Assignment Guide: The Compare/Contrast Essay
For this assignment, you will be writing a
exploratory piece of writing in which you attempt to show readers how two topics are similar, different, or a combination of the two: both similar and different. Whether you
focus exclusively on comparing, exclusively on contrasting, or a mix of both, is totally up to you. However, regardless of which approach you decide to take, you will want to include a strong
claim statement, at least three effective
supporting points, and a streamlined
point-by-point organizational strategy.
Length: This assignment should be at least 750 words.
While we encourage you to acquire sources from Gale’s Opposing Viewpoints, you may access credible,
scholarly sources from other resources. Tertiary sources, such as online encyclopedias, dictionaries and Wikipedia, are not
scholarly sources, and should not be cited within your work; however, they may offer helpful foundational information as you develop your understanding of an issue. (For more information, please review Berkley University’s resource on scholarly and popular sources:
Page Formatting: See
Appendix C – Formatting and Submitting Your Work
contrast essays are both creative and
analytical in nature. They are typically more formal than a personal narrative in the sense that they are written from a
third-person perspective, where a writer is not injecting their own opinion directly using “I” or “me”
To prove points–
contrast essays rely on
researched evidence, and not personal opinion or experience, per se. When you choose two topics, you will have numerous options for comparing and contrasting them–much more than you can actually use in a single paper. Therefore, you will need to decide what elements are worth comparing and contrasting, and why. This is the seek and discover part of the essay, but also the creative part. For example, another writer may choose the same two topics as you, but their essay may rest entirely on
supporting points. When you limit your
supporting points to those points you think you can prove most effectively, you are maximizing your creative and
analytical writing abilities.
Remember that this is an
exploratory paper: The piece of writing should show readers, through the inclusion of careful detail and specifics, and strong
supporting points, how your two topics are similar, different, or a combination of the two: similar and different.
contrast essay is written for someone else–either a single
reader or a community of readers. When choosing the points you want to use to show readers that your topics are similar, different, or a combination of the two, you should keep this
audience in mind, making sure that you are choosing the most effective points possible to show how your two topics are similar or different.
In this instance, you are writing to show readers that your two topics are similar, different, or a combination of the two (similar and different). Keep this
audience in mind by emphasizing the
claims throughout the essay.
: Contains a strong and succinct
claim statement that outlines whether the two topics are similar, different, or a combination of the two, and at least three
supporting points that can boost that
claim. A sample
thesis might look like this:
Although curriculum A and curriculum B are similar in their student success goals, they are very different when it comes to their structure, topics, and scoring.
transitions do not only occur in topic sentences but throughout the essay. When you are moving from one idea to the next, whether between two sentences or between two paragraphs, you will want to include
language that can help bridge your ideas (and sentences/paragraphs). Some examples might be “in addition to,” “next.”
Signals: In addition to more typical
transitional words and phrases, this essay should also include
contrast specific signals, emphasizing for readers how and why your topics are alike or different. Here are some example:
1. similar: in addition, by comparison, similarly
2. different: however, in
contrast, differing from
Point-by-Point Organizational Strategy
: The essay should follow the point-by-point approach to showcase the use of
synthesize your own
supporting points with
researched evidence, and build a fully developed essay with an
introduction, several body paragraphs, and a
conclusion. For this kind of
organization, you will create a
topic sentence for each
body paragraph that outlines a
contrast point regarding both topics and use the
body paragraph to show readers how your two topics are similar, different, or similar and different.
: The essay should integrate at least two reliable and
credible sources (also known as “
scholarly sources”) to help prove the
claims to readers and to boost or substantiate the
supporting points that you have created for your two topics.
: As with any writing project, the final draft of this essay should be carefully reviewed for clarity and correctness. This includes checking
· Of interest to you
Narrow in scope
· Academic or “scholarly” in nature
For/against . . .
· The death penalty
· Euthanasia or self-assisted death
· The (il)legalization of drugs (e.g. marijuana)
· Religion or religious readings (e.g. existence of a higher order/being, or life after death)
· Gun rights/rules
· Global warming
Please do not select one of the above topics, as your essay may be returned without grading, and you will be asked to rewrite it.
Need assignment ideas?
Take a look at this valuable resource from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center:
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