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In academic writing,
comparison and contrast is particularly
because it enables you to see familiar things in new ways. "Common
sense" says that two things are the same, but a careful comparison and
contrast demonstrates their important differences. That same common
sense may say that two things are totally incompatible, but when you
and contrast them systematically, you discover their affinities. Making
comparisons helps student writers make decisions and judgments, both in
planning other papers (see the discussion of synthesis) and in the
theses and interpretations of data and ideas. In addition to helping
you decide which of two or more items is more appropriate or more
comparison can help you think about the unfamiliar by allowing you
contrast it with something you already know.
Question: “which team is going to win?” To answer this question you must first evaluate each team, considering a number of features from the skill and readiness of the players on each team to the strength of the coaching. You'll probably consider averages, recent performance, health information and a host of other details. Once you've considered these aspects of each team, you will use them as criteria on which to base a comparison. You'll compare the teams point-by-point to decide which is the stronger (these two activities often occur simultaneously because people who engage in such discussions generally agree on the criteria for comparison). Based on this comparison, you will give your answer to the initial question. In this case the answer is a prediction, but we ask and answer similar questions about a host of other topics hundreds of times a day--where to get something to eat, which store to buy supplies from, which candidate to vote for, what task to do first. Sometimes the sequence is evaluate-compare-predict, at other times it is evaluate-compare-decide, or evaluate-compare-recommend, and even evaluate-compare-and then reject both options! The final term in this chain is a claim (this team will win, we should eat at the diner, we should buy brand X), which in academic papers tends to be called a thesis. Academic papers often employ the same analytical sequence and evaluative and comparatives kills as we use in every day decision-making, and we write them for the same reason--to help us reach a decision about things we are comparing and then explain that decision to others.
(1) it allows readers to
easily see similarities and
between two or more sources,
Prewriting for comparison and contrast papers can be conducted visually, through charts. Draw vertical lines down the center of a sheet of notebook paper, allowing one column for each thing to be compared and a small margin on the left. If you prefer to work on your computer, make a table using your word processing software or a spread sheet program. List the main points, topics, or features in the left margin or column and then note how each text responds or represents it in the relevant column. You might find it helpful to indicate all of the similarities using a highlighter, marks next to each similarity, or some other system. This technique will help you identify and keep track of the important similarities and differences.
Inexperienced academic writers often get lost when they are trying to decide on a thesis for a paper that uses comparison and contrast. Assuming that the purpose of comparison and contrast is to discover similarities and differences, they formulate a thesis that says something like "X and Y have important similarities and differences" or "X is very similar to/different from Y." For example, "The Republican and Democratic platforms for the 1960 American presidential election were very similar." Readers of college-level papers with such a thesis might rightly ask "So?" or "Who cares?" because college-level writing requires that you say something about what you know rather than simply repeating it.
Developing a good thesis for a college-level comparison and contrast paper involves your looking at those similarities and differences and asking yourself the crucial question, "So what?"
Once you have figured out a thesis statement, or at least something that you can work with temporarily (remember, you can always revise or replace your thesis once your paper is underway), you can begin drafting.
Two general structural patterns are available for papers that use comparison and contrast. Some papers adopt one or the other, but many actually blend these two patterns together in various ways. Being aware of the two basic patterns will help you make wise rhetorical choices as you draft your paper. The structures are the point-by-point pattern and the block pattern:
The point-by-point pattern:
The point-by-point pattern is essential if your material is complicated or if your paper is a long one. It is also a standard pattern for academic comparison and contrast essays. Most of your college professors will expect you to follow this pattern.
The block pattern:
The block pattern is a good approach for a short paper (five pages or less) and may be familiar from high school comparison papers. You should also consider this approach if you're not feeling too confident of your analysis of one of the two items. Using the principle of Nestorian order, you can begin the essay with what you consider to be your lesser analysis, and then place your more convincing analysis toward the end of the essay, where it will make a favorable impression on your readers.
Once you have selected an organizational pattern for your paper, you may find it helpful to make a rough outline of what will be included where and then to ask a peer to review it to see if it makes sense.
Read the comparison carefully and answer the following questions:
Adapted from material written by Rebecca Moore Howard and Sandra Jamieson.
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