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Sophomore Research: Compare & Contrast

Comparative Analysis

A comparative paper asks that you compare at least two (possibly more) items. These items will differ depending on the assignment. You might be asked to compare:

  • positions on an issue (e.g., responses to midwifery in Canada and the United States)
  • theories (e.g., capitalism and communism)
  • figures (e.g., GDP in the United States and Britain)
  • texts (e.g., Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth)
  • events (e.g., the Great Depression and the global financial crisis of 2008–9)

Although the assignment may say “compare,” the assumption is that you will consider both the similarities and differences; in other words, you will compare and contrast.

University of Toronto

Comparing and Contrasting - UNC Writing Center

Comparing and Contrasting Handout - UNC-CH Writing Center

Finding Similarities and Differences

Write down as many ideas as you can about your two topics.

Use a Venn diagram or a Chart when writing down similarities and differences.

Venn Diagrams can be key for a visualization of comparing two or more items.  To make a Venn diagram, simply draw a circle for each item you are comparing/contrasting and overlap them.  In the central area, list the traits that all items have in common.

Charts are more useful when you have specific criteria in mind.  To make a chart, list the names of items across the top of each column then list the criteria in each row.  You will then have a box to describe each of the criteria for each item.  

Pick out the three best ideas to show the three main ways the two items are similar or different for the focus of your paper. 

Questions to Ask

Some Questions to consider when looking for similarities or differences between your two topics.

  • Who had something to do with your topic?
  • What happened to your topic?
  • Where did your topic take place?
  • When did your topic happen?
  • Why did your topic happen?
  • How did your topic happen?

Signal Transitions for Compare/Contrast

Signaling transitions            
Learn to use expressions that precisely convey contrast or comparison. These expressions, or transitions, signal contrast:

  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • however
  • otherwise
  • whereas
  • still
  • yet

These expressions signal comparison:           

  • as well as
  • both
  • like
  • in common with
  • likewise
  • also

Signal words such as these help the reader understand the relationships between your sentences, paragraphs, and ideas. In particular, if you are both comparing and contrasting, signal words help sort out what's what.  (Butte College)

Transitions Handout - UNC-CH Writing Center

Point by Point Comparison Outline Format

The most popular form of compare/contrast papers, Point by Point Outlines focus on the topics of similarities or differences and then view each item in comparison. This method can support any number of items to compare as it will be the topics that form the paragraphs.

Point by Point Outline Format

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items (works/objects)
     b. Thesis Statement
          i.Topic 1
          ii. Topic 2
          iii. Topic 3
          iv. Etc.
2. Topic 1
     a. Summary of Topic
          i. Relation to Item 1
          ii. Relation to Item 2
          iii. Etc.
3. Topic 2
     a. Summary of Topic
          i. Relation to Item 1
          ii. Relation to Item 2
          iii. Etc.
4. Topic 3...4...5...etc.
     a. Summary of Topic
          i. Relation to Item 1
          ii. Relation to Item 2
          iii. Etc.
5. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Example: Point by Point Outline

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items
          i. First Work – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy had ample preparation time, budget, and a generous release schedule but used practical effects to attain greater realism and focused more on story telling rather than “filmable moments” that added little to the plot.
          ii. Second Work – The Hobbit Trilogy did not have the preparation time, budget, or generous release schedule in order to be successful films.
     b. Thesis Statement
          i. When comparing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit Trilogy, it is clear that preparation time, budget, special effects, and a well-spaced release schedule can have a tremendous effect on film quality.  
2. Preparation Time
     a. Hobbit Trilogy Examples
     b. Lord of the Rings Examples
3. Budget
     a. Hobbit Trilogy Examples
     b. Lord of the Rings Examples

4. Release Schedule
     a. Hobbit Trilogy Examples
     b. Lord of the Rings Examples
5. 
Practical Effects/CGI
     a. Hobbit Trilogy Examples
     b. Lord of the Rings Examples
6. Conclusion
    a. Restate Thesis
    b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Texas State Technical College

Subject Comparison Outline Format

This style of paper focuses more on the items themselves rather than focusing on the points.  This can lead to a weaker argument as to why one item is superior to another or be nothing more than a list of points with no connection between the two items. Not recommended for comparing/contrasting more than two items.

Subject Outline

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items (works/objects)
     b. Thesis Statement
          i. Supporting Point 1
          ii. Supporting Point 2
          iii. Etc.
2. Explanation of First Item (work/object)
     a. Information on Supporting Point 1
     b. Information on Supporting Point 2
     c. Etc.
3. Explanation of Second Item (work/object)
     a. Information on Supporting Point 1
     b. Information on Supporting Point 2
     c. Etc.
4. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Example: Subject Outline 

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items
          i. First Work – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy had ample preparation time, budget, and a generous release schedule but used practical effects to attain greater realism and focused more on story telling rather than “filmable moments” that added little to the plot.
          ii. Second Work – The Hobbit Trilogy did not have the preparation time, budget, or generous release schedule in order to be successful films.
     b. Thesis Statement
          i. When comparing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit Trilogy, it is clear that preparation time, budget, special effects, and a well-spaced release schedule can have a tremendous effect on film quality.  
2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy
     a. Preparation Time
     b. Budget
     c. Release Schedule
     d. Practical Effects/CGI
3. Hobbit Trilogy
     a. Preparation Time
     b. Budget
     c. Release Schedule
     d. Practical Effects/CGI
4. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Texas State Technical College

Compare Then Contrast Outline Format

Compare Then Contrast : Useful for when your assignment asks you to both compare AND contrast items. Each paragraph immediately focuses on discussions of similarities and weaknesses.  While this method works best for short answer or essays, it is possible to take each similarity/difference and turn it into its own paragraph.

Compare Then Contrast Outline

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items (works/objects)
     b. Thesis Statement
          i.Topic 1
          ii. Topic 2
          iii. Topic 3
          iv. Etc.
2. Similarities between Works/Objects
     a. Similarity 1
     b. Similarity 2
     c. Etc.
3. Differences between Works/Objects
     a. Difference 1
     b. Difference 2
     c. Etc.
4. Summary as to why one work/object is better than the other
     a. Supporting Point 1
     b. Supporting Point 2
     c. Etc.
5. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Example: Compare Then Contrast Outline

1. Introduction
     a. Introduce Items
          i. First Work – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy had ample preparation time, budget, and a generous release schedule but used practical effects to attain greater realism and focused more on story telling rather than “filmable moments” that added little to the plot.
          ii. Second Work – The Hobbit Trilogy did not have the preparation time, budget, or generous release schedule in order to be successful films.
     b. Thesis Statement
          i. When comparing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit Trilogy, it is clear that preparation time, budget, special effects, and a well-spaced release schedule can have a tremendous effect on film quality.  
2. 
Similarities
     a. Release Schedule
     b. Budget
3. Differences
     a. Preparation Time
     b. Practical Effects/CGI
4. Conclusion
     a. Restate Thesis
     b. Summarize how you proved your argument

Texas State Technical College