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The Compare & Contrast Essay
Transcript of The Compare & Contrast Essay
The comparison/contrast essay requires that you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas, —usually two of them—, are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. Why do it?
By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to complete several tasks:
- make connections between texts or ideas
- engage in critical thinking
- go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis
When you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them. Notice that some topics ask only for comparison, others only for contrast, and others for both. Consider the following examples:
Consider these examples, noticing the language that is used to ask for the comparison/contrast and whether the comparison/contrast is only one part of a larger assignment:
Choose a particular idea or theme, such as romantic love, death, or nature, and consider how it is treated in two of the poems we have read this semester.
How do the different authors we have studied so far define and describe the oppression of women?
In the texts we've studied, women who were raised in different cultures offer differing accounts of their experiences and feelings concerning the way they are limited by society. What commonalities are there in these accounts? What factors do you think are responsible for their differences? Discovering Similarities and Differences
Making a Venn diagram or a chart can help you quickly and efficiently compare and contrast two or more things or ideas.
To make a Venn diagram, you will do the following:
draw some overlapping circles, one circle for each item you're considering.
in the central area where they overlap, list the traits the two items have in common.
In the areas that don't overlap, list the traits that make the things different. To make a chart, you will need to:
figure out what criteria you want to focus on in comparing the items.
list each of the criteria along the left side of the page
list the names of the items across the top.
You should then have a box per item for each criterion; you can fill the boxes in and then survey what you've discovered. http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/comparison_contrast.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYzGLzFuwxI Another way to organize your ideas is to use a Web. The Comparison Essay
An effective comparison attempts to demonstrate one of three general purposes:
Two things thought to be different are actually similar.
Two things thought to be similar are really quite different.
Two things, although comparable, are not equal--that is, one is better than the other. You will need to develop your comparison according to one of two strategies:
The Divided Pattern of Comparison (A +B)
The Alternating Pattern of Comparison (A/B + A/B) The Divided Pattern of Comparison (A + B)
The most common strategy for developing a comparison is called the divided pattern. As its name suggests, this strategy divides the comparison into two separate sections, devoting the first half to a discussion of A and the second half to a discussion of B. The examples in A should be linked to those in B to unify the contrast of the two parts. One way to achieve that linkage is to follow a similar pattern in both sections. For example, if you make three basic points about A, you then should make three basic points about B. You can also arrange your points in the same sequence, devoting the same amount of space to each point, if possible. The Alternating Pattern of Comparison (A/B + A/B)
In the alternating pattern for developing your material, the details of A and B are not grouped separately but are presented in matched pairs, sometimes in the same paragraph, sometimes in the same sentence. The divided pattern is more common, perhaps, because it is an easier pattern to organize and control, particularly in short essays. The alternating pattern requires you to organize your material more precisely, especially in a longer piece of writing. But the pattern is often easier and more interesting for the reader, because the point-by-point development reinforces the comparison with every pair of matched details and the balanced sentence structure emphasizes the comparison or contrast. Appropriate Signal Words:
in the same way
on the other hand
in like manner contrasted with,
on the contrary Some assignments use words— like the following:
These words make it easy for you to see that they are asking you to compare and/or contrast.
Here are a few hypothetical examples:
Compare and contrast Harper Lee's account of the Great depression with the accounts given in your history book.
Compare WWI to WWII, identifying similarities in the causes, development, and outcomes of the wars.
Contrast two poets we have read in English I this year; what are the major differences in their poetry? How do I recognize a compare/contrast assignment? There may be more to it...
It's not always so easy to tell whether an assignment is asking you to include comparison/contrast. Please be aware of the following:
Often, comparison/contrast is only part of the assignment.
You begin by comparing and/or contrasting two or more things
You then use what you've learned to construct an argument or evaluation.