- Determine the purpose and structure of comparison and contrast in writing.
- Explain organizational methods used when comparing and contrasting.
- Understand how to write a compare-and-contrast essay.
The Purpose of Comparison and Contrast in Writing
Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay, then, analyzes two subjects by comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.
Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.
Writing at Work
Comparing and contrasting is also an evaluative tool. In order to make accurate evaluations about a given topic, you must first know the critical points of similarity and difference. Comparing and contrasting is a primary tool for many workplace assessments. You have likely compared and contrasted yourself to other colleagues. Employee advancements, pay raises, hiring, and firing are typically conducted using comparison and contrast. Comparison and contrast could be used to evaluate companies, departments, or individuals.
Brainstorm an essay that leans toward contrast. Choose one of the following three categories. Pick two examples from each. Then come up with one similarity and three differences between the examples.
- Romantic comedies
- Internet search engines
- Cell phones
Brainstorm an essay that leans toward comparison. Choose one of the following three items. Then come up with one difference and three similarities.
- Department stores and discount retail stores
- Fast food chains and fine dining restaurants
- Dogs and cats
The Structure of a Comparison and Contrast Essay
The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.
Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.
Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader.
You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:
- According to the subjects themselves, discussing one then the other
- According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point
See Figure 10.1 “Comparison and Contrast Diagram”, which diagrams the ways to organize our organic versus conventional vegetables thesis.
Figure 10.1 Comparison and Contrast Diagram
The organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.
Given that compare-and-contrast essays analyze the relationship between two subjects, it is helpful to have some phrases on hand that will cue the reader to such analysis. See Table 10.3 “Phrases of Comparison and Contrast” for examples.
Table 10.3 Phrases of Comparison and Contrast
|one similarity||one difference|
|another similarity||another difference|
|in a similar fashion||whereas|
Writing a Comparison and Contrast Essay
First choose whether you want to compare seemingly disparate subjects, contrast seemingly similar subjects, or compare and contrast subjects. Once you have decided on a topic, introduce it with an engaging opening paragraph. Your thesis should come at the end of the introduction, and it should establish the subjects you will compare, contrast, or both as well as state what can be learned from doing so.
The body of the essay can be organized in one of two ways: by subject or by individual points. The organizing strategy that you choose will depend on, as always, your audience and your purpose. You may also consider your particular approach to the subjects as well as the nature of the subjects themselves; some subjects might better lend themselves to one structure or the other. Make sure to use comparison and contrast phrases to cue the reader to the ways in which you are analyzing the relationship between the subjects.
After you finish analyzing the subjects, write a conclusion that summarizes the main points of the essay and reinforces your thesis. See Chapter 15 “Readings: Examples of Essays” to read a sample compare-and-contrast essay.
Writing at Work
Many business presentations are conducted using comparison and contrast. The organizing strategies—by subject or individual points—could also be used for organizing a presentation. Keep this in mind as a way of organizing your content the next time you or a colleague have to present something at work.
Choose one of the outlines you created in Note 10.75 “Exercise 3”, and write a full compare-and-contrast essay. Be sure to include an engaging introduction, a clear thesis, well-defined and detailed paragraphs, and a fitting conclusion that ties everything together.
- A compare-and-contrast essay analyzes two subjects by either comparing them, contrasting them, or both.
- The purpose of writing a comparison or contrast essay is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities between two subjects.
- The thesis should clearly state the subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and it should state what is to be learned from doing so.
There are two main organizing strategies for compare-and-contrast essays.
- Organize by the subjects themselves, one then the other.
- Organize by individual points, in which you discuss each subject in relation to each point.
- Use phrases of comparison or phrases of contrast to signal to readers how exactly the two subjects are being analyzed.
This is a derivative of Writing for Success by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Thesis statements come in all shapes and sizes. For an essay or a research paper, they are a statement of the main point of the piece of writing.
For example, a thesis statement on the causes of the American Civil War might be: “While there were several specific causes of the Civil War, the overriding cause was the issues of the powers of the federal government vs. states’ rights.” The reader now knows that you are going to “prove” this main point in the body of your work.
For graduate students, who are looking at their theses and dissertations for a Master’s or Ph.D., the thesis statement is usually housed in a research question or problem. And this research question becomes the “thesis statement” in any proposal, abstract, as well as the introduction and conclusion to their works.
How to Write a Good Thesis
There are several ways to get a good thesis statement. Here are some good tips:
1. Begin with a question. The answer to your question can become your thesis statement.
Example: What are the benefits of natural latex?
Answer: A major benefit of natural latex is that its botanical elements are anti-microbial.
Example: Why do some politicians deny climate science?
Answer: Most politicians who deny climate science are from states that are heavily dependent upon fossil fuels for their economies.
2. Correlate your thesis to the type of essay or paper you are writing. Are you teaching; are you going to compare and contrast; are you putting forth an argumentative point of view? The purpose of your piece will also determine the type of thesis statement you create.
Example of Compare and Contrast Essay Thesis: In reality, geeks and goths have a lot more in common than one might think.
Example of Argumentative Essay Thesis: The electoral college is outdated in our modern democracy.
3. Make certain that your thesis can be proved. You cannot develop a thesis statement until you have enough information on the topic. Whether that information comes from your own experience and knowledge, or you must do research for that information, be certain you have enough to develop a major point.
Free Thesis Statement Generators :
Writing Your Effective Thesis Statement
Here is what a good thesis statement does:
- It makes some type of assertion. It is not just a fact. Facts are what you will use to back up your assertion
- It may take a position – the thesis statement should state what that position is.
- It will be the main idea that tells the reader what you plan to write about
- It is debatable, if it is a persuasive essay or paper.
- Even If the writing is expository, a narrative, or a book review in which a character analysis has been assigned, you will have a main idea or point to make.
You must also be sure that you are assertive in your thesis statement. You have no doubt, relative to what you point or opinion is. As well, keep your audience in mind as you form your thesis statement. Who are you writing for?
The thesis is a key component of your essay or paper. Because of this, it should be placed in the introductory paragraph, probably at the end. Generally, it will be a single sentence, but occasionally it is two – never more. And remember this: even a speech must have a thesis statement that is given to the audience very early on.
If You are Struggling
If you are still not sure how to write a thesis for a research paper or essay, you should know that you can access a thesis statement generator online. If you “google” the term, you will actually get over 3 million results. Students find that using a thesis generator for research paper general areas can actually give them great ideas for topics. And reading through the statements that a generator creates actually gives students great examples of how they should be written.
While there is no single template for a thesis statement, they should all provide a synthesis of what follows. And, if you provide a topic to a thesis generator, you will get several options from which to choose. One or more of them could pique an interest and lead you to a research area that you hadn’t thought of before.
An additional perk of some generators (even free ones) is that they will also provide an outline for a generated thesis. And this will give you a perfect road map for your research and writing.
When Thesis Statement Generators are Not Enough
Sometimes, an assigned topic is too complex; sometimes, it is just not of interest; sometimes an urgent deadline is a factor; and some students simply struggle with all types of writing. During these times, students will look for an college essay service that can provide more comprehensive help. Student have a variety of strengths and some challenges. But college does not discriminate among them, and the gen ed requirements will be in all content fields – scientific, literary, English comp, history, philosophy, and more. For students who are challenged, it helps to be able to say, “Can you help me write an essay,” in any of these content fields and get an expert in the field to provide a great rhetorical piece.
No matter what the academic level – high school, university BA program, master or Ph.D. study, students may struggle with a variety of types of writing. Unfortunately, by the time students are in college, they are not receiving teaching in writing. It is assumed that they already have strong foundations and methodology to construct all types of writing, and with clear thesis statements. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The best advice? If you struggle with any aspects or types of writing – analytical, summaries, discussions, theoretical pieces, or any form of essay or research paper – get the help you need from professionals.