What is a comparative essay?
A comparative essay asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare
- positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
- theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
- figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
- texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamletand Macbeth)
- events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)
Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.
Make sure you know the basis for comparison
The assignment sheet may say exactly what you need to compare, or it may ask you to come up with a basis for comparison yourself.
- Provided by the essay question: The essay question may ask that you consider the figure of the gentleman in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations and Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The basis for comparison will be the figure of the gentleman.
- Developed by you: The question may simply ask that you compare the two novels. If so, you will need to develop a basis for comparison, that is, a theme, concern, or device common to both works from which you can draw similarities and differences.
Develop a list of similarities and differences
Once you know your basis for comparison, think critically about the similarities and differences between the items you are comparing, and compile a list of them.
For example, you might decide that in Great Expectations, being a true gentleman is not a matter of manners or position but morality, whereas in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, being a true gentleman is not about luxury and self-indulgence but hard work and productivity.
The list you have generated is not yet your outline for the essay, but it should provide you with enough similarities and differences to construct an initial plan.
Develop a thesis based on the relative weight of similarities and differences
Once you have listed similarities and differences, decide whether the similarities on the whole outweigh the differences or vice versa. Create a thesis statement that reflects their relative weights. A more complex thesis will usually include both similarities and differences. Here are examples of the two main cases:
- Differences outweigh similarities:
While Callaghan’s “All the Years of Her Life” and Mistry’s “Of White Hairs and Cricket” both follow the conventions of the coming-of-age narrative, Callaghan’s story adheres more closely to these conventions by allowing its central protagonist to mature. In Mistry’s story, by contrast, no real growth occurs.
- Similarities outweigh differences:
Although Darwin and Lamarck came to different conclusions about whether acquired traits can be inherited, they shared the key distinction of recognizing that species evolve over time.
Come up with a structure for your essay
- Alternating method: Point-by-point patternIn the alternating method, you find related points common to your central subjects A and B, and alternate between A and B on the basis of these points (ABABAB …). For instance, a comparative essay on the French and Russian revolutions might examine how both revolutions either encouraged or thwarted innovation in terms of new technology, military strategy, and the administrative system.
A Paragraph 1 in body new technology and the French Revolution B Paragraph 2 in body new technology and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 3 in body military strategy and the French Revolution B Paragraph 4 in body military strategy and the Russian Revolution A Paragraph 5 in body administrative system and the French Revolution B Paragraph 6 in body administrative system and the Russian Revolution
Note that the French and Russian revolutions (A and B) may be dissimilar rather than similar in the way they affected innovation in any of the three areas of technology, military strategy, and administration. To use the alternating method, you just need to have something noteworthy to say about both A and B in each area. Finally, you may certainly include more than three pairs of alternating points: allow the subject matter to determine the number of points you choose to develop in the body of your essay.
When do I use the alternating method? Professors often like the alternating system because it generally does a better job of highlighting similarities and differences by juxtaposing your points about A and B. It also tends to produce a more tightly integrated and analytical paper. Consider the alternating method if you are able to identify clearly related points between A and B. Otherwise, if you attempt to impose the alternating method, you will probably find it counterproductive.
- Block method: Subject-by-subject patternIn the block method (AB), you discuss all of A, then all of B. For example, a comparative essay using the block method on the French and Russian revolutions would address the French Revolution in the first half of the essay and the Russian Revolution in the second half. If you choose the block method, however, do not simply append two disconnected essays to an introductory thesis. The B block, or second half of your essay, should refer to the A block, or first half, and make clear points of comparison whenever comparisons are relevant. (“Unlike A, B . . .” or “Like A, B . . .”) This technique will allow for a higher level of critical engagement, continuity, and cohesion.
A Paragraphs 1–3 in body How the French Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation B Paragraphs 4–6 in body How the Russian Revolution encouraged or thwarted innovation
When do I use the block method? The block method is particularly useful in the following cases:
- You are unable to find points about A and B that are closely related to each other.
- Your ideas about B build upon or extend your ideas about A.
- You are comparing three or more subjects as opposed to the traditional two.
We often hear phrases that begin with “In contrast to…”. Moreover, students often face assignments where they have to compare two or more things based on some reasoned criteria. Since elementary school where kids are asked to compare apple with the orange, we face the question of contrast and choice almost every day. Thus, this type of task is relevant for all ages. We’re going to discuss how to write comparison and contrast essay based on the most relevant academic materials and internet sources.
When you write an introduction with thesis, you have to stress what you’re going to compare and contrast. In fact, words “compare” and “contrast” are synonyms. You should choose a specific topic in order not to waste time on many other subjects that can be compared. To begin your paper, search for good examples which you can download or view for free on the web. A compare and contrast essay example makes the majority of students wonder whether they need just to compare, just to contrast, or mix those two processes. Some people do not see the difference between these two. So, before you write different essays of this type, you must understand whether there any difference between comparison and contrast. Anyway, you should write about:
- General information on two topics
That is why it is recommended to take no more than 2 subjects at a time to write about. Well, some teachers prefer reading short summaries instead of detailed analysis, so they would love to see a comparison essay only. Others make the assignment more complex by asking to point to the similar features in a separate paragraph as well. After all, your essay would be too short with different points mentioned only.
How to Write a Compare Essay Introduction and Other Parts?
Because it is hard to find two 100% opposite things to compare, you will find at least one similarity for sure. No matter what you are asked to write about, your thesis statement must reflect your professor's expectations. Thus, if I had a desire to write about Social Networking sites like Facebook or Twitter, I'd have to come up with different thesis sentences according to my compare/contrast assignment. The final organization of your essay should look like:
- Introduction with powerful thesis
- 3-5 body paragraphs
- Discussion (if needed)
Compare and contrast essay is that type of task that do not require massive research and a lot of sources. Of course, if you write about something you know better than others. However, there are some exceptions. Comparing basketball and football, dancing and playing guitar, dogs and beavers is an easy deal as you basically know the differences and similarities of these pairs. Besides, they are all coming from the same groups (sports, creative activities, and animals respectively). It is recommended to choose your subjects from one field before you write a compare essay. Using research is crucial when the time comes to write compare and contrast essay on things you know worse. I.e., when you are asked to compare more complicated things like balance sheets of company A and company B, you might want more specific information for your further paper.
Pick Comparison & Contrast Essay Topics
We are often asked this question by students and even professionals of all ages. Marketing specialists often need to write about differences between various marketing analysis in order to discover and discuss what works better for company’s profitability. Anyway, how you write your contrast essay depends on how well you understand tutor’s instructions and whether you make a decision to start working for his or her improved academic performance. Does it seem too difficult to write comparison paper all alone? Sometimes it is better to leave the job to someone else, especially when you are not sure in own competence. Under “someone” students usually mean professional and trusted online academic companies. Today, every student can turn to creative academic writers that are eager to compare and contrast everything at the highest level in just one essay: from two, three to ten subjects at a time. You just need to mention whether you require a more artistic or official approach. The example of a good comparison or contrast essay may be (in case you have to choose topic on your own):
- Hitler vs. Stalin
- World War I and World War II
- Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings
- Russian Literature and American Literature
- McDonald’s vs. Burger King
You need to make your contrast essay related to your course readings, of course. If we deal with philosophy, most probably students would write about different concepts of freedom, equality, and justice in civic life. It also makes sense to find out what is the same and what is different between legal and ethical aspects of human life. Pay attention to the syllabus when you have to write a compare and contrast essay. It is full of great ideas for your introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. This paper usually has a list of good sources as well. By using them, you increase your chances of getting the highest grade. Let’s look at the structure of your future compare essay once again before you write:
- The title page should have “Running Head:” and an abbreviated Title flush left and the Page Number flush right. It works for APA and Chicago style only.
- Write your title at the bottom of your page and repeat it in the middle before your introduction.
- Your introduction should have a specific thesis.
- Compare and contrast things in the body paragraphs.
- Your conclusion should include a brief discussion of the main points.
- Don’t forget to cite every source properly and recall all sources in bibliography!
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