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.
Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
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Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
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