Prewriting

Understand the assignment

In your essay, you will describe how two topics are either similar to or different from each other. You are not arguing that one is better than the other; you are simply drawing comparisons between them.

Research

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.

Brainstorm

You can start researching for a comparison essay by thinking about a category of things you are interested in (e.g., ancient civilizations, languages, advertising styles, etc.). Choose one, and 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. Example topics could include the following:

Choose your focus

Make sure the topic isn't too broad to cover in your essay.

Outline

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

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. Note examples of comparison theses:

While British English and American English have many similarities, there are significant differences in spelling, vocabulary, and grammar.

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.

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...

Exercise: 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. Logotherapy and Psychoanalysis are two psychological therapies of origin in common and different object of study: Logotherapy bases its study on primary motivation, and Psychotherapy bases its study on the unconscious.
  5. Both organic and non-organic food are beneficial for the body, but there are significant differences in the growing process.
  6. 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.

Block Method

Point-by-Point Method

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

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

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: 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: 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.

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: 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.