Kind of Essays: Comparison Essays

Kind of Essays:  Comparison Essays
A comparison essay usually discusses the similarities between two things, people, concepts, places, etc. The essay could be a neutral argument, or an effort to persuade the reader of the benefits of one thing, person, or concept. It could also be written simply to amuse the reader, or to reach at an insight into human nature. The essay could discuss both similarities and dissimilarities, or it could just focus on one or the other.
Writing Comparison/Contrast Essays
This worksheet can help you get started writing and organizing your comparison/contrast essay.

Getting Started

Free Writing
Identify the two subjects that you will be comparing/contrasting and write several paragraphs about each one. Don't be concerned at this point about how the two are similar or different. Simply spill out everything you know about each subject. Work q uickly, and don't stop to judge or edit what you've written.

Making Lists
Make a list of the similarities between your subjects, and on a separate page make a list of the differences. Again, do this quickly and without considering whether each idea is good or not; simply spill all of your thoughts onto paper.

Evaluating Your Lists
Review your lists and look for one or two points that are surprising, puzzling or contradictory. Did you find a similarity or difference (or a group of similarities and differences) that you didn't expect? Did you find something that is hard to expla in or understand? Circle these ideas, and then write a few sentences that explain what the similarity/difference is and why it is surprising or contradictory. Try using these sample sentences to get you started:

Most people would expect __________ [about my subjects] __________ , but in fact __________ is true.

[My subjects] seem __________ because __________, but in fact they are __________ because __________.

If you can't find any points that are surprising, puzzling, or contradictory, imagine that you are explaining your two subjects to another student who hasn't taken this class yet. What would this student assume about your subjects? What would surprise him or her? You might want to discuss this point with a tutor, friend, or classmate.

If you still can't find any similarities or differences that are surprising, puzzling or contradictory, you might want to consider changing subjects. If your assignment allows you to choose what to compare, select one or two new subjects and begin again with free writing.

Thinking Critically
Using the points that you've circled, ask yourself the following questions. Write down your answers in paragraphs.

What causes these similarities and/or differences?
What effect (or cost) do they have on the subjects? On society?
What do the similarities and/or differences show about your subjects? About society?
Posing an Interesting Problem
You are now ready to "pose a problem," which is the most important part of your essay. Imagine that your reader is looking at your essay and thinking "Why should I care about this?" When you pose a problem, you explain to this reader that there is some thing important about your subject (a "problem") and that you (the writer) have a "solution." Most writers use their introductory paragraphs to pose their problem, so when you have completed this exercise, you will have written most of your introduction already.

Reread what you wrote in all of the exercises above, and then try using the following sample sentences to begin posing your problem. NOTE: Posing a problem can be difficult, so don't try to make it perfect on the first try. Plan to write and revise these sentences several times. Ask a tutor for help if you get stuck.

[My subjects] are similar/different in that __________. This similarity/difference is surprising/contradictory/unexpected because . . .

it contradicts__________.
we would expect __________.
most people think __________.
it uncovers __________.
It is important to rethink [my subjects] in this way because. . .

it keeps us from misinterpreting __________.
it helps us understand __________.
if we don't, we might overlook __________.

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