How to Do a Compare and Contrast Essay Outline
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The content of a compare and contrast essay is about two different, yet relatively related entities which are critically analyzed on the basis of their similarities or differences. The approach to a compare and contrast paper must therefore be objective in disentangling the subject and highlighting their common characteristics. The paper should be clear and comprehensive to avoid misconstrued elements that confuse the reader on the points outlined by the writer. The entities discussed in a compare and contrast paper must relate to having some common similarities while still distinguishable to show how they differ from one another.
This article offers guidelines whilst outlining tips on how to write a perfect compare and contrast essay and citing relevant examples where appropriate.
Tips concerning introduction writing
Here are some tips to consider when writing a compare and contrast paper introduction:
- The introduction of a compare and contrast paper must define the two or more principle subjects of the topic.
- The writer has to come up with a good and interesting hook for the paper to capture the attention of the reader and influence him/her to go through the whole.
- The introduction can also feature the definition of the principle terms to be compared and contrasted.
- To have a good introduction, ensure that it is short, clear and interesting without giving much detail.
- Include a thesis statement in the latter parts of the introduction paragraph to show the purpose and significance of the paper to the reader.
Tips on thesis writing
Thesis writing on a compare and contrast essay is largely founded on the main reason of the work.
- Place the thesis as the last sentence of the introductory paragraph.
- Use conditioned word to write the thesis statement such as; although, whereas, while, etc.
- Ensure you aptly show each of the discussable entities addressed in the paper.
- Narrow the focus of the paper to avoid overly broad content which may not be necessary.
- Include the specific purpose of the paper in the thesis statement.
Guidelines on body paragraphs
To write a great paper, keep in mind that in a compare and contrast essay writing, the author must show the distinctive characteristic of the subject entities.
- Each paragraph must carry its point.
- Write either the similarities or differences first and the other later.
- For the differences, each paragraph should show how the two different entities differ before proceeding to the next paragraph.
- Write short paragraphs that are clear, precise and specific to avoid ambiguity.
- Ensure you have an outline that makes you to adhere to the relevant and important details for your essay.
Tips on writing the outline
The importance of an outline for a compare and contrast paper is indispensable. The outline keeps the writer focused on the relevant elements of the subject topic. Orderliness and logical flow of ideas are of paramount importance in writing compare and contrast essay outlining to avoid ambiguity and confusion when writing the final draft.. Here are some of the tips for compare and contrast essay outline writing.
- Put down the similarities and differences of the entities in shorthand
- The compare and contrast paper outline should at least capture all the main points to be discussed
- Number your points
- Write the strongest points first
- Insert subtopics from topics followed by a short description
Tips on conclusion writing
The conclusion is a powerful part of the entire paper that brings together the two related yet antagonizing entities. Here are some tips for writing a perfect conclusion for a comparison and contrasting paper.
- Write a general summary of the points in the body paragraphs
- Reassert the thesis statement
- Base your conclusion on data/evidence presented above and not personal opinions
- The summary should not convey the content in the same words used in the body, but emphatically state the point in a new and convincing way
- Keep the conclusion short, concise and objective
The following is a perfect example of how a compare and contrast paper outline is written. The example of a compare and contrast paper outline below shows the format and general appearance of compare and contrast papers.
Dogs Vs Cats
Introduction to the broad topic – Cats and Dogs are some of the animals largely domesticated by man.
Thesis statement –in this paper, the differences and similarities of dogs and cats are discussed in details featuring the important details.
- Both are domestic animals
- They are both carnivorous
- Both are pets
- Dogs are bigger than cats
- Fully grown cats have 30 teeth while dogs have 42
- Dogs are more easily trainable than cats
Summary of main points – some of the differences discussed above include about their dental formula, trainability, and physical attributes. Their most pronounced attributes include their carnivorous nature and considered to be pets.
Throughout your academic career, you'll be asked to write papers in which you compare and contrast two things: two texts, two theories, two historical figures, two scientific processes, and so on. "Classic" compare-and-contrast papers, in which you weight A and B equally, may be about two similar things that have crucial differences (two pesticides with different effects on the environment) or two similar things that have crucial differences, yet turn out to have surprising commonalities (two politicians with vastly different world views who voice unexpectedly similar perspectives on sexual harassment).
In the "lens" (or "keyhole") comparison, in which you weight A less heavily than B, you use A as a lens through which to view B. Just as looking through a pair of glasses changes the way you see an object, using A as a framework for understanding B changes the way you see B. Lens comparisons are useful for illuminating, critiquing, or challenging the stability of a thing that, before the analysis, seemed perfectly understood. Often, lens comparisons take time into account: earlier texts, events, or historical figures may illuminate later ones, and vice versa.
Faced with a daunting list of seemingly unrelated similarities and differences, you may feel confused about how to construct a paper that isn't just a mechanical exercise in which you first state all the features that A and B have in common, and then state all the ways in which A and B are different. Predictably, the thesis of such a paper is usually an assertion that A and B are very similar yet not so similar after all. To write a good compare-and-contrast paper, you must take your raw data—the similarities and differences you've observed—and make them cohere into a meaningful argument. Here are the five elements required.
Frame of Reference. This is the context within which you place the two things you plan to compare and contrast; it is the umbrella under which you have grouped them. The frame of reference may consist of an idea, theme, question, problem, or theory; a group of similar things from which you extract two for special attention; biographical or historical information. The best frames of reference are constructed from specific sources rather than your own thoughts or observations. Thus, in a paper comparing how two writers redefine social norms of masculinity, you would be better off quoting a sociologist on the topic of masculinity than spinning out potentially banal-sounding theories of your own. Most assignments tell you exactly what the frame of reference should be, and most courses supply sources for constructing it. If you encounter an assignment that fails to provide a frame of reference, you must come up with one on your own. A paper without such a context would have no angle on the material, no focus or frame for the writer to propose a meaningful argument.
Grounds for Comparison. Let's say you're writing a paper on global food distribution, and you've chosen to compare apples and oranges. Why these particular fruits? Why not pears and bananas? The rationale behind your choice, the grounds for comparison, lets your reader know why your choice is deliberate and meaningful, not random. For instance, in a paper asking how the "discourse of domesticity" has been used in the abortion debate, the grounds for comparison are obvious; the issue has two conflicting sides, pro-choice and pro-life. In a paper comparing the effects of acid rain on two forest sites, your choice of sites is less obvious. A paper focusing on similarly aged forest stands in Maine and the Catskills will be set up differently from one comparing a new forest stand in the White Mountains with an old forest in the same region. You need to indicate the reasoning behind your choice.
Thesis. The grounds for comparison anticipates the comparative nature of your thesis. As in any argumentative paper, your thesis statement will convey the gist of your argument, which necessarily follows from your frame of reference. But in a compare-and-contrast, the thesis depends on how the two things you've chosen to compare actually relate to one another. Do they extend, corroborate, complicate, contradict, correct, or debate one another? In the most common compare-and-contrast paper—one focusing on differences—you can indicate the precise relationship between A and B by using the word "whereas" in your thesis:
Whereas Camus perceives ideology as secondary to the need to address a specific historical moment of colonialism, Fanon perceives a revolutionary ideology as the impetus to reshape Algeria's history in a direction toward independence.
Whether your paper focuses primarily on difference or similarity, you need to make the relationship between A and B clear in your thesis. This relationship is at the heart of any compare-and-contrast paper.
Organizational Scheme. Your introduction will include your frame of reference, grounds for comparison, and thesis. There are two basic ways to organize the body of your paper.
- In text-by-text, you discuss all of A, then all of B.
- In point-by-point, you alternate points about A with comparable points about B.
If you think that B extends A, you'll probably use a text-by-text scheme; if you see A and B engaged in debate, a point-by-point scheme will draw attention to the conflict. Be aware, however, that the point-by- point scheme can come off as a ping-pong game. You can avoid this effect by grouping more than one point together, thereby cutting down on the number of times you alternate from A to B. But no matter which organizational scheme you choose, you need not give equal time to similarities and differences. In fact, your paper will be more interesting if you get to the heart of your argument as quickly as possible. Thus, a paper on two evolutionary theorists' different interpretations of specific archaeological findings might have as few as two or three sentences in the introduction on similarities and at most a paragraph or two to set up the contrast between the theorists' positions. The rest of the paper, whether organized text- by-text or point-by-point, will treat the two theorists' differences.
You can organize a classic compare-and-contrast paper either text-by-text or point-by-point. But in a "lens" comparison, in which you spend significantly less time on A (the lens) than on B (the focal text), you almost always organize text-by-text. That's because A and B are not strictly comparable: A is merely a tool for helping you discover whether or not B's nature is actually what expectations have led you to believe it is.
Linking of A and B. All argumentative papers require you to link each point in the argument back to the thesis. Without such links, your reader will be unable to see how new sections logically and systematically advance your argument. In a compare-and contrast, you also need to make links between A and B in the body of your essay if you want your paper to hold together. To make these links, use transitional expressions of comparison and contrast (similarly, moreover, likewise, on the contrary, conversely, on the other hand) and contrastive vocabulary (in the example below, Southerner/Northerner).
As a girl raised in the faded glory of the Old South, amid mystical tales of magnolias and moonlight, the mother remains part of a dying generation. Surrounded by hard times, racial conflict, and limited opportunities, Julian, on the other hand, feels repelled by the provincial nature of home, and represents a new Southerner, one who sees his native land through a condescending Northerner's eyes.
Copyright 1998, Kerry Walk, for the Writing Center at Harvard University