Comparison and Contrast

Comparison and Contrast

Thesis: Fitting exercise is an indispensable element in our life.

Proof 1: Beneficial for the metabolism of our body system.

Proof 2: Make our brain nerves control our behavior better.

Proof 3: Help relieving fatigue, keeping us in a good mood.

Significance: Fitting exercise help people improving the quality of health and make us live longer and happier.

Instructor Response: I don’t see a clear thesis statement, and your outline is very simple. You can use these two subjects, but you have a lot of work to do! Make sure

you are using sources from our GRC library databases. ūüôā

The Comparison/Contrast Essay

Thesis and statement of Org ___________Outline due date        Peer Review        Final Draft
Minimum length‚ÄĒ2 pages¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬† Maximum length‚ÄĒ3 pages¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬† ¬†2 source min.

The rhetorical mode of comparing or contrasting two or more things is a great way for teachers to assess if you are grasping difficult concepts.  For example you might

compare/contrast two wars that America has participated in, or two colonies that Great Britain colonized and the reaction of the indigenous people.  Another way

comp/cont is used is for a student to understand something more clearly by comparing it to something with which it is similar.  For instance, it might help us to

understand socialism if we compare it with capitalism, or to understand classical music by comparing and contrasting it with rock and roll.

Often in your college writing for such classes as philosophy, history, or political science, as well as English, you will be asked to compare and contrast two subjects

that belong to the same general theme but that differ in certain ways and show why one is more important, better, or preferred in some way.

The purpose of your comparison/contrast essay is to show how two subjects (things, people (famous or otherwise), events, ideas, systems, feelings) are similar in some

ways yet different in other ways, hence the name, comparison and contrast.  It is also to evaluate your subjects (persons, places, things, ideas), assess their

relative strengths and weaknesses, and show why one is better or more successful or more popular than another.  The comparison/contrast paper gives you a chance to

practice developing a persuasive essay by showing why one thing is better than another (yes, your first argument!).


The most important aspect of an academic essay is a clear, focused, and well developed thesis statement.  A thesis is an action plan for your paper that states a

conclusion or interpretation that will be proven.  It establishes a relationship that you believe brings meaning to the material that you are working with.  Once you

determine this relationship, your goal is to demonstrate it in your paper.  You may have two, three or more components for this proof.  The significance of the proof

suggests the consequences or implications of the thesis statement, or if the thesis can be proven we can expect (fill in the blank) to follow.

The following is a model of a type of thesis that has a thesis statement and a statement of organization (sometimes referred to as T+ 3).  The “statement of

organization‚ÄĚ is the thesis plus two, three, or more main ideas that will be discussed in the paper.¬† This is the type of thesis statement I want you to use in your

comparison/contrast essay.

Thesis:        States a conclusion or interpretation that will be proven

Proof 1:        Gives evidence to prove this thesis

Proof 2:        Gives further evidence

Proof 3:         Provides additional evidence

Significance:¬†¬† ¬†Suggests the consequences or implication–if the thesis can be proven, then what might we expect to follow?

Please look closely at the exercise on the following page.  It will give you practice in developing a clear, focused, and well developed thesis and statement of



This activity will give you practice in writing an effective thesis and statement of organization‚ÄĒone that is neither too broad nor too narrow for the supporting

points in an essay.  An added value of the activity is that sometimes you will construct your thesis and statement of organization after you have decided what your

supporting points or main ideas will be.  You will need to know, then, how to write a thesis statement that will match exactly the points that you have developed, in

other words a thesis statement and statement of organization.

Example of model above:
This activity is a form of prewriting to not only formulate your thesis and statement of organization, but to organize your thoughts and ideas so that the writing

process will go smoothly.

Thesis:        Recent studies have proven that cutting down on salt has many benefits.
Proof 1:    reduces water retention
Proof 2:    helps hypertension
Proof 3:    enhances the natural flavor of food
Significance:    Cutting down on salt can improve the quality of your health and your enjoyment of life.

Sample thesis with statement of organization (or T+3)  This is what your thesis should look like for our comp/cont essay:
(Thesis statement)                                     (Statement of organization)
Recent studies have proven that cutting down on salt has many benefits.  It has been shown to reduce water retention, help hypertension and enhance the natural flavor

of foods.


Using the following ‚Äúproofs,‚ÄĚ write a thesis with a statement of organization to match the topic and main ideas represented in the proofs.¬† First read the proofs and

decide what the topic is, then construct a thesis and develop a statement of organization.

Note:  Your thesis and statement of organization may be one or two sentences.  You have choices!

1.    Thesis:

Proof 1. All the resorts, from beaches to mountains to amusement parks, charge top dollar at this
Proof 2. The heat and humidity during the summer months make traveling extremely uncomfortable.
Proof 3.  Highways, campsites, and motels are jammed with other vacationers.

2.    Thesis:

Proof 1.  Daydreaming allows us to exercise our imaginations.
Proof 2.  Time spent daydreaming can aid relaxation and help eliminate stress.
Proof 3.  Often, solutions to difficult problems pop into mind while a person daydreams.

3.    Thesis:

Proof 1.  A word processor reduces paper clutter by storing information on disks.
Proof 2.  Using a word processor eliminates many kinds of common typing errors.
Proof 3.  Unlike typewriters, word processors permit rapid editing of material.
Selecting and Supporting a Topic and Thesis


For this paper I would like you to use at least one outside source to support your thesis statement.  Consider our library as your source and information center.  Use

books, journals, or databases, even the Reference section.  I will not accept sources outside of our academic library or the databases (sorry no Wikipedia!).  See the

‚ÄúConsidering Evidence as a Source‚ÄĚ handout.

I want to remind you that topics that rely on a particular religious belief are not acceptable.  Likewise, topics that rely on purely emotional belief must be avoided.

These include abortion, legalization of marijuana (in any form), and partisan political issues. These topic guidelines apply to all assignments during the quarter.
I reserve the right to approve all topics, so check with me if you have any doubts.  The key is to be specific and detailed as you describe the topic, while remaining

rational and sensitive in your evaluation.


Model of an anthology bibliographic entry using MLA formatting (see your writer’s handbook for more models):

Tannen, Deborah.¬† ‚ÄúSex, Lies, and Conversation.‚ÄĚ The McGraw-Hill Reader. Ed. Gilbert H. Muller. New
York: McGraw Hill, 2003. 228-232.

This is what you need to include at the end of your paper to show what sources you have used in your text.  You will need to cite the authors in-text, as we practiced

in the summary.  Then you will need to cite them in a list at the end of the paper.


1.    Collect all the information you can about both of your subjects.  List the information on two separate
sheets of paper, or draw a line down the middle of one sheet and use half for each subject.

2.    Go through your list and find points of difference and similarity.  Establish a few main categories that
reflect the chief differences and similarities between the two things.

3.    Make a plan or outline of the paper’s organization, making certain the thesis and statement of organization are clear.

4.    Use transitional words.  Successfully used in comparison/contrast these words link together ideas and points in your paper.

first             on the other hand
in addition        but
also            however
most important.      another difference
in contrast

5.¬†¬† ¬†One popular mistake that writers make on this assignment is to begin by saying, ‚ÄúThese two things are alike but not alike.‚ÄĚ Or ‚ÄúThese two things are similar

yet dissimilar.‚Ä̬† The reader knows this already!¬† You don‚Äôt want to state the obvious.¬† Just tell us how they are those things, and that list will be your ‚Äústatement

of organization.‚ÄĚ


Evaluating an argument, or developing your own, involves, as we have discussed, developing a claim or thesis statement and the premise or argument that supports it.

The next step is to ask whether the premise is warranted¬† or reasonable‚ÄĒwhether or not there is good reason to consider the premise or argument true.

To ask whether or not a premise is warranted is to ask about the quality of the evidence used to support it.  Three ways to consider the quality of evidence are:

?    to ask whether the evidence is appropriate for the kind of premise being established.
?    to ask whether there is a sufficient quantity of evidence.
?¬†¬† ¬†to ask whether it’s well-explained.

Be critical of your sources.  Always look at authority (who is the author?), currency (when was the piece written?), even handedness (does the author present both

sides of the issue, or is s/he presenting only one aspect of a complex issue?), credibility (is there a bibliography?), and so on.

As a way of considering the appropriateness of evidence, it is helpful to list the kinds of evidence one might use.  Consider the categories below.

?    Personal Say-So: (informal and not academic)
?    personal experience
?    personal observation
(both in the form of anecdotes and examples)

?    Received Wisdom: (informal non-academic ways of understanding issues)
?    common sense
?    anecdotes
?    history (can be a more academic source)
?    legal precedent/common practice

?    Authority Based on Identity or Reputation of Source: (formal for the most part)
?    newspapers/magazines/newsletters (are often not admissible in academic papers.  Check with instructor)
?    TV/radio series or programs
?    Trade press books
?    Academic books/journals/articles

?¬†¬† ¬†Authority Based on Data-Collection Method: (if done in a research setting‚ÄĒacademic, if not‚ÄĒnonacademic)
?    Surveys
?    Statistics
?    Case Studies
?    Scholarly synthesis and analysis
?    Controlled experiments or tests

As you might suspect, items can fit in several different categories.  For example, history is a form of received wisdom, but we may judge the credibility of the

history narrated on a radio talk show differently from the history narrated in a book published by an academic press.  How we judge depends on the audience for the

claim and the kind of claim being made.  Once we decide whether the evidence is appropriate, we are in a better position to ask whether a sufficient quantity of it is

provided since what is sufficient will depend greatly on the appropriateness and credibility of the evidence.


There are two main patterns for organizing a comparison/contrast: the subject-by-subject or block plan and the point-by-point or alternating pattern.  The example

below shows two outlines for a paper comparing and contrasting two banjo pickers.  This is the proposed thesis and statement of organization: Jed and Jake are both

excellent banjo pickers whose differences reflect their training, choice of material, and playing style.

Subject-by-Subject or Block Plan

In this method you take one subject and discuss all of its features in their order of importance.  Then you discuss the second subject in terms of the same features

and in the same order as the previous discussion.

Jed and Jake are both excellent banjo pickers whose differences reflect their training, choice of material, and playing style.

I.  Jed
A.  Training
B.    Choice of material
C.    Playing style
II.  Jake
A.    Training
B.    Choice of material
C.    Playing style

Jake has had more popularity because of his exposure to broader audiences through his appearances at the Grande Ole Opry.

Point-by-Point or Alternating Plan

This plan presents a more complex approach, but it probably is the most effective one.  In this method of development you list several general areas of comparison and

then discuss subjects X and Y in terms of those areas.

Jed and Jake are both excellent banjo pickers whose differences reflect their training, choice of material, and playing style.

I.  Training
A.    Jed
B.    .  Jake
II.  Choice of Material
A.  Jed
B.  Jake
III. Playing style
A.  Jed
B.  Jake

Jake has had more popularity because of his exposure to broader audiences through his appearances at the Grande Ole Opry.


Peer Reviewer________________________________        Writer___________________________

1.  Thesis
What is the thesis?

Does the thesis establish a limited basis for comparison so that there is room and time to cover all the relevant similarities or differences?  Is there a statement of


2.  Purpose
What is the aim of this composition: to explain two subjects or evaluate them?

3.  Support
Is there at least one outside source to support the ideas in the essay?  Is it a natural component of
the essay?

4.  Subjects

What are the subjects?

Are the subjects enough alike, sharing enough features, to make comparison worthwhile?

5.  Organization
Does the arrangement of material, whether subject-by-subject or point-by-point, do justice to the subjects and help the reader follow the comparisons?  Does the

organization follow the order of the statement of organization?

6.  Balance and Flexibility

Has the papered covered the same features of both subjects?

At the same time, has the paper avoided a rigid back-and-forth movement that could bore or exhaust the reader?

7.  Give a synopsis of the topic and an outline consisting of a brief one-sentence synopsis for each ¶.

8.  Does this outline confirm the thesis and develop the main idea?  If not how can the problem be remedied?


A (90-100) 3.5-4.0    GOOD
B (80-90) 2.5-3.4    NEEDS IMPROVEMENT
C (70-80) 1.5-2.4
D (60-70) 0.7-1.4    UNACCEPTABLE
F (below 60) 0.0-0.6)
Points¬†¬† ¬†20-18¬†¬† ¬†17-15¬†¬† ¬†14-12¬†¬† ¬†11–
Organization & Development    Written work is well
Organized. developed and easy to understand.  It is clear which method, block or alternating plan has been used    The organization and development is
generally good,  but
some parts seem out of place.  It follows for the most part block or alternating plan.    The organization is
Unclear, and the development is incomplete or lacking.  Neither plan can be detected clearly.    The paper is underdeveloped and disorganized to the
extent that it prevents understanding of the content.

Grammar & Punctuation    The work has been thoroughly spell-checked and proofread for grammar and punctuation.  Each page is relatively error free.    There are two

or less spelling, grammatical, and or punctuation errors per page.    There is more than three
spelling, grammatical, or punctuation  error per page.    There are frequent misspelled words and serious grammatical and punctuation errors, indicating that
time was not taken to
spell-check and proofread.

Diction, Tone, and Style    The student has successfully made the transition from an informal diction to a college level diction.  The style is creative and flows

from idea to idea in well-developed paragraphs.  The tone is appropriate for the topic and audience.    Parts of the paper use proper diction, while slang, colloquial

language, and second person POV are prevalent and/or present. The style is somewhat stilted by a back and forth comparison.  The tone is not consistent.    There

is little if any difference between the
paper and an oral telling
of the story.  The style is tedious in a back and forth movement between subjects.  The tone needs development.    The language used in the paper has little chance of

being understood by someone outside of the student’s peer group.  The style and tone are inappropriate and inadequate.

Thesis Statement and Topic    There is a clear and concise thesis statement and statement of organization that shows the reader exactly what the paper will cover.

All elements of the paper support the thesis statement.  The topic is sufficiently narrow to do the topic justice in the required length.    There is a clear thesis

statement, but the discussion in the paper does not always support the thesis and may not even be relevant.  The topic is narrow, but the focus could be more specific.

The order of topics in paragraphs does not follow the statement of organization.    It is difficult to discern the thesis statement, which makes reading the paper

challenging since the reader does not always know how the ideas in the paper lead to any conclusion.  The topic is much too broad to come to any conclusions in the

required length.    There is no discernable thesis or clear focus in the paper.  The topic is too broad or too narrow for the assignment.

Assignment    Paper incorporates comparison and contrast of two subjects in a seamless and meaningful way for the reader.  At least one outside source is used to

support the thesis statement    Paper incorporates comparison and contrast in that all components and organization criteria are met, but are forced upon the reader.

The outside source does not adequately support the thesis.    Paper fails to incorporate comparison and contrast of two subjects.  The subjects are awkward in their

presentation to the reader.  There is no clear outside support or one is used but not in a meaningful and supportive manner.    The paper fails to meet the

requirements of the assignment.


This rubric has been developed using Mary E. Huba and Jan E Freed’s Learner-Centered Assessment on College Campuses.


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