Instructions for the Comparison or Contrast Essay



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Compare and Contrast Essay Writing

  • Do I want this car … ?
  • … or do I want that other car?
  • Instructions for the Comparison or Contrast Essay
  • Do I want this guy … ?
  • … or do I want that guy?
  • … or do I want to go to Las Vegas?
  • Do I want to eat something healthy… ?
  • … or do I want something bad?

Understand what comparison or contrast requires you to do.

  • Always choose two equal items—two cars, two vacations, two sports stars—not two unequal items, like a car and an octopus.
  • Next, decide if you want to compare or contrast as your primary strategy. The essay should be 80/20 in favor of one strategy, not 50/50.
  • Your job is to interest the reader. Choose points to discuss that are not immediately obvious.

Now let’s test your understanding . . .

A baby is like a vacuum cleaner.

  • WRONG!

Even though my little brother Fred is 20 years my junior, he and I have much in common.

  • Yeah, baby!

My sister and I look alike, have common hobbies, and enjoy the same foods.

  • Boring!

Even though Venus and Serena Williams are both professional tennis stars, they differ in their opinions about men, movies, and music.

  • Excellent!

Make the comparison or contrast interesting.

  • Be sure that your essay has a purpose. Ask yourself this important question: Why would anyone want to read this comparison or contrast?

Pick a pattern for your essay.

  • Pattern A is a typical 5-paragraph essay.
  • The thesis statement will read like this:
    • Because of X, Y, and Z, Subject A is similar to [or different from] Subject B.
  • Each body paragraph will discuss both Subject A and Subject B.
  • Introduction
  • All about Point X
  • All about Point Y
  • All about Point Z
  • Conclusion

Pattern B will look a bit different.

  • Pattern B has only 4 paragraphs.
  • Alas, the essay must still be 500 words.
  • The thesis statement should not include restrictions. It should read like this:
    • Subject A is similar to [or different from] Subject B.
  • One body paragraph will discuss X, Y, and Z for Subject A; the other body paragraph will do the same for Subject B.
  • Introduction
  • All about Subject A
  • All about Subject B
  • Conclusion

If we follow the advice above …

  • Do we have two like things?
  • How are they alike?
  • Would it be better to compare or contrast?
  • What is the purpose?
  • What will make the essay interesting?
  • Would Pattern A or Pattern B work the best?

Format the Pattern A outline correctly.

  • Point X
    • Subject A
      • Detail 1
      • Detail 2
      • Detail 3
    • Subject B
      • Detail 1
      • Detail 2
      • Detail 3
  • Roman numerals address the X, Y, and Z from the thesis statement.
  • Capital letter A is always for the first subject; capital letter B is always for the second subject.
  • A detail for Subject A must correspond to a detail for Subject B.

Thesis statement: The two Sigourney Weaver movies, Aliens and Gorillas in the Mist, have three important points of comparison [or contrast]: X, Y, and Z.

  • Point X
    • Gorillas in the Mist
    • Aliens
  • II. Point Y
    • Gorillas in the Mist
    • Aliens
  • III. Point Z
    • Gorillas in the Mist
    • Aliens

A Pattern B outline looks a little different:

  • Subject A
    • First Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
    • Second Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
    • Third Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
  • II. Subject B
    • First Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
    • Second Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
    • Third Point of C/C
    • 1. Detail
    • 2. Detail
    • 3. Detail
  • Thesis Statement: Subject A is different from/similar to Subject B.

Add support with direct quotations.

  • First, introduce the source with a speaker tag.
    • The Queen says, …
    • According to “Little Snow White,” …
  • Then use the exact words of the source in quotation marks.
    • You can make small changes with brackets like these: [ ]
    • You can omit chunks of text with ellipses, three periods in a row where you have removed words in the middle or at the end.
  • Follow with an in-text citation [aka parenthetical reference]
    • If you have one or more authors, use the name(s) of the author(s) in parentheses: (Grimm and Grimm)
    • If you do not have an author, use the abbreviated title of the work in parentheses: (“The Story”)

Format the quotations like this:

    • According to _____ [story or poem’s title], “exact words” (In-text citation).
    • __________ says, “exact words” (In-text citation).
    • According to “Little Snow White,” our heroine “was as beautiful as the day, and more beautiful than the Queen herself” (2, Grimm and Grimm).
    • The queen says, “[B]ring me her heart … and I will salt and eat it” (212, Sexton).

Remember:

Your Task

  • Compare and contrast the destruction of art in “The Happy Prince” and “The Smile”.


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