I. The purpose of comparison/contrast writing is to point out the similarities and differences among two or more topics, events, things, or opinions. It should help your readers to understand your topic more fully and enable them to form their own attitudes about that topic. It can be used as one method to develop almost any kind of assignment, or it may be used as an assignment on its own.
II. Before writing, you should do the following:
A. Understand the instructor's specific requirements for format and content. Ask your instructor.
B. Define your purpose or goal in writing this assignment. In other words, clarify why you are writing it. Be as specific as you can.
For example, "This comparison of Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget focuses on how their theories influenced the teaching of reading."
is more specific than
"This paper will compare the ideas of Maria Montessori and Jean Piaget."
C. Assemble as much information as you need to make an informed comparison. Be selective in choosing pertinent information, since you may be dealing with a large amount of material.
D. Decide on the points or grounds on which you will make your comparison. The points/grounds must be applicable to each item/person being compared.
Example: Kennedy and Johnson will be compared on their backgrounds, accomplishments, and political styles.
III. A comparison/contrast essay may be evaluated on some or all of the following. Writing Center consultants can help you work on any of these areas.
A. A clear statement of purpose at the beginning of your paper.
B. Proper citation for quotations, paraphrases, summaries, or ideas of another author, facts and figures.
C. Clear presentation of your plan for conducting the comparison: what will you decide to discuss first, second, third and so on? The reader should know the what, why, and how of your comparison.
D. Consistent follow-through on the points of your comparison.
Example: If you discuss the education of Kennedy, you must also discuss the education of Johnson.
E. The tying together of your comparison/contrast at the end by drawing conclusions about what the comparisons showed.
F. The extent to which you achieve your stated purpose.
A. Switching back and forth between the items being compared without careful transitions.
B. Shortchanging one of the items being compared.