Comparison Essays Do’s and Don’tsThursday, September 16th, 2010
How to (and how not to) prepare a comparison essay
Teachers quite commonly ask for comparison essays. The thing is, such a structure can be used in many different courses, such as literature (comparing two or more books, periods or authors), history (comparing two or more specific situations of certain characteristics), science (comparing two different theories), etc.
Preparing a comparison essay is not so difficult. Here we will provide you some tips of what to do, and what mistakes to avoid.
– Ask the teacher for suggestions: It is much easier to prepare comparison essays once you have found the right topic, that is, the two or more terms to compare. Maybe your teacher is willing to give you some suggestions. Bring him your initial idea and let his suggest the second term (for example, tell him you’re interested in Vietnam War, and then ask him for suggestions: should you compare it to Irak or to Korea?).
– Make a list: Before starting to write your comparative essay, it is a good idea to prepare a list with the items both terms have in common. Then, you can explain these coincidences one by one, each in their own paragraph.
– Quote authorities: Your comparison can’t be based on common sense alone, and it has probably been done before. Who has written something about it? Check the library, surf the web and read as much as you can. And then, build your comparison with the help of authorities you can quote. Remember to reference the essay properly.
– Don’t highlight the differences: If your comparison essay is focused on the differences of the terms rather than on those aspects they have in common, yours will look more as a contrast essay. A comparison should be focused on the similarities between the terms. If you don’t find enough things they have in common, perhaps you should think about changing the essay topic.
– Don’t skip the introduction: It is a vital part in this kind of essays, because, as Lewis Carroll humorously demonstrated in Alice in Wonderland, you can’t compare a writing desk with a crow. So prove from the beginning your whole essay has a point. You may find obvious the reasons you choose for comparing the given items. However, the reader will not necessarily share your opinions. So you want to start your comparison by explaining the purpose of your work: for example, what do French philosophers Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre have in common and how does it reflect in their works?
– Don’t compare little trivia: You can’t compare the political system of two countries just because they share a border. Do they have a history in common? Have they been engaged at war recently? Choose carefully the data you want to compare, and avoid wasting valuable space on silly little facts.
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