How to compare and contrast essay
As you generate points of comparison, consider the purpose and content of the assignment and the focus of the class. What do you think the professor wants you to learn by doing this comparison/contrast? How does it fit with what you have been studying so far and with the other assignments in the course? Are there any clues about what to focus on in the assignment itself?
Here are some general questions about different types of things you might have to compare. These are by no means complete or definitive lists; they’re just here to give you some ideas—you can generate your own questions for these and other types of comparison. You may want to begin by ...view middle of the document...
There are two main ways this might play out, depending on how much you have to say about each of the things you are comparing. If you have just a little, you might, in a single paragraph, discuss how a certain point of comparison/contrast relates to all the items you are discussing. For example, I might describe, in one paragraph, what the prices are like at both Pepper’s and Amante; in the next paragraph, I might compare the ingredients available; in a third, I might contrast the atmospheres of the two restaurants.
If I had a bit more to say about the items I was comparing/contrasting, I might devote a whole paragraph to how each point relates to each item. For example, I might have a whole paragraph about the clientele at Pepper’s, followed by a whole paragraph about the clientele at Amante; then I would move on and do two more paragraphs discussing my next point of comparison/contrast—like the ingredients available at each restaurant.
comparing/contrasting are most important, you’ll want to end with the differences—and vice versa, if the similarities seem most important
Let’s say your paper is about Mark Twain’s novel, Huckleberry Finn. Your thesis is: “Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave ‘civilized’ society and go back to nature.” You feel uncertain whether your paper really follows through on the thesis as promised.
Your paper may benefit from reverse outlining, to make sure it delivers on its promising thesis. A “reverse” outline is one you make after you have written a draft. Your aim is to create an outline of what you’ve already written, as opposed to the kind of outline that you make before you begin to write. The reverse outline will help you evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of both your organization and your argument. You will be able to see how your ideas are arranged, look for gaps in your reasoning, identify unnecessary repetition, check whether you are answering all parts of the assignment prompt, identify places that need transitions, and tell whether you are presenting ideas in a logical order.
Read the draft and take notes
Read your draft over, and as you do so, make very brief notes in the margin about what each paragraph is trying to accomplish. You may find it helpful to number your paragraphs; if you decide that your organization needs some changes, the numbers will make it easier to locate paragraphs and move them around.
If you are concerned that your paragraphs may not be unified (that is, that you are talking about more than one main idea in each paragraph), you can make a more detailed reverse outline that includes a note about the main idea of each sentence. This will ultimately help you decide where to break your paragraphs so that each one sticks to one main idea.
Make the outline
After you’ve gone through the entire draft, make your outline by transferring your brief notes...