CoverObjectivesThe Writing ProcessAddressing the PromptPrewritingWritingRevisingOriginalityTimed Writing 1Integrated Writing 1Introduction to Academic EssaysEssay Shape and OrganizationIntroduction ParagraphsBody ParagraphsConclusion ParagraphsExample EssayTimed Writing 2Integrated Writing 2Descriptive EssaysExample Descriptive Essay 1Example Descriptive Essay 2PrewritingWriting: Word ChoiceSources: QuotingRevisingRevise: Descriptive EssayComparison EssaysExample Comparison Essay 1Example Comparison Essay 2PrewritingWriting: UnitySources: SummarizingRevisingRevise: Comparison EssayCause-Effect EssaysExample EssayPrewritingWritingParaphrasingRevisingRevise: Cause-Effect EssayRefining WritingDevelopmentCohesionWriting for the TOEFLIntegrated Writing TaskIndependent Writing TaskNuts and BoltsPunctuationUsing Academic VocabularyUsing SourcesFinding SourcesAnswer KeyThe Writing Process AKIntroduction to Academic Essays AKUsing Sources AKCitationsDescriptive Essays AKComparison Essays AKCause-Effect Essays AKRefining Writing AKWriting for the TOEFL AKNuts and Bolts AK

Prewriting

Understand the assignment

Descriptive Essay Prompt

Choose two topics to compare. Through the supporting ideas you choose, show the reader how the two topics share important similarities or have significant differences.

Additional Instructions: 

Your essay will be stronger and the organization will have better clarity if you talk only about what is the same or different. This is not an opinion essay, so the purpose is not to convince the reader to think that one is better than the other or that they are equally good. The focus is just on describing what is the same or different, not assigning value or quality. 

For the sake of instructions in this section of the textbook, compare will be used for explaining similarities and contrast will be used for discussing differences.

Exercise 1: Discussion

Use the questions below to discuss this assignment before you begin.

  1. What are the common reasons that people compare or constrast topics? In what situations do we often find ourselves comparing/constrasting different things?
  2. There are various types of similarities or differences. Make a list of ways to things can be similar or different.
  3. Why do you think the instructions in the prompt mention that this is not an opinion essay? What does that mean to you?
  4. Who do you think your audience is for this essay? Why would that person be interested in reading your writing?

Brainstorm

You can start researching for a comparison essay by thinking about a category of things you are interested in. For example, you could look at two different topics within any of bigger subjects:

Choose one subject area and make a list of the types of topics you can compare within that subject. You might want to type "types of   " in a Google search (e.g., Types of natural disasters). Look at a list and choose two (e.g., hurricanes and tsunamis) to compare if you are having trouble making a list. An example of looking at various topics within a larger subject can be seen below:

Choose topics that are interesting to you personally! Any topic you are interested in can be made into an academic topic. You just need to see the activity or topic in a different way. 

Exercise 2: Brainstorm

Make a brainstorm idea map similar to the one above. Now that you have some options, choose your favorite. If aren't sure which one to talk about, consider the following questions:

  1. Which two topics am I most interested in learning more about and writing about for a few weeks?
  2. What option on the list would be the easiest/most challenging for me to write about?
  3. Is there a comparison that would have more sources in English?
  4. Are there similarities or differences that I think the audience should know more about?
  5. Are there any options I can eliminate because they are too commonly used as topics?

Choose your focus

Having two topics that you can compare or contrast is often just the first step. You will need to focus even more by choosing what characteristics or functions you want to discuss. This combines with the controlling idea of similarities or differences to create the purpose of your essay.

Exercise 3: Focusing the Topic

Now that you have selected a person to write about, continue prewriting by deciding what characteristics or functions you want to discuss. Create a T chart like the one below to help you organize potential major details. It might look something like the one below:

Social Media: Similarities between TikTok and Instagram

Physical Description Purpose Actions Impact

-app design

-types of posts

-connection

-entertainment

-record videos

-post photos

-record audio

-ages of users

-negative use


Look at each list and decide which points are strongest or most interesting. You might be able to use points from different columns. Remember that you will be talking about how these points are different or similar. Choose three of the points to include as your major details. 

Research

Encyclopedias can be an excellent place to begin looking for information on your two topics. Remember that after you do enough preliminary research to brainstorm and choose your focus, you should do more detailed research about your topic so that you can make your outline.

Finding sources to support your ideas can be a challenge. Here is a list of the type of information you might want to find from a source:

Depending on your topics, an internet search for "differences between __ and __" or "similarities between __ and __" might give you helpful results.

Exercise 4: Looking for Sources

Use the list from Exercise 3: Focusing the Topic to identify what type of information you need to learn from another source. You can do this by making a list of information you know off the top of your head and a list of things you need to learn (or double-check) to explain the points you chose.

Note: Wikipedia is an ok place to start. However, when you look for sources, try to make sure your source list is:

  • from multiple websites/books (not just one perspective)
  • in English
  • from an author or institution you can trust
  • actually related to your ideas
  • focused on netural comparison, not an opinion

Outline

Start with your topic sentences and thesis. Add questions or quotes to help you develop each of your ideas.

Example Outline

Thesis: There are notorious differences between Halloween and Day of the Dead.

TS 1: Even though both celebrations focus on the supernatural world, their histories are completely different.

  • Research question: What is the story about the beginnings of the holidays?
  • https://www.spanish.academy/blog/13-ways-halloween-is-different-from-day-of-the-dead/ 

TS 2: The activities that people do during these celebrations are distinctive.

  • Research question: Which activities are the most common for each ?
  • http://www.garzablancaresidenceclub.com/newsletter/differences-between-halloween-day-of-the-dead   

TS 3: The purpose varies for each of these traditions.

  • Research question: What is the spiritual tradition and religious significance?
  • https://news.ucdenver.edu/its-not-either-or-its-both-halloween-and-dia-de-los-muerto

Restated Thesis: To sum up, these characteristics show how much diversity there is between Halloween and Day of the Dead.

Introduction

Your introduction should describe in general terms the topics that you will be comparing.

At the end of your introduction paragraph, you should write your thesis. The thesis may list the categories that will be used for the comparisons in your body paragraphs. It may simply argue that the two topics are distinct.

Example Comparison Thesis Statements

  1. While British English and American English have many similarities, there are significant differences in spelling, vocabulary, and grammar.
  2. There are many differences between Christmas and Halloween.
  3. Books and movies are the same because they both develop stories, entertain us, and make us feel like part of a story.
  4. Business trips and vacations share many important characteristics.
  5. Even though comic strips and graphic novels seem different, they both use lots of images, rely on dialogue, and the purpose is to entertain the reader.
  6. Soccer and basketball are both famous sports, but they have many differences such as their rules, players, and equipment.
  7. High school and college education are different in several ways.
  8. DNA and RNA are related yet distinct molecules in our cells with very unique roles.

Here are some phrases that are useful for writing a comparison thesis:

Even though they seem different, X and Y are both...

X and Y are both                               , but...

X and Y may share similar functions, yet...

Thesis Statements: Explicit vs Implicit 

An explicit thesis statement is one that includes a list of your main points that you will discuss in the essay. This essentially works as a map for the reader. The introduction provides context and direction for the whole essay. There are no surprises in the overall topics, although there will likely be specific details that are surprising to the reader. 

  • Cars and motorcycles make for excellent means of transportation, there are differences in terms of the person’s lifestyle, finances, and the city they live in.
  • While Textbooks and E books are good options for readers, they have some differences between price, portability, and how environmentally friendly they can be.
  • Niccolo Paganini and Beethoven were musicians from different musical movements and with different composition styles, but they both passed through similar experiences and situations.

An implicit thesis statement has a more general main idea because it does not give a specific direction for the rest of the essay. The topic sentences will not be hinted at in this sentence.

  • Bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa are two eating disorders that are very alike but can be characterized by different behaviors.
  • Living in a big city is very different compared to living in a small city.
  • Both going to the stadium and seeing the game on tv allow us to enjoy the experience of watching a game.

There is not necessarily a "better" way to write a thesis. Your teacher might want you to use a specific style or you may have a personal preference. However, often a restated thesis will be in the opposite style of the thesis in the introduction to provide variety.

Exercise 5: Revise thesis statements

Revise thesis statements to be more effective for a comparison essay.

  1. There are similarities and differences between renewable energy and non-renewable energy.
  2. Relative pitch and perfect pitch are two types of pitch.
  3. Recycling paper encourages more people to recycle plastic too.
  4. Steel plates are better than wood for the formwork of reinforced concrete structures.
  5. Women have the power to make art with makeup with products and they can buy whatever quality they want.
  6. Both organic and non-organic food are beneficial for the body, but there are significant differences in the growing process.
  7. Today, domestic cars have more value because they are cheaper and can have more years of duration. On the other hand, imported cars are expensive because they are original brand and are luxury.

Body

Your body paragraphs should explain how or why your thesis sentence is true. You can organize your body paragraphs in two general ways: the block method or the point-by-point method. Here are two examples of how the same topics can be organized in both styles.

Block Method

Point-by-Point Method

Example 1: Shopping

Thesis:

While shopping online or shopping in a store are very distinct shopping experiences for consumers, they both stimulate the economy.

Body Paragraph 1: Shopping online

Options

Evaluation of products

Body Paragraph 2: Shopping in a store

Options

Evaluation of products

Example 1: Shopping

Thesis:

While shopping online or shopping in a store are very distinct shopping experiences for consumers, they both stimulate the economy.

Body Paragraph 1: Options

Shopping online

Shopping in a store

Body Paragraph 2: Evaluation of products

Shopping online

Shopping in a store

Example 2: Seasons

Thesis:

It may sound surprising, but spring and fall are actually very similar.

Body Paragraph 1: Spring

Colorful

Mild weather

Seasonal holidays

Body Paragraph 2: Fall

Colorful

Mild weather

Seasonal holidays

*Optional Opposite POV Body Paragraph 3: more different than similar

days get longer vs shorter

new plants vs dying plants

big weather differences by region

Restated Thesis:

Spring and fall share many essential characteristics despite their differences.

Example 2: Seasons

Thesis:

It may sound surprising, but spring and fall are actually very similar.

Body Paragraph 1: Colorful

Spring

Fall

Body Paragraph 2: Mild weather

Spring

Fall

Body Paragraph 3: Seasonal holidays

Spring

Fall

Restated Thesis:

Spring and fall share many essential characteristics despite their differences.

Conclusion

Your conclusion paragraph should start by restating your thesis. Then you should discuss your topics more generally and connect to what you described in the introduction. End your conclusion with a closing statement.

Exercise 6: Complete an outline

Use the topic sentences to create the thesis for this outline.

  • TH:
  • TS: Frank Gehry and Franklin Wright have distinct architectural styles.
  • TS: The techniques that are used in Gehry's architecture are very difference from those used in Wright's.
  • TS: The use of color and texture in buildings also makes their work distinct.
  • TH:

Exercise 7: Evaluate an outline

What advice would you give to the author of the following student outline? Is it an effective outline for a comparison essay?

  • TH: The invention of electric engines not only changed the idea of how we use cars but also had a huge influence on pollution and potential costs of purchasing and maintaining a car.
  • TS: The main idea of creating electric and hybrid engines was the efficiency and pollution issue.
  • TS: Even though driving an electric car is better and more fancy, there are still types of cars where internal combustion engines play the first role.
  • TS: The most important reason of creating electric engines is of course to save money.

The outline for a compare/contrast essay can be very flexible. Read the example thesis below and compare it to each of the outlines. Each outline could be effective for this thesis.

Example Outlines

TH: While learning a language as a child and learning a language as an adult both demonstrate similar linguistic needs, the process itself differs.

Outline #1

  • TS: Children and adults both need enough language input in order to learn a language.
  • TS: Another necessity for both adults and children who are learning a language is getting adequate feedback.
  • TS: Adults and children learn languages through different processes.

Outline #2

  • TS: Children need enough input and feedback in order to learn a language.
  • TS: Adequate input and feedback are also essential for adults who are learning a second language.
  • TS: Adults and children learn languages through different processes.

Outline #3

  • TS: Children and adults both need enough language input and feedback in order to learn a language.
  • TS: Children mainly learn language through play and social networks.
  • TS: Adults primarily learn language cognitively by mapping a new language onto their first language.

Outline #4

  • TS: Children and adults both need enough language input in order to learn a language.
  • TS: Another necessity for both adults and children who are learning a language is getting adequate feedback.
  • TS: Children mainly learn language through play and social networks.
  • TS: Adults primarily learn language cognitively by mapping a new language onto their first language.

Outline #5

  • TS: Children need enough input and feedback in order to learn a language.
  • TS: Adequate input and feedback are also essential for adults who are learning a second language.
  • TS: Children mainly learn language through play and social networks.
  • TS: Adults primarily learn language cognitively by mapping a new language onto their first language.

After your basic outline is done, use the researching strategies you have learned about to prepare all of the research you will need before you begin drafting.

Exercise 8:  Complete an outline

Using the information, create a thesis for a comparison essay. Then write as many different outlines for your thesis as you can.

Some preliminary research about viruses and bacteria is presented in the T chart below.  Experiment with both block and point-by-point organization.

Viruses

Bacteria

  • Viruses need a host to reproduce.
  • Viruses can not generally be treated.
  • Generally all viruses are bad.
  • Viruses are between 20mm and 400mm.
  • Viruses cause human infection.
  • Bacteria can reproduce without a host.
  • Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics.
  • Bacteria are not all bad.
  • Bacteria are approximately 1,100mm.
  • Bacteria cause human infection.