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Comparison and Contrast

Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 10 years, 11 months ago

 

Basic Definition

Compare: to show the similarities between elements

Contrast: to show the differences between elements

 

Why Do We Use Comparison and Contrast?

• To reveal surprising or overlooked differences/similarities between two ideas, things, people, etc.

• To demonstrate the superiority or inferiority of something.

• To evaluate the efficacy of two unfamiliar programs.

• To explain something unfamiliar by comparing it to something familiar.

• To advance a thesis.

• To demonstrate how an idea/place/person/etc. have changed over time.

 

Key Words (Transition Words)

Compare: Similarly, like, the same as, compared to, in the same way, likewise

Contrast: but, yet, on the other hand, however, instead, nevertheless, on the contrary

 

General Tips

• Identify the most important points of comparison/contrast, not the most obvious or ones that are irrelevant to your thesis.

• Examples of things to consider: parts and processes, benefits, harms, problems, costs, uses.

• The most important thing is to make sure your insights are fresh and interesting, not pedestrian.

• Look for similarities and differences that differ from the audience’s expectations

• Narrowly drawn theses will lead to more interesting essays.

 

Constructing a Thesis for a Comparison/Contrast Essay

Thesis patterns for a comparison or a contrast essay:

  • One possibility: A look at ____ (objects of comparison) in terms of ___ (the points of comparison) shows that ___ (general finding)
  • Another possibility: Looking at ___ (object A) and ___ (object B) shows that although they seem ___ (similar/different), they really are ___ (different/similar)

 

A thesis statement should present a way of interpreting evidence that illuminates the significance of the question. These thesis statements are nuanced, recognizing the existence of an opposing point of view, while strongly defending the point. They are relatively specific, yet concise—and do not make the reader want to stop reading.

 

  • Sample Thesis Statement #1:  "While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government."
  • Sample Thesis Statement #2:  "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."

 

Visit http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html to see an entire lesson on constructing sophisticated thesis statements.

 

Methods of Organization

 

Subject by Subject Pattern

Best when there are few points to compare or individual points matter less than the big picture.

When dealing with philosophical differences, use this structure.

Examples: comparison of two different types of health care, two philosophical outlooks on life.

• Introduction--best with a neutral thesis and an introduction that identifies the two issues/items being compared/contrasted.

• Subject 1

• Subject 2

• Conclusion--containing the thesis and summary of the argument you have developed.

 

Point by Point Pattern

Best to use when the subpoints of analysis in the essay are parallel or clearly defined subsets of broader topics.

Examples: comparison of two films on the same subject, two basketball teams, two colleges.

• Introduction: introduce the two subjects and establish a thesis articulating the superiority of one.

     • Subject 1

          Subtopic A

          Subtopic B

          Subtopic C

     • Subject 2

          Subtopic A

          Subtopic B

          Subtopic C

• Conclusion: review the thesis and your central argument

 

Similarity/Difference Pattern

Best when the similarity or difference that you wish to highlight runs contrary to the audience's expectations.

Examples: Compare Presidents Clinton and Bush, concluding that they are quite similar, contrast the United States and Europe's position on human rights, concluding that they are different.

     • Introduction--best with a neutral thesis and an introduction that identifies the two issues/items being compared/contrasted.

     • Similarities --OR-- Differences

     • Differences --OR-- Similarities

     • The best essay in this format will end with the point you wish to prove.

     • Conclusion--containing the thesis and summary of the argument you have developed.

 

Point by Point Comparison Pattern

Best when you are dealing with a very specific breakdown of two similar items: technical, mechanical, specific areas of study.

Examples: oil and gas engines, two basketball teams, two university programs.

     • Introduction: unlikely to have a specific, argumentative thesis, but it should appear here if the piece does.

          • Specific Point of Comparison 1

          • Specific Point of Comparison 2

          • Specific Point of Comparison 3

          • Specific Point of Comparison 4

          • Specific Point of Comparison 5

     • Conclusion: summary of the core differences, applications, quality of the ideas compared.

 

Need to Remember Organizational Strategies Under Pressure?  

 

Tennis Court

  • Idea A
    • Subject 1
    • Subject 2
  • Idea B
    • Subject 1
    • Subject 2
  • Idea C
    • Subject 1
    • Subject 2

 

Railroad Tracks

  • Subject 1
    • Idea A
    • Idea B
    • Idea C
  • Subject 2
    • Idea A
    • Idea B
    • Idea C

 

Sorting Socks

  • Similarities between Subjects 1 and 2
    • Idea A
    • Idea B
    • Idea C
  • Differences between Subjects 1 and 2
    • Idea A
    • Idea B
    • Idea C  

 

Sources

 

Additional Resources

  • xxx
  • xxx

 

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