What is a comparison/contrastessay?In a comparison/contrast essay, you explain thesimilarities and differences between two items.Comparison and contrast is a very commonpattern in most academic fields. It is also acommon type of essay test question. You mayencounter questions such as these:
What is a comparison/contrastessay?Political ScienceCompare the forms of government of GreatBritain and the United StatesLiteratureCompare the characters of Uncle Melik and hisnephew in Saroyan’s short story “ThePomegranate Trees.”
What is a comparison/contrastessay?BusinessCompare and contrast methods for promoting anew business, product, or service.
Organization of acomparison/contrast essay?The first key to writing a successfulcomparison/contrast essay is to organize itcarefully. There are two ways to do this:• Point-by-point organization• Block organization
Point-by-Point OrganizationSuppose, for example, that you want to comparejobs. First make a list of factors that areimportant to you: salary, benefits, opportunitiesfor advancement, workplace atmosphere,commuting distance from your home, and so on.Each factor, or point of comparison, is asubtopic.
Point-by-Point OrganizationPoints ofComparisonJob X Job Y Same orDifferentSalaryFrequency of raises$30/hourAnnualevaluation$25/hoursemi-annualevaluationsDifferentBenefits•Vacation•Health insurance•Pension plan•Sick leaveGood Good SameAdvancementopportunitiesNot good Good Different
Point-by-Point OrganizationPoints ofComparisonJob X Job Y Same orDifferentWorkplaceatmosphereHigh pressureCompetitiveFriendlySupportiveDifferentCommutingdistance30 Minutes 32 Minutes SameIn your essay, each point of comparisonbecomes the topic of a paragraph. You can putthe paragraphs in any order you wish - perhapsin the order of importance to you personally.
Point-by-Point OrganizationI. IntroductionThesis statement: One way of deciding between job offers isto compare them on important points.II. BodyA. SalaryB. BenefitsC. Opportunities for advancementD. Workplace atmosphereE. Commuting distance from homeIII. Conclusion
Block OrganizationThe other way to organize acomparison/contrast essay is to arrange allthe similarities together in a block and all thedifferences together in a block. You shoulddiscuss either the similarities first or thedifferences first. You often insert a transitionparagraph or transition sentence between thetwo blocks.
Point-by-Point OrganizationI. IntroductionThesis statement: One way of deciding between job offers isto compare them on important points.II. BodyA. Similarities1. Benefits2. Commute distance from homeB. Differences1. Salaries2. Opportunities for advancement3. Workplace atmosphereIII. Conclusion
Point-by-Point OrganizationThe number of paragraphs in each blockdepends on the topic. For some topics youmay write about all the similarities in a singleparagraph; for other topics, you may need todiscuss each similarity in a separateparagraph. The same is true for thedifferences. Of course, some topics may haveone paragraph of similarities and severalparagraphs of differences, or vice versa.
Comparison and ContrastSignal WordsThe second key to writing a successfulcomparison/contrast essay is the appropriateuse of comparison and contrast signal words.These are words that introduce point ofcomparison and points of contrast. It is notsufficient simply to describe each item thatyou are comparing. You must refer back andforth to, for example, Job X and Job Y anduse comparison and contrast signal words toshow what is the same and what is differentabout them.
Comparison and ContrastSignal WordsOf course, you should also use transitionsignals, such as first, second, one … another… the final … for example, and in conclusionin addition to these special ones.The following chart lists some of the wordsand phrases used to discuss similarities.
Comparison and Contrast SignalWordsTransition Words and PhrasessimilarlyLikewiseAlsotooHuman workers can detect malfunctions inmachinery; similarly/likewise, a robot can beprogrammed to detect equipment malfunctions.Human workers can detect malfunctions inmachinery; a robot can also.Human workers can detect malfunctions inmachinery; a robot can too.
Comparison and Contrast SignalWordsSubordinatorsasjust asRobots can detect malfunctions in machinery,as/just as human workers can.Note: Use a comma when as and just as showcomparison even when the dependent clause followsthe independent clause as in the above example.
Comparison and Contrast SignalWordsCoordinatorsandboth … andnot only … but alsoneither … norRobots and human workers can detectmalfunctions in Machinery.Both robots and human workers can detectmalfunctions in machinery.Not only robots but also human workers can detectmalfunctions in machinery.Neither robots nor human workers are infallible.
Comparison and Contrast SignalWordsOthersLike (+ noun)Just like (+ noun)Similar (=noun)(be) like(be) similar (to)(be) the same as(be) the sameRobots, like/just like/similar to humanworkers, can detect malfunctions in machinery.Robots are like/are similar to/are the sameas human workers in their ability to detectmalfunctions in machinery.In their ability to detect malfunctions in machinery,robots and human workers are the same.
Comparison and Contrast SignalWordsOthers(be) alike(be) similarTo compare (to/with)Robots and human workers are alike/aresimilar in their ability in their ability to detectmalfunctions in machinery.Robots can be compared to/be comparedwith human workers in their ability to detectmalfunctions in machinery.
Contrast and Signal WordsContrast and signal words fall into two maingroups according to their meaning. The wordsin the first group show a relationship that iscalled concession. The words in the secondgroup show an opposition relationship.
Contrast and Signal WordsContrast Signal Words: ConcessionConcession signal words indicate that theinformation given is in the other clause.Although I studied all night, I failed the exam.My failing the exam is not the result you mightexpect from the information in the first clause: Istudied all night.
Contrast Signal Words:ConcessionTransition Words and PhraseshoweverneverthelessnonethelessstillMillions of people go on diets every year,however/nevertheless/nonetheless/still, veryfew succeed in losing weight.Subordinatorsalthougheven thoughthoughAlthough/Even though/Though most dietersinitially lose a few pounds, most gain them backagain within a few weeks.
Contrast Signal Words:ConcessionCoordinatorsbutyetDoctors say that ‘fad’ diets do not work, but/yetmany people still try them.Othersdespite (+noun)in spite of (+noun)Despite/In spite of 10 years of dieting, I am still fat.
Contrast Signal Words: DirectOppositionThe second group of contrast signal words showsthat two things are direct opposites. With directopposites, the signal words can introduce eitherpiece of information.I am short, whereas my brother is tallORMy brother is tall, whereas I am short.
Contrast Signal Words: DirectOppositionTransition Words and Phraseshoweverin contrastin (by) comparisonon the other handon the contraryRock music is primarily the music of whiteperformers; however/in contrast/incomparison/ on the other hand, jazz isperformed by both white and black musicians.Jazz is not just one style of music; on thecontrary, jazz has many styles such as ChicagoJazz, Dixieland, ragtime, swing, bebop, an cool jazz,to name just a few.Note: On the contrary contrasts a truth and anuntruth.
Contrast Signal Words: DirectOppositionSubordinatorswhilewhereasNew Orleans-style jazz features brass marching-band instruments, while/whereas ragtime isplayed on a piano.
Contrast Signal Words: DirectOppositionCoordinatorsbut Jazz music was born in the southern part of theUnited States, but it now enjoys a worldwideaudience.Othersdiffer (from)compared (to/with)Present-day rock music differs from early rockmusic in several ways.Present-day rock music has a harder soundcompared to/ compared with early rock.
Contrast Signal Words: DirectOppositionOthers(be) different (from)(be) dissimilar to(be) unlikeThe punk, rap, grunge, and techno styles of todayare very different from/dissimilar to/unlikethe rock music performed by Elvis Presley 50 yearsago, but they have the same roots.Unlike rock, a music style started by whitemusicians, rhythm-and-blues styles wereinfluenced primarily by black musicians.