Comparison and Contrast Writing Steven Federle Solano College What is comparison and contrast?



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Comparison and Contrast Writing

  • Steven Federle
  • Solano College

What is comparison and contrast?

  • Comparison shows how two or more things are similar
  • Contrast shows how two or more things are different
  • In most writing situations, the two related processes are used together
  • An analogy explains one thing by comparing it to a second, more familiar, thing.

Establishing a basis for comparison

  • The two things to be compared must have enough in common to justify the comparison.
  • In making comparisons, you should move beyond the obvious (i.e., people and bees)
  • When two things are very similar, it is the contrasts that may be worth writing about.

Searching points for discussion

  • Determine your emphasis on similarities, differences, or both.
  • Determine the major focus of your paper.
  • Make sure you treat the same or similar elements for each subject you will discuss:
  • Novel A
  • Novel B
  • Major characters
  • Minor characters
  • Minor characters
  • themes
  • themes

Do not discuss entirely different elements for each subject.

  • Do not discuss entirely different elements for each subject.
  • Novel A
  • Novel B
  • Plot
  • Minor Characters
  • Author’s Life
  • Themes
  • symbolism

Formulating a Thesis Statement

  • Identify not only the subjects to be compared and contrasted in your essay, but the point you will make about them.
  • Also indicate whether you will focus on similarities or differences, or balance the two.
  • “Although Melville’s Moby-Dick and London’s The Sea Wolf are both about the sea, the minor characters, major characters, and themes of Moby-Dick establish its greater complexity.”

Structuring a Comparison and Contrast Essay

  • Subject by Subject
  • Write a separate essay about each subject, but you discuss the same points for both subjects.
  • Use basis for comparison to guide your selection of points.
  • Arrange points in logical order, usually order of importance.
  • Good for short, uncomplicated papers.

Point by Point Comparison

  • Good for longer, more complex papers
  • Make a point about one subject, and then follow it with a comparable point about the other subject.
  • Alternating pattern
  • Be careful not to fall into a monotonous, back and forth movement between points. To avoid this problem, vary sentence structure as you move from point to point.

Using Transitions

  • See list on page 43.
  • See transitions especially useful for comparison and contrasts on page 369.
  • Longer essays may have transitional paragraphs that connect one part of the essay to another.
  • REVISING:
  • See checklist on page 369
  • Student Example: Comparison and Contrast Essay
  • Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (Sculpture)
  • Robert Indiana, LOVE (Sculpture)
  • What significant characteristics do these two sculptures share? Do they share enough characteristics to establish a basis for comparison? Explain.
  • WRITING EXERCISE: LOVE!
  • Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (Sculpture)
  • Robert Indiana, LOVE (Sculpture)
  • In your journal, create a venn diagram to list the similarities and differences of these two works of art.
  • Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (Sculpture)
  • Robert Indiana, LOVE (Sculpture)
  • What general statement could you make about these two sculptures? Do the points you listed on your venn diagram provide enough support for this general statement?
  • Auguste Rodin, The Kiss (Sculpture)
  • Robert Indiana, LOVE (Sculpture)
  • Write a short comparison-contrast essay in your journal on the following:
  • How does each sculpture convey the idea of love? Which one do you believe conveys this idea more effectively? Why?

Grammar: parallelism

  • Parallelism is the use of matching nouns, verbs, phrases, or clauses to express the same or similar ideas.
  • “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities.
  • Click here to visit Purdue University website on parallelism.


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