Writing a stellar comparative essay is an indispensable skill often applied throughout the writer’s scholastic career. The task requires the writer to compare at least two items, things or variables basing on their common similarities and differences; for instance, positions on an issue, historical texts, theories, figures, events, and processes. Often, though an assignment or task might read “compare”, an assumption is that writer should “compare and contrast” basing on both the similarities and differences.
In the “lens” or “key-hole” comparison, the writer will weigh subject A less comprehensively than subject B, taking A as a standard through which to assess B; A is therefore used as framework for understanding B, hence determining the way the writer sees B. Keyhole or lens comparison is instrumental for illuminating, challenging or critiquing a thing that prior to the comparison appeared perfectly understood, and it often takes time into account. For instance, earlier events, literature and figures, may be used to illuminate later ones and vice versa.
On the other hand, the comparative essay may involve a conventional case where the writer compare and contrast the subjects A and B by first stating all the features they have in common, then all the features in which they are different. Hence, the writer can assert that subjects A and B are very similar yet overall not so similar. Likewise, for good comparative essays, the writers must collect raw data culminating from the similarities and differences observed for meaningful argument. Thus, the necessity for the following key elements:
- Frame of reference; the context in which the writer places the two things to be compared and contrasted. The frame of reference may be constituted of theme, idea, problem, question, or theory. It should be developed based on specific sources rather than personal thoughts and observations.
- Ground/Basis for comparison; the rationale behind the chosen things, items or variables being compared; “Why” compare them and not others. Through this merit, the reader can understand that the writer’s choice is meaningful and deliberate, not ad hoc or random. In other words, the reasoning behind the choice need to be shown, and may emanate either from the provided essay question or developed by the writer.
- Thesis statement; the ground for comparison requires comparative nature of thesis statement. The thesis statement is expected to display the merit of the argument, as emanates from the frame of reference. In comparing and contrasting, the thesis statement relies on how the two items selected for comparison relate to each other. For instance, the word “whereas” can be used for thesis statement for comparing and contrasting essays often on differences where, either differences outweigh similarities or similarities outweigh differences. The relationship must be clear in the thesis and at the heart of compare and contrast essay paper.
- Organization structure; the writer comes up with the structure for the essay entailing the alternating method depicting the point to point pattern in which related points common to the central subjects A and B, and alternate between A and B along the body paragraphs on the basis of the points. For instance, in comparing how the A revolution and B revolution either promoted or retarded technology and military strategy; the first body paragraph will examine the impact of A revolution on technology and the second body paragraph will examine the impact of B revolution on technology, proceeding in that order with regard to impact on military strategy (ABABAB…). The alternating method is suitable where there are clearly related points to write for each subject in each specific area. On the other hand, there is the block method involving subject-by-subject pattern in which the writer resorts to discuss all of specific areas with regard to subject A, then proceed to discuss all of specific areas with regard to subject B (AB). The block approach allows higher degree of engagement, cohesion and continuity. It is useful where the writer is not able to find closely related points for each subject, ideas about one subject extends ideas about the other subject, and the writer compares more subjects rather than the conventional two.
- Linking of subjects A and B; to logically and systematically advance the argument and for the essay to hold together. Writer should use signposts such as; likewise, in addition, moreover, conversely, on the contrary, on the other hand, and whereas.
In a nutshell, writer should properly analyze the question or essay prompt; understand the type of comparison essay to write; list the similarities and differences; evaluate the list carefully; establish the ground for comparison; research the subject of comparison; develop a thesis statement; outline the comparison before commencing the writing; adopt the organization structure to use, write your essay starting with body paragraphs, followed by conclusion, then introduction; and carefully revise the writing prior to submission.