Throughout your academic career, you'll be asked to write papers in which you compare and contrast two things: two texts, two theories, two historical figures, two scientific processes, and so on. "Classic" compare-and-contrast papers, in which you weight A and B equally, may be about two similar things that have crucial differences (two pesticides with different effects on the environment) or two similar things that have crucial differences, yet turn out to have surprising commonalities (two politicians with vastly different world views who voice unexpectedly similar perspectives on sexual harassment).
In the "lens" (or "keyhole") comparison, in which you weight A less heavily than B, you use A as a lens through which to view B. Just as looking through a pair of glasses changes the way you see an object, using A as a framework for understanding B changes the way you see B. Lens comparisons are useful for illuminating, critiquing, or challenging the stability of a thing that, before the analysis, seemed perfectly understood. Often, lens comparisons take time into account: earlier texts, events, or historical figures may illuminate later ones, and vice versa.
Faced with a daunting list of seemingly unrelated similarities and differences, you may feel confused about how to construct a paper that isn't just a mechanical exercise in which you first state all the features that A and B have in common, and then state all the ways in which A and B are different. Predictably, the thesis of such a paper is usually an assertion that A and B are very similar yet not so similar after all. To write a good compare-and-contrast paper, you must take your raw data—the similarities and differences you've observed—and make them cohere into a meaningful argument. Here are the five elements required.
Frame of Reference. This is the context within which you place the two things you plan to compare and contrast; it is the umbrella under which you have grouped them. The frame of reference may consist of an idea, theme, question, problem, or theory; a group of similar things from which you extract two for special attention; biographical or historical information. The best frames of reference are constructed from specific sources rather than your own thoughts or observations. Thus, in a paper comparing how two writers redefine social norms of masculinity, you would be better off quoting a sociologist on the topic of masculinity than spinning out potentially banal-sounding theories of your own. Most assignments tell you exactly what the frame of reference should be, and most courses supply sources for constructing it. If you encounter an assignment that fails to provide a frame of reference, you must come up with one on your own. A paper without such a context would have no angle on the material, no focus or frame for the writer to propose a meaningful argument.
Grounds for Comparison. Let's say you're writing a paper on global food distribution, and you've chosen to compare apples and oranges. Why these particular fruits? Why not pears and bananas? The rationale behind your choice, the grounds for comparison, lets your reader know why your choice is deliberate and meaningful, not random. For instance, in a paper asking how the "discourse of domesticity" has been used in the abortion debate, the grounds for comparison are obvious; the issue has two conflicting sides, pro-choice and pro-life. In a paper comparing the effects of acid rain on two forest sites, your choice of sites is less obvious. A paper focusing on similarly aged forest stands in Maine and the Catskills will be set up differently from one comparing a new forest stand in the White Mountains with an old forest in the same region. You need to indicate the reasoning behind your choice.
Thesis. The grounds for comparison anticipates the comparative nature of your thesis. As in any argumentative paper, your thesis statement will convey the gist of your argument, which necessarily follows from your frame of reference. But in a compare-and-contrast, the thesis depends on how the two things you've chosen to compare actually relate to one another. Do they extend, corroborate, complicate, contradict, correct, or debate one another? In the most common compare-and-contrast paper—one focusing on differences—you can indicate the precise relationship between A and B by using the word "whereas" in your thesis:
Whereas Camus perceives ideology as secondary to the need to address a specific historical moment of colonialism, Fanon perceives a revolutionary ideology as the impetus to reshape Algeria's history in a direction toward independence.
Whether your paper focuses primarily on difference or similarity, you need to make the relationship between A and B clear in your thesis. This relationship is at the heart of any compare-and-contrast paper.
Organizational Scheme. Your introduction will include your frame of reference, grounds for comparison, and thesis. There are two basic ways to organize the body of your paper.
- In text-by-text, you discuss all of A, then all of B.
- In point-by-point, you alternate points about A with comparable points about B.
If you think that B extends A, you'll probably use a text-by-text scheme; if you see A and B engaged in debate, a point-by-point scheme will draw attention to the conflict. Be aware, however, that the point-by- point scheme can come off as a ping-pong game. You can avoid this effect by grouping more than one point together, thereby cutting down on the number of times you alternate from A to B. But no matter which organizational scheme you choose, you need not give equal time to similarities and differences. In fact, your paper will be more interesting if you get to the heart of your argument as quickly as possible. Thus, a paper on two evolutionary theorists' different interpretations of specific archaeological findings might have as few as two or three sentences in the introduction on similarities and at most a paragraph or two to set up the contrast between the theorists' positions. The rest of the paper, whether organized text- by-text or point-by-point, will treat the two theorists' differences.
You can organize a classic compare-and-contrast paper either text-by-text or point-by-point. But in a "lens" comparison, in which you spend significantly less time on A (the lens) than on B (the focal text), you almost always organize text-by-text. That's because A and B are not strictly comparable: A is merely a tool for helping you discover whether or not B's nature is actually what expectations have led you to believe it is.
Linking of A and B. All argumentative papers require you to link each point in the argument back to the thesis. Without such links, your reader will be unable to see how new sections logically and systematically advance your argument. In a compare-and contrast, you also need to make links between A and B in the body of your essay if you want your paper to hold together. To make these links, use transitional expressions of comparison and contrast (similarly, moreover, likewise, on the contrary, conversely, on the other hand) and contrastive vocabulary (in the example below, Southerner/Northerner).
As a girl raised in the faded glory of the Old South, amid mystical tales of magnolias and moonlight, the mother remains part of a dying generation. Surrounded by hard times, racial conflict, and limited opportunities, Julian, on the other hand, feels repelled by the provincial nature of home, and represents a new Southerner, one who sees his native land through a condescending Northerner's eyes.
Copyright 1998, Kerry Walk, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
Students like writing compare and contrast essays as they have enough space for creativity. Such papers allow expressing your thoughts regarding some contradictive issues. It makes more fun to draw a parallel between two people or objects instead of describing a single issue.
It does not mean, however, that compare and contrast essay is an easy assignment to complete. There are so many possible compare and contrast essay topics, and some of them are hard to carry out.
Keys to Writing Compare & Contrast Essay
Before you start, it is crucial to choose topics that you really know well. Most often, you should find two things that have enough differences and similarities. You can take two pets, cats and dogs, while comparing a food (i.e., banana) with music (i.e., hard rock) basically, makes no sense.
Of course, if you're a part of Arts class where tutor appreciates uncommon parallelism, you may try your luck in your compare and contrast essay. You may talk about a sense of taste and the book of your favorite author. For instance, you may try to explain how it tastes to be Dracula. Or you can highlight how it smells to be Jean-Baptiste Grenouille from famous novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Such creative comparisons are often appreciated and awarded with more than "A." Original and unexpected compare and contrast essay topics serve as your ticket to special universities where Arts are studied. Along with a personal statement written by professional writers, such essay will increase your chances to get enrolled.
Sources to be Used
In any case, writing about things to compare and contrast is an activity which requires your full attention and creativity. But when you have to compare things objectively, you should operate facts. Just like an argumentative essay, your text will need corresponding evidence. Search for the primary and secondary sources on the given topics before you start your first draft. Make sure these sources are no older than 5 years. They should be as relevant as possible. Don't forget to apply only credible sources to reveal your topics. Those are:
- Academic journals
- Scientific magazines
- Official reports
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How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay
The traditional essay tips won't work with compare and contrast paper. We have gathered the best ideas online to share with students. If you write such assignment for the first time in your school or college life, read information from us.
You need to keep in mind the most common writing mistakes school and college students make to avoid them.
Start with the type of your compare and contrast essay topic. The topics are divided into 4 different groups:
- Events (point to the differences and similarities of some historical events or episodes from the book)
- Situations (choose to compare two different cases or episodes from your life)
- People or fiction characters (choose the story)
- Places (describe different locations)
No matter what comparison and contrast topics you write on, you need to keep to the traditional structure of the academic paper.
Start with a capturing and interesting hook. Outline what your topic is. Point to the main argument of your topic known as a thesis statement. This sentence or two usually come in the last sentence of your first paragraph.
- Developing your arguments
You need to research your topic to choose three claims. Include evidence with the supporting points next to each argument. There should be up to three supporting points in each body paragraphs.
- Refuting opponent's arguments
This time, you need to research the topic to view the facts that contradict your thesis. It is important to choose at least one example and develop a paragraph with the counter-argument as well. Write down maximum two opposing views followed by a couple of your refutations.
Restate your thesis statement and stress why your side is right once again.
You can learn more information on the structure of five-paragraph paper online.
Writing Tips Used by Smart American College Students
Moreover, use such helpful words as "because,""for example," "the writer mentioned...," "according to the book/movie," "from the given reading, we know that...," "on the following page, I have found..."
"Why do you believe Americans will win the next Olympic games?"
"According to the reading I have found in my college library, their team showed better results than Canadians during the last games."
- Check possible examples of compare and contrast essays when working in your hook sentence. It has a great influence on the reader's decision whether to read your text on a specific topic or not. You may add numbers, figures, facts - whatever to make your reader interested. On the whole, there are many types of hooks:
- Anecdotes and jokes
- Literary quotes
- Quotes of famous people
- Lines from poetry
- Setting scenes
- Scientific facts
- Questions and rhetorical questions
- Metaphors and similes
- Thesis statements
We think it is better to write a thesis statement in the last sentence of the argumentative essay’s introduction to conclude.
- Brainstorm all the time. The best way to decide on two good compare and contrast topics to analyze is to brainstorm and write down possible versions on a blank paper. Once you choose the subjects, you have to organize your thoughts. Prepare a table where you will mention both similarities and differences between the two subjects.
- Get professional help and examples. Find online educational services which help to choose some good sources on the given topic. Those can be movies, books, articles, etc. It is the last pre-writing stage which is known as a literature review. School and college students conduct in-depth research to enrich their compare and contrast essay drafts with important details. If you miss any words to finish your essay, a literature review is a brilliant way to reach the necessary word count.
- Don't forget about the formatting and in-text citations. Apply direct and indirect quotes to make your text longer and more persuasive. Citations will serve as the strong evidence to support your compare and contrast topics.
It was just a short preview of every section of your compare and contrast paper in English. Selecting the proper topics might take a while if you don't have a list of sample topics in front of you. We are ready to share the best compare and contrast essay subjects with you right now. You may use any example as the subject for your comparative essay when the theme is not assigned to you.
Compare and Contrast Essay Topics for College Students
We have divided the topics into several categories to make it easier to select one. The list starts with the most relevant subjects college students usually discuss. Other categories are full of great ideas too.
- School vs. College: What's New?
- Students Who Work and Unemployed Students: Who Takes the Best of This Life?
- Research Paper and Essay: What Is More Responsible?
- American English vs. British English: Major Differences
- What Makes Education and Employment Similar?
- SAT and TOEFL: Differences and Similarities
- How Are Master Degree and Ph.D. different?
- Persuasive and Argumentative Paper: Different or the Same
- Traditional Education or Remote Learning?
History and Political Compare and Contrast Essay Topics
- Comparison of Lincoln's and Washington' Ideas
- Renaissance vs. Baroque Epoch
- Anthropology vs. Religious Studies
- American Government vs. Soviet Government
- US President vs. UK Prime Minister
- North and South Before the Civil War in the US
- Henry VIII vs. King Louis XIV
- Fascism and Nazism: Different or the Same?
- World War I and World War II: Difference in Events
Compare and Contrast Topics for Beginners
- Compare Apple and Orange
- Night Time and Day Time: Advantages Each Period Has
- What Makes People Completely Different from Animals
- Living in Poverty and Being Rich
- Coffee and Tea: The Effects of Both
- Living in Big City or Staying in Village
- Feeling Sad against Feeling Lonely
- Differences and Similarities between American and British Traditional Dishes
- Camping in the Woods or Resting by the Sea?
Opposite Things to Compare and Contrast
- Females and Males
- Coke vs. Pepsi
- Red vs. White
- Country in War Compared to Country in Peace
- Driving a Car or Riding a Bus
- Love and Hatred
- Bad and Good Aspects of Overwork
- Moon and Sun
- Dolls or Soft Toys: What Should Parents Buy to Their Children?
Ideas Teenagers May Use in Their Papers
- Childhood vs. Adulthood
- Living at Home or Living on Campus
- Reading or Watching Screened Versions: What Teens Prefer
- Working in Office or Being a Freelancer?
- Academic Writing vs. Scientific Writing
- TV Shows and Radio Shows: What Is More Trendy?
- Education or Professional Career: What Is Easier and What Is More Difficult?
- Greek and Roman Culture: Differences and Similarities
- Comparing Art and Science Classes
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IT & Social Media Compare & Contrast Ideas
- E-mail or Traditional Mailing: What Will Happen in the Future?
- Online vs. Traditional Commerce
- Online Dating vs. Real-Life Relations
- Computer Games, Video Games, or Smartphone Games
- Choosing between New York Times and Forbes
- FaceBook or MySpace: Which Social Network Offers More Opportunities?
- Searching for Job Online or Traditionally?
- Using Online Writing Services against Traditional Writing Services
- Benefits Marketing Specialists Get from Using Online Advertising vs. Traditional One
Movie & Music Compare and Contrast Themes
- Buffy, the Vampire Slayer or Charmed?
- Books against Movies: Why Reading Is Preferred
- Jazz vs. Rock
- Sam vs. Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings)
- Gandalf vs. Dumbledore
- American Cinematography vs. Soviet Union Cinematography
- Thor and Loki: Friends or Enemies According to Movie of 2009?
- Horror Films and Thrillers: What's in Common?
- Harry Potter or Draco Malfoy?
Literature Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Comedy vs. Drama
- Greek vs. Roman Mythology
- Beauty and the Beast: Lessons Learned
- Prose or Lyrics: What People Prefer More and Why?
- Poetry of XIII Century and Nowadays Lyrics
- Shakespeare's Othello Compared to Hamlet
- Fiction or Non-Fiction Literature: When You May Need Different Types?
- Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter: Which Fantasy Book Is Better?
- Literature of the Past against Literature of the Future
Scientific Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Oven vs. Microwave
- Physics vs. Chemistry
- Our Galaxy, Milky Way, and Andromeda, the Closest
- What Makes Earth Different from Mars
- First Mission to Moon and Second Visit: What Are the Differences and Similarities?
- Thomas Jefferson or DaVinci: Whose Innovations Matter More?
- Earthquakes or Tsunami: Which Consequences Are Worse?
- Limited Control Tools or Software with Fool Access to Navigation
- Formulas of Two Different Chemical Reactions
Popular Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Soccer vs. Football
- Chinese vs. Korean
- Public Opinion vs. Personal Point of View: Discuss Subjectivity & Objectivity
- Juice and Water
- Light Beer vs. Dark Beer: Which One Is More Popular?
- Anorexia Nervosa and Obesity: What Is More Dangerous?
- Marriage and Divorce: Two Sides of the Coin
- Windows or Linux: Paid vs. Free OS
- Marxism vs. Other Ideas of Capitalism
Philosophy Compare & Contrast Ideas
- Is Home Really a Better Place Than Miami Beach?
- Life and Death: Various Philosophical Views
- Living in Your Dreams or Living in Reality: Pros and Cons
- Friends and ... Where Is the Edge?
- Physical & Mental Needs of Human Beings
- Reality or Fantasy World?
- Main Philosophical Ideas of Macbeth against the Main Ideas of Hamlet
- Dogs and Humans: They Are More Similar Than We Think
- Sources with Free Access and Rights Reserved: Should We Protect Intellectual Property?
- Greek Philosophers vs. Roman Philosophers
Compare and contrast essay topics for college students might be tricky to choose. The whole process of academic writing is even longer and more complex. Online help from expert writers will save you a plenty of time. You just need to order a good essay from experts with the highest academic degrees in a variety of fields.
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