Compare and contrast is a common form of academic writing, either as an essay type on its own, or as part of a larger essay which includes one or more paragraphs which compare or contrast. This page gives information on what a compare and contrast essay is, how to structure this type of essay, how to use compare and contrast structure words, and how to make sure you use appropriate criteria for comparison/contrast. There is also an example compare and contrast essay on the topic of communication technology, as well as some exercises to help you practice this area.
What are compare & contrast essays?
To compare is to examine how things are similar, while to contrast is to see how they differ. A compare and contrast essay therefore looks at the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences. This essay type is common at university, where lecturers frequently test your understanding by asking you to compare and contrast two theories, two methods, two historical periods, two characters in a novel, etc. Sometimes the whole essay will compare and contrast, though sometimes the comparison or contrast may be only part of the essay. It is also possible, especially for short exam essays, that only the similarities or the differences, not both, will be discussed. See the examples below.
There are two main ways to structure a compare and contrast essay, namely using a block or a point-by-point structure. For the block structure, all of the information about one of the objects being compared/contrasted is given first, and all of the information about the other object is listed afterwards. This type of structure is similar to the block structure used for cause and effect and problem-solution essays. For the point-by-point structure, each similarity (or difference) for one object is followed immediately by the similarity (or difference) for the other. Both types of structure have their merits. The former is easier to write, while the latter is generally clearer as it ensures that the similarities/differences are more explicit.
The two types of structure, block and point-by-point, are shown in the diagram below.
Object 1 - Point 1
Object 1 - Point 2
Object 1 - Point 3
Object 2 - Point 1
Object 2 - Point 2
Object 2 - Point 3
Compare and Contrast Structure Words
Compare and contrast structure words are transition signals which show the similarities or differences. Below are some common examples.
Criteria for comparison/contrast
When making comparisons or contrasts, it is important to be clear what criteria you are using. Study the following example, which contrasts two people. Here the criteria are unclear.
Although this sentence has a contrast transition, the criteria for contrasting are not the same. The criteria used for Aaron are height (tall) and strength (strong). We would expect similar criteria to be used for Bruce (maybe he is short and weak), but instead we have new criteria, namely appearance (handsome) and intelligence (intelligent). This is a common mistake for students when writing this type of paragraph or essay. Compare the following, which has much clearer criteria (contrast structure words shown in bold).
Below is a compare and contrast essay. This essay uses the point-by-point structure. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay, i.e. similarities, differences, and structure words. This will highlight not simply the paragraphs, but also the thesis statement and summary, as these repeat the comparisons and contrasts contained in the main body.
Title: There have been many advances in technology over the past fifty years. These have revolutionised the way we communicate with people who are far away. Compare and contrast methods of communication used today with those which were used in the past.
Before the advent of computers and modern technology, people communicating over long distances used traditional means such as letters and the telephone. Nowadays we have a vast array of communication tools which can complete this task, ranging from email to instant messaging and video calls. While the present and previous means of communication are similar in their general form, they differ in regard to their speed and the range of tools available.
One similarity between current and previous methods of communication relates to the form of communication. In the past, both written forms such as letters were frequently used, in addition to oral forms such as telephone calls. Similarly, people nowadays use both of these forms. Just as in the past, written forms of communication are prevalent, for example via email and text messaging. In addition, oral forms are still used, including the telephone, mobile phone, and voice messages via instant messaging services.
However, there are clearly many differences in the way we communicate over long distances, the most notable of which is speed. This is most evident in relation to written forms of communication. In the past, letters would take days to arrive at their destination. In contrast, an email arrives almost instantaneously and can be read seconds after it was sent. In the past, if it was necessary to send a short message, for example at work, a memo could be passed around the office, which would take some time to circulate. This is different from the current situation, in which a text message can be sent immediately.
Another significant difference is the range of communication methods. Fifty years ago, the tools available for communicating over long distances were primarily the telephone and the letter. By comparison, there are a vast array of communication methods available today. These include not only the telephone, letter, email and text messages already mentioned, but also video conferences via software such as Skype or mobile phone apps such as Wechat, and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
In conclusion, methods of communication have greatly advanced over the past fifty years. While there are some similarities, such as the forms of communication, there are significant differences, chiefly in relation to the speed of communication and the range of communication tools available. There is no doubt that technology will continue to progress in future, and the advanced tools which we use today may one day also become outdated.
GET A FREE SAMPLE
Like the website? Try the book. Enter your email to receive a free sample from the recently published title, EAP Foundation: Academic Presentations.
Below is a checklist for compare and contrast essays. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
You need to login to view the exercises. If you do not already have an account, you can register for free.
If you are assigned to write a compare and contrast essay and are looking for some compare and contrast essay examples here is one that is written by a professional writer. Read it carefully to understand the main principles of comparing and contrasting. Read more about Compare and Contrast Essay Writing.
The Blogger vs The Online Journalist
In the 21st century, the state of publishing the news has both evolved and is continuing to evolve. The world where the journalist – the reporter, the correspondent, the newshound – only writes for traditional print publications (newspapers, magazines, and even newsletters) is long gone and certainly obsolete. Today, rather, we see news articles published on websites and in print publications.
And with this transition comes a transformation in the journalist’s roles, titles, duties and publishing domains. There is a print journalist, either a reporter or columnist, of course, whose articles and editorials may appear on websites after they’re published in print; and then there is an online journalist, who may also be a reporter or columnist, who writes solely for a website (such as cnn.com). And on top of this seemingly confusing and changing dynamic is the relatively new advent (seen in the last 10 to 15 years or so, at least) of the blogger, who writes, well, blogs – which appear on websites, such as huffingtonpost.com and on personal websites. It involves an individual recording their opinions and disseminating information, photographs and links to other websites on a regular, daily or weekly, basis.
It’s an understandable observation that the online journalist and the blogger, on first look, appear to be doing pretty much the same thing, the only difference between them is their job titles. Both are, in essence, writers whose articles and stories appear on websites, and their words, sentences, and thoughts are read online – but do a blogger and an online journalist really do the same thing? The answer is no – and yes – kind of. Sort of. Well, not really.
Let’s look, first of all, at how these two jobs compare. Both do involve writing, as well as writing for some kind of website (similarity 1). These two jobs are indeed performed by skilled, professional writers – at least we hope so – writers who are well versed on a certain subject, beat, topic, or even range of topics. Readers read their work on websites, and both the online journalist and the blogger are most likely knowledgeable of the inner-workings and relevance of digital media, SEO (search-engine optimization), how the Internet works, and both should possess an extensive understanding of the shift toward a mobile network and its ever-growing applications in a consumer society. Both kinds of writers are generally paid for their work, as well, but this is not necessarily always the case.
However, on many other levels, the two jobs are completely different. In fact, they’re entirely different. The online journalist doesn’t write on whatever topic or subject they wish (as does the blogger, in most cases); instead the online journalist is assigned a beat, they have to interview people and dig up facts on a daily basis, then use the information gained from those interviews and research to cook up relevant and topical stories to keep readers informed on relevant issues (difference 1).
Bloggers, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily journalists. Most are, in fact, far from ever being considered professional journalists. They don’t work leads to stories. Instead of finding legitimate sources (journalists, however, need sources to incorporate objectivity in their stories), and rather than writing journalistic, objective, news-oriented copy – often on current and controversial, informative topics, like gun control, crime and politics – the blogger, depending on the organization they’re writing for, usually writes on just about anything that is buzzing on the Internet (difference 2).
A blogger could be writing as a hobby on their own website, and a blogger could be writing as a promotional tool for a product that is out, like a newly published book, a service, etc. And a blogger usually only writes opinion-based pieces for a particular website, similar to what a columnist would write for a newspaper. A blogger’s writing could be hearsay, and most of the time the blogger is not a journalist trained to write articles void of their own, personal opinions, and their work usually includes much of their own influence or comments, which is, in a sense, similar to an online columnist; the blogger writes what is generally self-serving for themselves or for the company or organization they write and work for. Also, an online journalist is usually a salaried position, with a daily or weekly quota of stories to be produced; whereas the blogger is generally compensated for each blog they write.
In conclusion, the blogger, and the online journalist, to the everyday reader, seem like one in the same. But, in actuality, they are completely different jobs with completely different roles, responsibilities and career experiences. It is true that the online journalist may write blogs in addition to their own reported stories – and then for some media companies, they may even be required to write a blog. The blogger could even be a print reporter looking to get more work; also, a blogger may be doing freelance journalism on the side. In any case, the reader should, most importantly, be cognitive of who and what they are reading (conclusion).
Not everything on the Internet is factual, objective, and journalistic – and, therefore, not everything read on the Internet should be considered true and legitimate and fair.
If you have an compare and contrast assignment, www.essaymasters.co.uk would be happy to help. With thousands of orders behind their backs, our writers have the experience necessary for exceeding customer expectations. Visit our order page to receive a top quality compare and contrast essay.