Contrary to what one may think, the purpose of a comparison and contrast essay is not to compare and contrast two things. The purpose is expressed in the thesis statement as the reason for comparing and contrasting two entities; comparison and contrast is the method employed to make a choice or prove a point. The rule of thumb: every essay of this type needs to include a reason for comparison. One doesn’t decide one sunny day to spend the morning comparing Greece and Italy or team sports and individual sports; one needs to have a clear mandate for doing so. Comparing the said countries as tourist resorts however would make sense. Similarly, comparing the two categories of sports to determine which is more beneficial also makes sense.
The introduction of a comparison and contrast essay introduces the issue and the entities to be compared. It also clearly indicates the reason for comparison and the writers approach to the topic. If the purpose of the essay is to make choice, this choice can be indicated in the thesis statement along with the approach – a comparison. Let us consider our first example of an introduction where the reason for comparison is proving the superiority of professional armies. Thus while the resulting essay becomes argumentative, the support provided and the approach are dominated by comparative structures
Professional armies versus conscripts
Unfortunately, war or the fighting, killing or enslaving of our own species is a basic human activity; one that we don’t seem to be able to avoid despite our claims to superiority. War means weapons and the trained manpower to use them and so far so good. Yet while in every other human endeavor trained experts are actually employed to do the job efficiently and quickly, in the case of war, every male and sometimes female citizen are roped in to fill the ranks of the army. This ill- trained rabble is no match for a properly schooled and trained professional army; if a job needs doing it, it should be done properly. A quick comparison of the attributes, skills and limitations of professional and private armies will soon show that the former should leave their place to the latter.
The reason for comparison is not always to make a choice; it could be many other things. Consider the following introduction where the purpose is to prove that two concepts are not synonymous but completely different concepts. The writer is at pains to point out that solitude and loneliness are not the same and that while the first is a positive state the latter is not. What should logically follow this introduction is a comparison of the two states of being with the conclusion being an “I told you so” kind of paragraph. You may say that there are argumentative elements sneaking into this introduction too but this is not a problem. Most essays are argumentative to some extent and this is fine.
Solitude versus loneliness
Humans are by nature social animals reveling in each other’s companionship, support, help, love and friendship. They live together in close knit family groups, work together in crowded offices and socialize together in each other’s homes, clubs, restaurants, cafes and the like. As a species, they thrive in each other’s company and suffer, according to some, when denied access to the warmth and camaraderie of the group. Loneliness, or solitude, it is claimed paves the way for depression. This, however, is far from being the case as solitude and loneliness are completely different states of being: the former is to be desired the latter not as a quick examination of the two states will reveal.
The development of a comparison and contrast type essay consists of individual paragraphs wherein the two choices or points of view or entities are compared and contrasted in terms of one criterion. Each paragraph has a clear topic sentence stating this point and care should be taken to order the paragraphs so as to provide transition. Here is an example of the introduction and development to an essay comparing and contrasting public schools and state schools:
COMPARISON / CONTRAST ESSAY: PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Receiving a good education is paramount in modern society with the ever increasing competition. The race to receive the best possible education starts early when parents try and select the best possible school. They have two general choices: private teaching establishments and public ones. Their choice depends on their personal circumstances and desires. They make their final decision by comparing the two establishments. Private schools and public schools may be compared in terms of various practical considerations, opportunities they provide and the kind of socialization they provide.
There are vast differences between these two types of establishment in terms of practical considerations such as location, building and price. Most of the best private schools are in prime locations in the city with good views. Some are on the outskirts surrounded by forests or nature. Public schools, on the other hand, are located within each catchment area, on busy streets often with no garden or decent playing field. The buildings of the private schools are attractive and well designed; some are listed: St Joseph for example. Many of the public schools are ugly and remind one of communist Russia or East Germany. Naturally you pay for what you get and private schools cost a fortune whereas public schools are free. Factors such as location, building and price are not the only differences however.
There are differences between private and public schools in terms of opportunities as well. Money brings smaller classes, which means more opportunities for individual students. The classes are bright, modern and airy in private schools and the desks are very comfortable. The same cannot be said for public schools where classes are crowded, desks are uncomfortable and one to one contact with the teacher is limited. As for the quality of teaching, the best teachers often, though not always, go where the money is. The same is true for labs, clubs, playing fields and contact with foreign schools since socialization is considered part of education in private schools. All this is a luxury in a state school in a developing country. To sum up, funding provides private schools with vast opportunities.
Public schools and private schools differ greatly in terms of the kind of social learning they provide. Private schools are home to the privileged and as such, promote a certain kind of life style. Skiing trips abroad, designer labels, all the latest gadgets, cars as soon as they can get a license; in short, consumerism characterizes these establishments. Public schools are attended by middle class and working class students for whom the above life style is only possible in American movies. The glaring differences that characterize the kind of social experience promoted by these two types of teaching establishment also mean social learning and the adoption of personal preferences which will continue into adulthood.
If you notice there is a reason for the order of the paragraphs and there is a topic sentence at the beginning of each where the point of comparison is clearly stated.
The concluding paragraph of a comparison and contrast essay depends to a large extent on the reason for comparison. If the reason is a choice and the fact this choice is logical and makes sense has been proved through comparison in the development, the conclusion is a restatement for instance. If such is not the case as in the essay we just examined above a conclusion such as the one below might fit the bill:
To sum up, public schools are often starved of funds, which impacts the service they provide. The generously funded private schools provide a much better learning experience but at a cost: familiarization with and a liking for a more privileged life style. The selection depends on parents’ means and preferences.
Before we end this section, let us examine two complete essays in the first of which corner shops and supermarkets are compared for the purpose of highlighting the continuing competition and the reasons thereof, and in the second of which two houses are compared for the purpose of making a choice .
CORNER SHOPS VERSUS SUPERMARKETS
In the modern world, especially in urban settings, people purchase many of the products they need. In the past, stores were smaller family businesses where either groceries or fruit and veg were sold. However, lately big supermarket chains like Migros, Macro, Tesco and Carrefour have started to replace them. The familiar corner shops are still present but they are fighting a losing battle against the big corporations. Comparing and contrasting these two options would shed light on the reasons for the competition. These two types of establishment may be compared in terms of practicality and atmosphere.
There are various practical considerations that distinguish supermarkets from corner shops the first of which is working hours. In the modern world where many people have full time jobs, shopping has to be done outside hours; after 18:00 for instance or at weekends. This is a definite plus for supermarkets which employ a lot of workers for the minimum wage and can afford to do this. In contrast, the corner shop, which is often run by a family, cannot; people have to eat and sleep. The second practical advantage is variety: people living on the fast lane have no time to go from one shop to another; they want to find everything they need together in one place. This is where supermarkets come in. The third practical advantage is prices: supermarkets can afford to charge less for products than corner shops; a definite plus. However, nothing in life is this simple; corner shops are still around and there is a reason for this.
There are various differences in terms of atmosphere that distinguish corner shops from supermarkets. The main factor is the feel of the location: a supermarket is large and impersonal and a corner shop is warm and cozy. In the supermarket, no one gives you the time of day; for instance, I always thank the cashier at Shock but she has never responded or even looked at me. A corner shop is often run by a local family who are also neighbors; locals get to know them very well and their kids play together. People end up caring about them and vice versa. This means that the local shop owner will chat to customers and show concern; he will go out of his way to be helpful. All this brings loyalty. It is this familiarity that gives corner shops their staying power.
To sum up, shopping at a corner shop and at a supermarket are very different experiences. Both venues have their places in society but the familiar corner shops will probably be elbowed out of the market in the future as internet shopping takes over leading to the loss of a valuable shopping experience.
Now let us examine a comparison and contrast essay where the purpose is to make a choice:
COMPARISON CONTRAST ESSAY: CHOOSING A HOUSE
(Students are given a worksheet with the photographs of two radically different houses. Information concerning the houses is also provided. They are then told that a couple with two teenage children and two cars need a house and told to decide which one they should buy. They are told they have got to do this by comparing the two houses)
Mr. and Mrs. Jones are looking for a house in Smalltown where they have both found new jobs. They have two children of school age and can afford to pay 350.000 pounds. They have two cars. The local estate agent in Smalltown , Grab and Grab, have sent Mr. and Mrs. Jones information about two houses. One of them is a modern house and the other is an old house. On looking at them, it is clear that the old house would be a much better choice.
Regarding accommodation, the family has two children so the house should have three bedrooms at least. While the old house has three bedrooms, one single and two double, the modern house has two double bedrooms. But the two houses are similar to each other in that they have two reception rooms. But there is one important difference: there is a large open fireplace in one of the reception rooms of the old house. The new house’s kitchen is well equipped; however, the old house’s kitchen is attractively large; with some modernization, it will be more useful and beautiful than the other one. The new house has a double garage which can house their cars but the old house has a huge garden and they can park there.
As regards location, both the old and the new house are near the town center. However, the old one is a bit farther: it is 30 minutes on foot and 10 minutes by bus. One can’t really say that that is too far; they have two cars or they can walk. The old house is on the edge of Mary Ann’s Wood and is approached by a private road, which must be very attractive. On the other hand, the new house is in a residential area. It is also in very good nick unlike the old house which needs some repairs. There is one similarity between the houses: they both have gardens. While the new house has a front garden, the old house has front and rear gardens as well as an orchard. Also it is surrounded by woodland so it is a peaceful place far from the hustle and bustle of the town.
As for price, the old house is 320.000 pounds whereas the new one is 350.000. If the family chooses the old house they will have to pay 30.000 pounds more; money they could use for renovation. There is another important difference between the houses though: the old house is freehold which means it will be theirs for keeps whereas the new one is leasehold. This makes the old house a better buy financially as well. Therefore, they should go ahead and buy the old house without wasting another minute. (Written by: İrem Güngör)