Assignment Guide: The Compare/Contrast Essay
For this assignment, you will be writing a compare/contrast essay–an 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 thesis/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.
Thesis: Underline your thesis statement or the main claim of your essay.
Sources Needed: Two reliable and credible sources are required for this assignment. Be sure to use MLA guidelines for all in-text and Works Cited citations.
Page Formatting: See Appendix C – Formatting and Submitting Your Work
MLA Requirements: See Formatting your Essay: MLA 8th Edition
Compare/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” language.
To prove points–compare/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 thesis and 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.
The compare/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 compare/contrast claims throughout the essay.
This is a formal writing project, written in third-person, relying on strong organizational strategies, integrating researched evidence, and following MLA formatting guidelines.
Six Features of a Compare and Contrast Essay
Compare/Contrast Thesis: Contains a strong and succinct thesis/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 compare/contrast 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: Utilizes transitional words and phrases that help the audience (or reader) move more easily from idea to idea, sentence to sentence, and paragraph to paragraph.
*Note–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.”
Compare/Contrast Signals: In addition to more typical transitional words and phrases, this essay should also include compare/contrast specific signals, emphasizing for readers how and why your topics are alike or different. Here are some example:
similar: in addition, by comparison, similarly
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 transitions, 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 compare/contrast point regarding both topics and use the body paragraph to show readers how your two topics are similar, different, or similar and different.
Reliable and Credible Sources: The essay should integrate at least two reliable and credible sources (also known as “scholarly sources”) to help prove the compare/contrast claims to readers and to boost or substantiate the supporting points that you have created for your two topics.
Proofreading and Revising: As with any writing project, the final draft of this essay should be carefully reviewed for clarity and correctness. This includes checking word choice, sentence structure, organization, transitions/coherence, and MLA formatting.
Assignment Guide: The Compare/Contrast Essay