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Essay Outline For Compare And Contrast Definition

Throughout the course of your education and career (if you choose to become a writer), you’ll have the opportunity to work on different writing assignments and, of course, essays are inevitable. The essay is a piece of writing that methodically analyzes and evaluates a topic or issue. That’s why there are different types of essays, used to discuss, analyze, evaluate, or compare different situations or subjects e.g. argumentative essay, cause and effect essay, and compare and contrast essay. Your ability to create an excellent paper depends on structuring a perfect outline. Throughout this post, I’m going to show you how to compose an outline for compare and contrast essay to get good grades (or positive feedback from the client) every time.

Compare and contrast essay outline

The easiest definition of compare and contrast essay that explore both the similarities and differences between two subjects by comparing or contrasting them. It’s very easy to mistake this style of essay writing for a simple comparison between some topics or subjects, but that’s not entirely correct. Always bear in mind that your essay has to serve a larger purpose and include the following:

  • Demonstrate that one thing is superior to another
  • Identify and clarify common misunderstandings
  • Provide a new way of doing or understanding something
  • State, elaborate, discuss something unknown
  • Support every claim with facts and accurate, reliable sources

When it comes to structuring the outline for this kind of essay, there are different methods you can follow depending on the organization.

Point-by-point pattern (organization by criteria)

This outline is primarily used to compare items or subjects that are almost similar or when you plan (or have to) evaluate only a few characteristics or criteria when comparing them. Use the diagram below to create the outline for the point-by-point pattern.

Block pattern (organization by item)

In instances when you have to compare items, situations, or topics that are entirely different or when there are multiple criteria to involve, the point-by-point pattern doesn’t function quite well. That’s why you should opt for block pattern or organization by item.

Why? The reason is simple; the same criteria don’t apply to different topics, people, objects, events, and so on. When the essay requires a multitude of approaches to explore, it’s important to learn how to organize it properly in a bid to ensure easy reading. Create the outline based on the diagram below.

Block pattern can be structured in a different manner as well. Instead of the separate paragraph for each point, you compare, you can set out one section to name their similarities and a second paragraph to analyze dissimilarities point by point.

Now that you know how to create a functional outline, you’re ready to move on to the essay writing process.

Introduction

The intro for this kind of essay doesn’t differ much from other types. It’s the part where you introduce the overall subject of the piece and specific items, situations, or events you have to compare and/or contrast. As seen in diagrams, the introduction should feature:

  • The mentioning of the main topic – begin with a hook sentence and detail specific to the topic itself. Your hook can be a quote, question, anecdote, anything you see fit for the particular subject you have to write about
  • Specific subjects to compare and contrast – of course, you can’t start writing about similarities and differences between two items out of the blue. That’s why you should set out a sentence or two to mention specific topics you’ll compare under the central theme
  • Thesis statement – it marks the tone of the essay and catches reader’s attention. Last sentence (or two) of your paper should account for a specific and concise thesis. There’s no need for wordiness in this part because thesis, as the entire introduction, shouldn’t be too long.

Once you’re done with the intro, you’re ready to move on to the body paragraphs.

Body paragraphs

A total number of paragraphs in the body section depends on a number of aspects or criteria you have to discuss. For example, if you have to make a comparison between two different events through two aspects, you’ll need two paragraphs. Three criteria require three paragraphs, and so on. Sometimes, you’ll get the amount of aspects to use for comparison/contrast from your professor or a client, while in other instances, you’ll just have to determine the number yourself during the research process.

When you get the title and aspects to compare but without a certain number of criteria to cover similarities and differences, you have to brainstorm. Take a blank piece of paper and write the first item in the left corner, the second item in the right corner. Make a Venn diagram and start analyzing.

REMEMBER: Typically, you don’t need more than three aspects to cover, unless otherwise noted.

When you start brainstorming and researching the topic, the chances are high you’ll find a wide array of differences and similarities. However, your essay has to be well-crafted, and you can’t include absolutely everything you find (that way you’d write forever). To determine what to compare or differentiate answer these questions:

  • Is this relevant for my course?
  • What matters to the argument I’m going to take (or I’m given)?
  • What’s informative and interesting?
  • What’s relevant to my assignment?

Each paragraph in the body should start with a topic sentence (point 1, criterion 1/item A, B) focused on the aspect you’re about to compare/contrast. Then, you proceed with details you find when conducting research. Remember, just like in other types of essays, thorough research is highly relevant here, too.

It’s not just about mentioning differences and similarities one by one and stating your opinion or argument about them. Every detail you find should be supported by substantial evidence, statistics, studies, official data, and so on.

To show comparisons and emphasize the overall effect, don’t forget to use some connectors such as:

  • At the same time, as well as
  • Both
  • Compared to
  • Correspondingly
  • In addition
  • In the same way
  • Just as
  • Likewise
  • Same as
  • Similarly

Of course, you can include connectors to express or heighten the contrasting effect. For example:

  • Conversely
  • Even though, although
  • However
  • In contrast
  • Meanwhile
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • On the other hand
  • Unlike

For the best possible result and successful completion of the essay, the body paragraphs should be analyzed from the perspective of an independent analytic. Ideally, your paper shouldn’t be biased. You don’t want the reader of your paper to assume what item you prefer or despise automatically.

Conclusion

At this point, you have the introduction and body paragraphs, which indicates you’re ready to conclude the essay. Generally, this is the easiest part, but you should ensure it’s properly structured as well. Here’s what your conclusion should contain:

  • Summary of main points – at the very beginning of this part, you should summarize the main points you’ve made throughout the essay. It’s important to synthesize your thesis with info in body paragraphs
  • Evaluation – provide a short analysis of what you discussed in the paper or mention possible solutions. The approach depends on the nature of your subject
  • Significance – not only do you have to clarify the importance of the main topic, but also mention the significance of comparisons or contrasts. How to do this? It’s not that difficult; answer the What was my goal in showing similarities/differences between these items? Your response indicates their significance.

Post-writing stage

You finished writing the paper, but your work isn’t over just yet. Before sending or submitting the essay, it’s necessary to proofread and edit the paper to eliminate all mistakes and unwanted parts.

Proofreading isn’t only necessary for correcting typos or grammar, these seemingly unimportant errors that “everyone makes” break the reader from the flow of the paper and undermine its power of persuasion. When you finish the essay, read your work from top to bottom without doing anything. You’ll probably spot some mistakes, but don’t rush correcting them immediately. Then, start reading again and correct typos, grammar errors, and sentence constructions. Don’t resist the urge to rewrite some sentences for better effect.

Nowadays, in the era of technology, you might feel tempted to download software (or find grammar/spelling checker online) and let it do the work for you. First of all, they aren’t always correct, and secondly, your critical thinking skills will improve only when you do it yourself. The software can be used as additional essay help. Another useful idea is to ask a family member or a friend to read the essay and see if they can spot some mistakes.

You’re almost ready to submit your essay, check whether you included references (if not, do so) and you’re done.

Bottom line

Compare, and contrast essay is concerned with evaluating differences and similarities between given items or topics. It’s not just a mere comparison; the essay requires thorough evaluation and analysis supported by reliable data. This post explained how to create the outline properly, and all you have to do is to write according to the structure provided. Remember, once you create the structure and choose the adequate pattern (point-by-point or block), you just have to fill in the missing detail with results of your search.

What Is a Compare and Contrast Essay?

Unlike other types of essays (see top 10 essay types), a compare and contrast essay is used to explore both the similarities and the differences between two subjects by comparing and/or contrasting them against each other.

Compare and Contrast Essay Outline

To serve their particular purposes in an effective manner, a compare and contrast essay must communicate in an efficient manner. This means that compare and contrast essays should start with an opening paragraph, which will directly state what the writer is trying to say. Afterward, they can move onto the body, which will support the opening paragraph by providing supporting evidence. Once the supporting evidence has been listed, compare and contrast essays can conclude by reemphasizing their opening paragraphs in order to produce a lasting impression on the mind of the reader.

Comparative Analysis

With that said, a compare and contrast essay cannot be completed without conducting a comparative analysis, which the writer can use to lay out their thoughts about the subjects before sorting them into a neat and organized form. Fortunately, this process is as simple as creating a Venn diagram (see below) before filling it with the characteristics of the subjects, while making sure to put shared characteristics in the overlapping area. Once the writer is satisfied with their brainstorming, they can sort through the characteristics for the ones with the most relevance to the point that they are trying to make, which is important because weaker arguments can actually drag down their stronger counterparts when placed in the same essay.

How to Write a Compare and Contrast Essay

Pre-Writing Phase

How to start a compare and contrast essay? Students are normally assigned a topic to write on, yet sometimes professors give their students the freedom of selecting the topic on their own. In the latter case choosing one out of top compare and contrast essay topics can become a challenge. While working on the topic selection it is important not to choose two totally unrelated subjects, otherwise finding similarities can get problematic. Start out with a subject that has some basic similarities, e.g. two novels, two paintings, speeches etc.


Looking for the things to compare and contrast? Here is a list of top 30 compare contrast essay topics:

TOP 30 COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY TOPICS


Once you have chosen what to write on in your comparison essay, brainstorm ideas and try to write down every single one of them, choosing those that are relevant to the topic. You might want to divide your sheet of paper into two main sections and start jotting down everything that comes to your mind, including similarities and differences.

Writing Phase - Venn Diagram

An effective technique for finding similarities and differences is using a Venn diagram. A Venn diagram is a scheme that represents logical relations between two objects. Graphically it can be depicted as two overlapping circles, each of the circles denoting some entity. The overlapping part is the area denoting similarities, while the parts that do not overlap, are the differences (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Venn Diagram: Comparing Apples and Oranges (Compare and Contrast Essay)

A very important point in writing an effective compare and contrast essay is a correct selection of the lines of comparison: if you are comparing two objects, you should be comparing them against one and the same parameter. For example, looking at the picture above you will see that oranges and apples are compared in regards to things like origin, place of growth, a thickness of peel etc. All of these features are inherent in both objects. If you say that an apple is different from an orange because an apple is green and the orange is juicy, you will be “comparing apples and oranges” – this time in the figurative meaning of "likening two incomparable things".

Organization: Typical Structure of a Compare and Contrast Essay

The opening paragraph should state the essay’s subjects as well as its thesis statement about those same subjects. From that point on, the body of a compare and contrast essay tends to be structured in one of two ways:

The first way: a writer can list the characteristics of one subject and then the characteristics of the other before bringing them together by analyzing their similarities and differences. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about one subject, continue with a similar number of paragraphs about the other subject, and then finish with a crucial paragraph that will use the listed characteristics to compare and contrast the two subjects.

The second way: a writer can list the similarities between the subjects and then the differences between the same. This means that the body of the essay will begin with a number of paragraphs about their similarities and finish with a number of paragraphs about their differences. With this structure, there is no need for an analysis at the end because its content is spread throughout the preceding paragraphs.

  1. Introduction
  2. Origin
  3. Climate
  4. Peel
  5. Conclusion

Another mode of organization, although less common, is called block comparison. According to this pattern, you will be required to separate the body of your compare and contrast essay in two parts. The first part of the body will be dedicated to Object A, while the other half will be centered around Object B. Together with the introduction and the conclusion, the overall essay length will be 4 paragraphs. In case of block comparison the overall essay structure will take the following form:

  1. Introduction
  2. Oranges
  3. Apples
  4. Conclusion

Once the body of the essay is complete, its conclusion should restate the thesis statement but in a more confident manner because it has proven its point. Sometimes, a conclusion will summarize the preceding paragraphs for a bolder and blunter emphasis, while other times, a conclusion will let them provide their support in a more implicit manner.


HOW TO WRITE A COMPARE AND CONTRAST ESSAY


Additional Tips on Comparison and Contrast Essay Writing

Fig. 2. Comparison and Contrast Signifiers

Compare and Contrast Words

An important thing about writing any essay is using special cue words that will make your essay more coherent and logical. In the case of a compare and contrast essay you will need to use cue words signifying comparison, for example:

Words to compare: like, compared to, similar to, similarly, by analogy, likewise, in the same way, as well as, both, too, at the same time, correspondingly, in addition, same as, etc.

The cue words signaling contrast are:

Words to contrast: unlike, conversely, however, nevertheless, still, although, while, but, even though, although, despite, yet, regardless, on the one hand … one the other hand, etc.

Post-Writing Phase

Once the first draft of an essay is complete, it is time for the writer to put the finishing touches:

Proofreading

Proofreading is a key factor because errors can break the reader from the flow of the essay, thus robbing it of its power to persuade. Writers should always read through their own work to check for typos, spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, as well as lines that should be rephrased for a better result. However, they should also get other people to proofread for them because their closeness to their writing can make it hard for them to pick up on its problems. After all, they already know what they are trying to say, meaning that they are not looking at their work with the same perspective as the reader.

References

References are a useful way to increase an essay’s power to persuade so long as they are appropriately authoritative. For example, referencing a politician is probably not going to be much use in a philosophy essay unless it is in the context of their philosophical writings. Furthermore, references are needed to use someone else’s arguments without taking credit for them in the process, which is necessary to prevent plagiarism. Not coincidentally, this also makes it easy for the reader to check the sources so that they will know, that somebody really said so if the reader is skeptical. Finally, references should be done in the style that is appropriate for the essay’s subjects for the convenience of different people in different fields. For example, most essays about the sciences should use APA, while most essays about the humanities should use MLA since those are the conventions.

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