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Good Conclusions For Comparison Essays For Esl

The Compare-and-Contrast Essay

by Owen Fourie

We do it all the time. We compare and we contrast virtually everything that occupies our attention. It helps us to make choices between one thing and another, whether to have beefsteak or chicken, tea or coffee, watch a movie or take a nap. As long as we have to make choices, we are comparing and contrasting. Ordinarily, it is quickly done and driven largely by our desires at any particular moment.

The same process is in operation when we are faced with a choice between two alternatives on a more complicated level where we need information about each alternative before an intelligent choice can be made. We look closely at their similarities as we compare them, and we also note their differences as we contrast them.

Do the spadework

The compare-and-contrast essay is not difficult to write if you do the spadework first. Depending on your choice of topic and your knowledge of the things involved, you might or might not have to do some research. Normally, students elect to deal with things that are familiar to them to avoid spending time in research.

That is fine if you can put together a properly organized and well-reasoned paper in which your reader is given accurate information on which to base a wise decision. Some degree of research should be undertaken, though, even if it is to check only a few facts to be sure that what you are stating is valid.

If you have an inquiring mind and a thirst for knowledge and a desire to find out more about things that are new to you, you would have no problem doing the research and writing your compare-and-contrast essay. In the process, you will have expanded your knowledge. Whatever you choose to write about for this exercise, you have to be sure that you have done the spadework.

Two different methods that can be used to arrive at the same conclusion

Having established this basic need for this type of essay, you now have to make a decision: What form is your essay going to take? There are two ways to format your compare-and-contrast essay: One way is the block method; the other is the point-by-point or feature-by-feature method. Whichever one you choose will determine how you construct your outline.

By the word “feature” is meant any aspect, quality, facet, or characteristic of the persons, things, or ideas being compared and contrasted.

Block Method

Introduction:

  • What are the two objects being compared and contrasted?
  • What is your reason for comparing and contrasting them?
  • What is your purpose in comparing and contrasting them?
  • Thesis statement.

First Body Paragraph:

  • Object A: All the features of Object A;
  • Facts and examples or tests, experiments, and findings;
  • Do not include any information about Object B.

Second Body Paragraph:

  • Object B: All the features of Object B;
  • Facts and examples or tests, experiments, and findings;
  • Do not include any information about Object A.

Third Body Paragraph:

  • Note the similarities as you compare Object A and Object B.

Fourth Body Paragraph:

  • Note the differences as you contrast Object A and Object B.

Conclusion:

  • Sum up in terms of a major similarity and a major difference;
  • Point out the advantage of one and the disadvantage of the other;
  • Come to your preference and a paraphrased restatement of your thesis;
  • Leave the option open for your readers to make their own decision.

Point-by-Point (Feature-by-Feature) Method

Introduction:

  • What are the two objects being compared and contrasted?
  • What is your reason for comparing and contrasting them?
  • What is your purpose in comparing and contrasting them?
  • Thesis statement.

First Body Paragraph:

  • First feature:
  • Compare Object A and Object B (similarities);
  • Contrast Object A and Object B (differences).

Second Body Paragraph:

  • Second feature:
  • Compare Object A and Object B (similarities);
  • Contrast Object A and Object B (differences).

Third Body Paragraph:

  • Third feature:
  • Compare Object A and Object B (similarities);
  • Contrast Object A and Object B (differences).

Conclusion:

  • Sum up in terms of a major similarity and a major difference;
  • Point out the advantage of one and the disadvantage of the other;
  • Come to your preference and a paraphrased restatement of your thesis;
  • Leave the option open for your readers to make their own decision.

In both methods, more than one paragraph can be devoted to each section if necessary.

The compare-and-contrast essay can be applied to virtually any topic you can name from the mundane to the lofty, from dishwashing liquids to Newtonian Physics and Quantum Physics, from iPad and MacBook to William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. If you know your facts, have a penchant for one or the other, and choose your method, you can put together an essay of this sort.

What is your experience with writing compare-and-contrast essays? Do you have any useful insights? What are your particular struggles? Which method do you prefer to use, and what are your reasons for using it? What are your thoughts about using this type of essay as an opportunity to learn something new? Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.

Here are more articles to help you with English words, grammar, and essay writing.

Copyright © 2010 by English Essay Writing Tips www.englishessaywritingtips.com


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.


Structure

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.


Block

Introduction

Object 1 - Point 1

Object 1 - Point 2

Object 1 - Point 3

Transition sentence/paragraph

Object 2 - Point 1

Object 2 - Point 2

Object 2 - Point 3

Conclusion



Point-by-point

Introduction

Point 1
 
Object 1 ➤ Object 2
 

Point 2
 
Object 1 ➤ Object 2
 

Point 3
 
Object 1 ➤ Object 2
 

Conclusion


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).


Example essay

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.


Compare

 

Contrast

   

1

 

2

 
 

Compare transitions

 

Contrast transitions

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.

Compare

 

Contrast

 

1

 

2

 
 

Compare transitions

 

Contrast transitions



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Checklist

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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