English 101


There are two main structures for Compare & Contrast essays:

1.) Opposing: You have two subjects, and you devote the first half of your paper to the first subject, while devoting the second half of your paper to the second.

2.) Alternating: You have two subjects, and you go back and forth, paragraph by paragraph, comparing points.

Example: Let’s say I want to write a paper that compares the Harry Potter books to the films that were based off of them. I need points of discussion, so let’s say that I will talk about three points: the plot, the characters, and the emotional response I have to the books and films. Here’s how I would outline my paper for each Compare & Contrast structure:

Opposing:

Paragraph #1: Introduction – discuss the books, films, and introduce your points.

Subject #1: Harry Potter books

Par. #2: HP books – describe the plot

Par. #3: HP books – explain how J. K. Rowling develops the characters

Par. #4: HP books – explain what parts make me laugh, cry, etc.

Subject #2: Harry Potter films

Par. #5: HP films – explain how the plot differs & is similar to the books

Par. #6: HP films – explain how the director/actor develops characters

Par. #7: HP films – explain what parts trigger emotion, similar/different to books

Par. #8: Conclusion – what can we gather from comparing/contrasting the two?

Alternating:

Paragraph #1: Introduction – discuss the books, films, and introduce your points.

Point #1: The Plot

Par. #2: HP books – describe the plot

Par. #3: HP films – explain how the plot differs & is similar to the books

Point #2: The Characters

Par. #4: HP books – explain how J. K. Rowling develops the characters

Par. #5: HP films – explain how the director/actor develops the characters

Point #3: The Emotional Response

Par. #6: HP books – explain what parts made me laugh, cry, etc.

Par. #7: HP films – explain what parts trigger emotion, similar/different to books

Par. #8: Conclusion – what can we gather from comparing/contrasting the two?

Notice that with either structure, a paper with two subjects and three points of discussion will end up the same length. Doing the outline ahead of time will save you a lot of time and effort trying to keep the whole essay balanced.

For this writing activity, pick two of something that interests you, decide on three points of discussion, and write out a detailed outline in one of the above structures, providing a few of sentences of explanation for each paragraph idea. For example, you could compare two albums by your favorite band, or two comparable historical figures, or two brands…the list goes on.

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