Compare and contrast assignment sounds intimidating but with proper guidance and work play you will do it nicely. This task is very useful in that it teaches you to think and analyze beyond appearances. It is silly to write a paper comparing incomparable things or things that are obviously similar. But even you choose so it is possible to find more subtle comparison features and make an essay a real artwork. Take apples and oranges: fruits, used for juice and eaten for dessert. But is it all? What if we look deeper? Both apple and orange have become legendary subjects of myths and tales, they have been imported to America long ago but apple is considered a native fruit and orange is more of exotic in some regions with colder climate. Now the essay takes an unexpected turn into history and art, and this is good since you have looked beyond agricultural properties and moved to a higher level of observation.
So, a compare contrast essay is an essay that compares two (or more) subjects and finds similar and diverging features in them. But beyond that, you are welcomed to find deeper patterns of similarity and divergence and make more interesting assumptions about them. The example of apples and oranges can be summarized as evidence that even most ordinary subjects have some secrets to tell and that human memory works in very selective way. This is how good comparative essays work.
To begin with, get instructions and prompt from your professor and then decide what interests you and what you want to write about. Then research briefly to see if you have enough material to write about and confirm your subjects if required. Congratulations! You have already started writing compare contrast paper and this guide will lead you through most important steps up to getting a high grade.
Compare and Contrast Outline
Once you understood the instructions and selected the subjects, it is time to draft an outline. A good outline is half a paper. This is true for all kinds of essay, from school papers to a bachelor’s thesis. It is said with assumption that you have already done your research and know what you will discuss.
An outline will include all basic part in laconic form and it will steer you close to your topic without letting you to stray away or lose important ideas in the process of actual writing. So write down headings of introduction, main body and conclusion.
In the introduction devise a preliminary thesis. You can tweak it along the way but you need it to develop paragraphs. The intro can be written afterwards but the thesis is a backbone.
According to the thesis calculate how many paragraphs you will have: 2, 3 or more. For each paragraph write down a topic sentence. This topic sentence should reflect one particular point from the thesis. E.g., subjects are similar in this – one paragraph. Subjects are also similar in this – one more paragraph. But subject are in different contrast in this feature – one more paragraph. It is possible to include one more paragraph that somehow generalizes your findings and underscores their significance, like difference in price for similar gadgets makes clear for a customer what gadget to buy.
Now write down a reworded thesis to mark the conclusion and start drafting. Each paragraph already prompts what you will speak about so flesh it up with evidence, facts and examples. Do not forget to provide your reasoning after you provide evidence.
Compare and Contrast Structure
As mentioned, compare contrast essay is build up on the traditional framework of introduction, main body and conclusion. Introduction and conclusion are typical; it is the main body that contains comparison and contrast patterns.
Introduction is built around general background information and ends in a thesis. In this thesis you should already define what subjects will be contrasted and along what features.
Basically there are two approaches to shaping the body paragraphs and you probably used them without knowing their scholarly names. These approaches are Block structure (2 paragraphs paper) and Point by Point structure (3 paragraph paper).
Block structure means that information is presented in large blocks. Each block deals with one big aspect of the paper.
First, it can be similarities and dissimilarities each covered in separate blocks. First block lists similarities of subjects and second blocks lists contrasting/differing features.
Next, it can be that two subjects are examined individually in blocks. First block covers one subject in its main features and the second covers the second subject.
This structure is simpler and faster to complete but it confines more profound comparison and contrast to conclusion or leaves it out altogether. If you need to create a truly academic and persuasive paper opt for the second approach.
Point by point structure means that you pick several important distinctions features (usually three) and compare or contrast two subjects along these lines in separate paragraphs. It means that each point covers one important feature and within this point of discussion you are free to explain and show how subjects are different, why it is so and how it is significant for your argument. This structure makes your claims more evident and visual, which is good for perception.
So basically you have the following structure:
- Feature 1. Compare, find similarities or contrast two subjects according to this feature.
- Feature 2. Compare, find similarities or contrast subjects according to this feature.
- Feature 3. Compare, find similarities or contrast your subjects according to this feature.
It is important that you provide both features that make subjects alike and features that make them different. So select two features for paralleling subjects (otherwise you cannot compare them) and then provide a feature that marks a stark contrast between them. It would be a perfect structure of the essay of this type.
Conclusion summarizes your thesis but also adds some most impressive facts from the body and ends in some roundup point. It can be opinion, call to action or recommendation. It will make sense since you compare and contrast subjects with some overarching goal (for example, to say that you love your siblings no matter how different they are).
It is a good idea to write intro and conclusion after the main body is completed, since you will have clear understanding of the topic and its details.
Never omit references page, even if it is not mentioned directly in the instructions, if you used sources other than your imagination – cite them and list on the reference page. This will prevent any suspicion of plagiarism on your part.
It is impossible to write a good comparison and contrast essay without use of structure words that actually express comparative and contrast parallels and guide readers’ minds. Such words serve as road signs in any kind of lengthy writing because they point towards important matters and facts. In comparison and contrast writing such words are vital because without them the essay will look weak or illogical, in the first place.
These words can be divided into two categories: words designating similarity and parallelism and words designating opposition (contrast).
Similarity and parallelism marker words:
In the same way
Either . . . or
Neither . . . nor
In similar manner
Opposition (contrast) marker words:
To the contrary
In opposition to
On the one hand/on the other hand
Contrasting aspect is…
Use these words to structure your comparison and make clear what subjects are compared and what features serve as comparison benchmarks. Especially important these markers are in point by point structure where two subjects are compared or contrasted within the same paragraph. Thus pointing words are crucial to determine where this line of comparison runs.
Consider this example:
Jeff and John have always been very much alike in their appearances and it was easy to mix them up. They had same height, weight, hair color and cuts, their faces were indistinguishable from each other. But their taste in clothing always pointed to their identities. Jeff loved bright colors, nice clothes fresh off the stores rack and sneakers or sandals. John, in contrast, preferred dusty shades like olive, grey or light brown, wore what was found in his wardrobe and settled for old-fashioned shoes or flip flops. You see flip flops, you see John. Jeff and flip flops just would not go together under any circumstances. Never. Ever.
Here structure words introduce points of divergence and underscore that this difference was important. That’s how contrast and comparison works.
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