block method), or is it better to investigate the two items to be compared or contrasted...
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