Choose two topics to compare. Through the supporting ideas you choose, show the reader how the two topics share important similarities or have significant differences.
Your essay will be stronger and the organization will have better clarity if you talk only about what is the same or different. This is not an opinion essay, so the purpose is not to convince the reader to think that one is better than the other or that they are equally good. The focus is just on describing what is the same or different, not assigning value or quality.
For the sake of instructions in this section of the textbook, compare will be used for explaining similarities and contrast will be used for discussing differences.
You can start researching for a comparison essay by thinking about a category of things you are interested in. For example, you could look at two different topics within any of bigger subjects:
Choose one subject area and make a list of the types of topics you can compare within that subject. You might want to type "types of " in a Google search (e.g., Types of natural disasters). Look at a list and choose two (e.g., hurricanes and tsunamis) to compare if you are having trouble making a list. An example of looking at various topics within a larger subject can be seen below:
Choose topics that are interesting to you personally! Any topic you are interested in can be made into an academic topic. You just need to see the activity or topic in a different way.
Having two topics that you can compare or contrast is often just the first step. You will need to focus even more by choosing what characteristics or functions you want to discuss. This combines with the controlling idea of similarities or differences to create the purpose of your essay.
Encyclopedias can be an excellent place to begin looking for information on your two topics. Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline.
Finding sources to support your ideas can be a challenge. Here is a list of the type of information you might want to find from a source:
Depending on your topics, an internet search for "differences between __ and __" or "similarities between __ and __" might give you helpful results.
Start with your topic sentences and thesis. Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas.
Thesis: There are notorious differences between Halloween and Day of the Dead.
TS 1: Even though both celebrations focus on the supernatural world, their histories are completely different.
TS 2: The activities that people do during these celebrations are distinctive.
TS 3: The purpose varies for each of these traditions.
Restated Thesis: To sum up, these characteristics show how much diversity there is between Halloween and Day of the Dead.
Your introduction should describe in general terms the topics that you will be comparing.
At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should write your thesis. The thesis may list the categories that will be used for the comparisons in your body paragraphs. It may simply argue that the two topics are distinct.
Here are some phrases that are useful for writing a comparison thesis:
Even though they seem different, X and Y are both...
X and Y are both , but...
X and Y may share similar functions, yet...
An explicit thesis statement is one that includes a list of your main points that you will discuss in the essay. This essentially works as a map for the reader. The introduction provides context and direction for the whole essay. There are no surprises in the overall topics, although there will likely be specific details that are surprising to the reader.
An implicit thesis statement has a more general main idea because it does not give a specific direction for the rest of the essay. The topic sentences will not be hinted at in this sentence.
There is not necessarily a "better" way to write a thesis. Your teacher might want you to use a specific style or you may have a personal preference. However, often a restated thesis will be in the opposite style of the thesis in the introduction to provide variety.Body
Your body paragraphs should explain how or why your thesis sentence is true. You can organize your body paragraphs in two general ways: the block method or the point-by-point method. Here are two examples of how the same topics can be organized in both styles.
Example 1: Shopping
Body Paragraph 1: Shopping online
Body Paragraph 2: Shopping in a store
Example 1: Shopping
Body Paragraph 1: Options
Body Paragraph 2: Evaluation of products
Example 2: Seasons
Body Paragraph 1: Spring
Body Paragraph 2: Fall
*Optional Opposite POV Body Paragraph 3: more different than similar
Example 2: Seasons
Body Paragraph 1: Colorful
Body Paragraph 2: Mild weather
Body Paragraph 3: Seasonal holidays
Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then you should discuss your topics more generally and connect to what you described in the introduction. End your conclusion with a closing statement.
The outline for a compare/contrast essay can be very flexible. Read the example thesis below and compare it to each of the outlines. Each outline could be effective for this thesis.
TH: While learning a language as a child and learning a language as an adult both demonstrate similar linguistic needs, the process itself differs.
After your basic outline is done, use the researching strategies you have learned about to prepare all of the research you will need before you begin drafting.
Use the questions below to discuss this assignment before you begin.
Make a brainstorm idea map similar to the one above. Now that you have some options, choose your favorite. If aren't sure which one to talk about, consider the following questions:
Now that you have selected a person to write about, continue prewriting by deciding what characteristics or functions you want to discuss. Create a T chart like the one below to help you organize potential major details. It might look something like the one below:
Social Media: Similarities between TikTok and Instagram
-types of posts
-ages of users
Look at each list and decide which points are strongest or most interesting. You might be able to use points from different columns. Remember that you will be talking about how these points are different or similar. Choose three of the points to include as your major details.
Use the list from Exercise 3: Focusing the Topic to identify what type of information you need to learn from another source. You can do this by making a list of information you know off the top of your head and a list of things you need to learn (or double-check) to explain the points you chose.
Note: Wikipedia is an ok place to start. However, when you look for sources, try to make sure your source list is:
Revise thesis statements to be more effective for a comparison essay.
Use the topic sentences to create the thesis for this outline.
What advice would you give to the author of the following student outline? Is it an effective outline for a comparison essay?
Using the information, create a thesis for a comparison essay. Then write as many different outlines for your thesis as you can.
Some preliminary research about viruses and bacteria is presented in the T chart below. Experiment with both block and point-by-point organization.
This content is provided to you freely by BYU-I Books.
Access it online or download it at https://books.byui.edu/academic_b_writing/prewritingx.