Constructing a compare and contrast essay requires diligent preparation as well as an objective evaluation of the two subjects being analyzed. These essays usually serve one of two purposes: Authors choose to either support one side of an argument or find a balance between two contrasting points of view. When preparing a compare or contrast essay, authors create graphic charts to organize their thoughts and analyze the subjects within the work.
Types of Charts
An author can use a variety of graphic organizers depending on the purpose of her compare or contrast essay. Venn diagrams, created using two interlocking circles, are used to analyze the similarities and differences of two subjects. The contrasting traits are written in the parts of each circle that don't overlap, and the similar characteristics are written in the small interlocking space. For example, for an essay regarding apples and oranges, the author could list "crunchy" on the side referring to apples, "soft" on the side referring to oranges and "juicy" in the interlocking space.
A "T" chart is used when listing pros and cons of a specific argument or question. Using the example "Do lizards make good pets?" one side of a T chart would list the ways in which lizards make good pets, and the other would list the ways they do not. By structuring information in an organized way, authors are able to support their claims on a point-by-point basis.
Constructing the Body Paragraphs
Authors structure compare and contrast essays differently depending on the purpose of the piece. An author may choose to write a series of points that analyze one aspect of two different subjects. This method introduces one "talking point" per paragraph and discusses how the point applies to each subject or side of an argument. For example, in an essay discussing whether or not children benefit more from playing baseball or football, one paragraph could focus on safety and the next could focus on teamwork, with each paragraph discussing both sports.
The block method separates the talking points into two paragraphs; in this format, one paragraph will discuss all of the aspects of football, and the second will discuss only baseball. A point-by-point analysis is beneficial when an author's purpose is to argue for a specific side. When his purpose is to simply compare and contrast two ideas objectively, the block method is best.
Evaluating the Facts
Once the facts of each subject have been presented, the author then evaluates them for validity. This is done in different ways depending on the way in which the facts were given. In a point-by-point essay, each aspect of a topic is introduced and evaluated immediately within the same paragraph. An essay structured in the block method includes an entire paragraph dedicated to the evaluation of facts established in the previous two paragraphs. While both methods present facts in addition to the author's opinion, the manner in which they are presented varies depending on the purpose of the essay.
The final paragraph of a compare and contrast essay is an author's final chance to discuss the subjects in the paper. In a concluding paragraph, authors revisit the main points made throughout the piece. If the purpose of the piece is to convince the audience of the correctness of a specific side, the conclusion will offer the author's final say on the subject. For example, an author may state, "Although playing football at a young age does benefit children in many ways, participating in baseball is a much safer alternative." If the purpose was simply to evaluate similarities and differences, allowing the reader to decide on the better personal choice, the conclusion may read, "If you're in the mood for a sweet snack, both apples and oranges are healthy choices."
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