Comparison and contrast are processes of identifying how ideas, people, or things are alike (comparison) and how they are different (contrast). Although you have probably been writing compare/contrast papers since grade school, it can be a difficult form to master.
Subject by Subject (Whole-to-whole). Your write first about one of your subjects, covering it completely, and then you write about the other, covering it completely. Each subject is addressed in a separate paragraph. The points of comparison or contrast will be the same for each subject and will be presented in the same order.
In your career as a student, you’ll encounter many different kinds of writing assignments, each with its own requirements. One of the most common is the comparison/contrast essay, in which you focus on the ways in which certain things or ideas—usually two of them—are similar to (this is the comparison) and/or different from (this is the contrast) one another. By assigning such essays, your instructors are encouraging you to make connections between texts or ideas, engage in critical thinking, and go beyond mere description or summary to generate interesting analysis: when you reflect on similarities and differences, you gain a deeper understanding of the items you are comparing, their relationship to each other, and what is most important about them.
However, there may be times in which the subject matter will require that you compare and contrast more than two items. For example, if you are comparing the best internet search engines or smart phones, the situation may require that you include all items that are relevant to your comparison.
In writing a compare and contrast essay often the hardest task is selecting the right topics for your work. In most cases, it makes sense to compare and contrast only two items or topics. This makes it easier for both you and the reader. It's much simpler to create and understand an argument or presentation that requires less memory, and one that reduces confusion. This can be done by limiting the comparison to the least possible number of items, i.e., two items or topics.
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Point by Point. Each point is addressed in a separate paragraph. You discuss both of your subjects together for each point of comparison and contrast. Maintain consistency by discussing the same subject first for each point.
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Below is a sample of an introduction from a literary compare and contrast paper written by student Kate James: (Some of the terms she uses to indicate comparison and contrast are in boldface.)
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