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Essay Tips for Compare and Contrast

An essay most high school and college students will encounter is the compare and contrast essay. It hones the ability to examine the similarities and the differences between two subjects. The skill is an important one since most major academic essays and even future work proposals often have an element of compare and contrast.

The following are some tips to help you with your compare and contrast essay.

  • Select a topic that excites you

When given a choice, it is usually best to pick something that excites you. You will be more motivated to work on something you like (Tekken versus Street Fighter) compared to something you don’t know much about.

  • Ensure the topics are similar

When making that choice, ensure there is a similarity between the two topics. If they are too different, such as comparing a popular singer versus a popular dancer, the essay will be more difficult. Your teacher might also not appreciate the final product.

  • Brainstorm the key similarities and differences

Before writing, you should take the time to note the key similarities and differences. If you are a visual learner, you can create a Venn diagram to better “see” the differences. Otherwise, you can simply create two columns so you can list what is the same and what is different.

After listing everything down, consider the top three similarities and differences for your essay. If you go beyond that, you will probably not finish. Standard assignments will probably just require 250 to 400 words, so three of each is more than enough.

  • Determine the structure of the Body

A common way to compare and contrast is to place all the similarities in the first paragraph of the body and the differences in the next paragraph. Called the block structure, it is easy to do for short essays (250 - 400 words).

Another style is to list the similarities and differences point-by-point. This means each body paragraph mentions a similarity and a difference.

  • Include evidence (if required)

Some teachers will require you to cite sources (book, magazine article, online article) for your comparison. If that’s needed, you should consult at least three sources to have enough for your paper.

If your teacher does not require a source, as it may just be an assignment to practice your writing skills, provide well-known examples instead. These can be well-accepted occurrences, such as saying dogs can guard the house while cats are good at catching mice.

  • Check your work

A good habit to maintain, regardless of the subject, is to always double-check your work. You will often find typographical errors, wrong grammar, missing words, unsupported thoughts, and incorrect logic. Sometimes students come up with better ideas the second time they view their work, so it pays to take a look one more time before printing or emailing your essay.

Summary

Having the skill to compare and contrast two different ideas is an important one to have. This is not just used in school, it is a skill that may even be required in your future work. So take a look at the tips above to guarantee a great essay.

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